While looking through rows of flowers at my local garden center for my new backyard garden, I came across fresh pots of lavender. I couldn’t resist taking a whiff. And, better than any multi-million dollar marketing and advertising campaign, the herb’s simple, sweet aroma was enough to coax me to put a few on my trolley.
Thing is, lavender isn’t just a beautiful, deliciously aromatic plant that is the perfect addition to any garden or vase. Recent research shows its fragrance contains certain compounds that when breathed in alter gene, brain and body activity that can nix a bad premenstrual mood, ease hormone-fueled stress, reduce menstrual cramp pain and improve your cycle in other key ways.
Read on to find out all the ways lavender can help make every day of your cycle better….
1. Reverse a negative premenstrual mood: In a 2013 study, premenstrual women who breathed in a lavender essential oil aroma for 10 minutes felt happier, calmer and more focused, reports the journal Biopsychosocial Medicine. The researchers believe it works by balancing out the nervous system, which can get out of whack due to fluctuating hormone levels.
2. Prevent menstrual cramp pain: In a 2013 study in the journal Evidence-Based Alternative and Complementary Medicine, female nursing students who massaged their pelvic area with a blend of lavender, cinnamon, clove and rose essential oils in a base of sweet almond oil for 10 minutes once per day throughout their premenstrual week experienced less cramp pain and menstrual bleeding once their period arrived. There are several reasons why this easy treatment is so effective, the researchers say: The pleasant scents of the oils lower stress, which reduces pain; the abdominal massage with essential oils may improve blood circulation, which decreases cramping; and the oils have their own effects–lavender calms uterine muscle spasms, clove increases circulation and acts as a mild pain-killer and cinnamon reduces the production of certain pain chemicals. To make the blend used in the study, mix 1.5 drops of cinnamon, 1.5 drops of clove, 1 drop of rose and 1 drop of lavender into 95 drops of sweet almond oil.
3. Bust stress: There are times in your cycle when you’re more likely to suffer anxiety and stress, for instance, in Week 2 due to high estrogen, which can make you more excitable, or in Week 4 when estrogen plunges, causing brain changes that can trigger panic. No matter when you feel tension start to rise, try sniffing lavender. In a 2009 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers discovered that a compound called linalool in lavender’s fragrance induces calm by reducing the activity of 109 genes that become overactive in stressful situations.
4. Get more restful sleep: Women suffering from insomnia who breathed in a lavender essential oil for 20 minutes in the evening experienced deeper, longer sleep, according to a 2012 study in the journal Evidence-Based Alternative and Complementary Medicine. As the researchers discovered, lavender induces relaxation by slowing the heart rate and calming the body in other ways.
5. Ease a migraine: Get migraines related to your hormone cycle or for other reasons, say, the weather or food sensitivities? Try inhaling lavender essential oil for 15 minutes the next time you notice one coming on. In a 2012 study published in European Neurology, this triggered a notable reduction in pain in 92 out of the 129 migraine headaches where it was used. Researchers believe that compounds in lavender’s aroma may reverse blood vessel changes in the scalp that contribute to migraine pain.