As every woman knows, that time of the month is just not pleasant. The worst part is that your period doesn’t just involve scrambling for tampons the moment it strikes, but there are a plethora of undesirable side effects. Like, I’m talking the whole don’t-come-near-me mood swings, the kinds of cramps that make you want to curl into a ball and not move, and (my personal nemesis) hormonal chin breakouts.
However: The list goes on. And while Midol works and all, if you’re looking for a more holistic remedy, essential oils could be a welcomed solution. “Scent is such a powerful yet understated way to influence your mood,” says Sara Panton, founder of Vitruvi, an essential oils brand. “Using scent strategically can help you feel more energized, calm, or focused, and specific aromas have even been shown to influence different parts of the brain.”
Because smelling certain things can have such an impact on you, they can certainly help with your menstrual woes. “The symptoms that can accompany PMS tend to affect your mood and disrupt your routines,” adds Panton. “So integrating scent is a great, totally natural way to help create more of those moments where you feel like yourself.”
Keep scrolling for the ways in which adding essential oils to your routine could help relieve PMS symptoms.
The herbacious, minty scent isn’t just for your toothpaste—it can work wonders on the menstrual queasiness as well. “From headache to tummy helper, peppermint essential oil has an incredibly fresh and bright scent that leaves you feeling more balanced and can help decrease feelings of nausea,” says Panton.
How to use it: “If you’re really feeling not so great, apply two drops of peppermint directly to the back of your neck,” says Panton. “If you have sensitive skin, dilute it in a teaspoon of coconut oil. Breathe deeply.” And then be sure to wash your hands immediately afterwards so that you don’t accidentally rub your eye (ouch!). While the effects haven’t been clinically studied in the general population, there seems to be some science-backed evidence that it curbs nausea post-operatively. “Alternatively, add 10-15 drops of peppermint essential oil into a diffuser to help invigorate and decrease nausea,” says Panton.
Yes, it’s great on, like, everything you cook—but it’s also a secret weapon against cramps, according to the pros. “Steam distilled from the little peppercorn buds, the therapeutic characteristics of this essential oil are best known for improving circulation, warming the body, and supporting flow,” says Amy Galper, founder of the New York Institute of Aromatherapy (which is offering a hormone-focused class this October called “Aroma and the Alchemy of Menopause”).
How to use it: “Blended with a carrier oil, it can provide a great release from physical discomfort, cramping, and stiffness,” Galper says.
All citrus oils have a naturally uplifting quality. “Grapefruit’s one of my favorites,” says Panton. “When you’re feeling a little groggy, sniffing the essential oil is the perfect way to wake up in the morning. The aroma is clearing and energizing, which helps you take on your day with a fresh, bright perspective and a boost of alertness.”
How to use it: Add 10 drops to a diffuser and enjoy that fruity scent.
Have you ever tossed and turned at night due to pesky PMS? (Guilty.) “When your sleep schedule’s interrupted, it can leave you feeling depleted,” says Panton. “Essential oils are a beautiful way to create ritual during your bedtime routine and to help cue the body and mind that it it’s time for sleep.” Of course, the purple plant is iconic for its gentle, calming prowess. Plus, it actually has acne-clearing powers. “Lavender has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties that can help keep breakouts at bay,” says Panton. “Think of it as a more soothing, gentle version of tea tree oil.”
How to use it: “My favorite evening ritual is to put 10 drops of both frankincense and lavender into my diffuser and close the door of my bedroom an hour before I am planning to go to sleep,” say Panton. “It fills the space with a relaxing, grounding aroma that lets me drift off to bed.” Sounds heavenly. As a spot treatment (AKA to deal with period hormonal acne) Panton recommends adding one drop of lavender oil to blemishes before bed like a spot treatment. “Plus, the aroma’s always nice before drifting off to sleep,” she says.
Citrus scents are simply cheerful (perhaps because the fruits themselves taste so good). “Orange essential oil has been shown to stimulate positivity and is categorized as a happy aroma,” says Panton. “This slightly sweet essential oil is one of my favorites for when I need a pick-me-up, and it’s great to diffuse in the morning to start your day with a positive perspective.”
How to use it: Add 10-15 drops into your diffuser and reap the smile-inducing benefits.
The unique and soothing scent of frankincense, according to Panton, is ideal for creating ritual. “This is why it’s a perfect compliment to such a ceremonious time in a woman’s month,” she says. “We’re so connected to cycles, especially those in our own bodies, and essential oils can help establish these rituals and remind us to carve out moments for ourselves.”
How to use it: Add 10-15 drops to your diffuser on its own or combined with lavender. “You can also add 3 drops of frankincense to a teaspoon of sweet almond or jojoba oil and massage into your hands as a ritual cuticle treatment,” says Panton.
Like the root itself, ginger essential oil has plenty of benefits. “The steam distilled oil from the fresh root offers a bright, earthy, citrus-like aroma that supports feeling grounded and centered,” says Galper. “It’s a great antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory, and is helpful when dispersing stagnation and physical discomfort.
How to use it: Add 10 drops to a diffuser, or blend with oils like geranium or clary sage to relax muscles and ground mood swings, recommends Galper.
The floral, known for its minty aroma, actually has face-balancing properties. “That’s why I love to add a few drops to my existing face moisturizer to help balance the skin during periods of hormonal changes,” says Panton.
How to use it: Add 2 drops of geranium essential oil to your current face moisturizer in the morning or evening, according to Panton.
Plant extracts can do many things—these are the essential oils you need for your eyebrow and lash routine, and these essential oils fight foot odor.
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