‘Essential oils’ seems to be as much as healthy lifestyle buzzword as ‘kale’ and ‘kombucha’.
Some women swear by them to relieve menopausal symptoms, other feel it’s just a myth. But first, what even are essential oils? Simply, essential oils are volatile oils derived directly from plants. They’re called ‘essential’ not because you need them, but because they contain the ‘essence’ of the plant’s fragrance. In fact, essential oils are primarily used for aromatherapy or massaging (which can alleviate stress and anxiety), though they have a few other uses too. With more than 90 known essential oils, which should you turn to, and do they really work?
- Peppermint Oil
Peppermint oil is one of the better-known essential oils, and it’s most often cited as helping reduce hot flushes and fatigue. When diluted with water (very important), it can be sprayed on the skin to provide a cooling and refreshing sensation, that will wake you up while keeping your hot flushes down. Does it work? Yes! Is it particularly more effective than any regular cooling spray? It doesn’t appear to be. So, if you want your cooling spray to have a particularly minty scent, then opt for peppermint oil. Otherwise, it’s not likely to make a bigger difference than anything else you use to keep cool.
- Lavender Oil
Lavender oil can have several positive effects. Firstly, like peppermint oil, it’s been seen to help alleviate hot flushes. But unlike peppermint oil, the smell itself can do the trick. According to a study in the Journal of the Chinese Medical Association, women who smelled lavender for 20 minutes, twice a day, for 12 weeks, saw significant decreases in hot flushes. Is that particularly worth the effort? That’s up to you!
Additionally, lavender has been considered to be particularly beneficial for sleep (which is why so many sleeping products are lavender scented)! Can lavender oil really make you fall asleep? Well, maybe. The scent of lavender does not itself induce sleep, but has been shown to have significant effects on reducing anxiety and stress, which can help you get to sleep faster. If your trouble sleeping is caused by your racing thoughts and constant tossing and turning, then spraying your pillow with diluted lavender oil can most likely help you out. However, if your trouble sleeping is more so caused by night sweats and body aches, there’s not much lavender oil can do to help.
- Eucalyptus Oil
Eucalyptus oil has been shown to have a range of positive effects, from curing your earaches to alleviating headaches. For example, one study found that eucalyptus oil improves respitory conditions, clearing your cough and sinuses (which is great news, since increased allergies is a symptom of the menopause). Additionally, when inhaled (for 30 minutes), eucalyptus oil has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation – perfect if you suffer from joint pain! A few drops in a warm bath can similarly do great for your aches and pains. Again, this isn’t to say that eucalyptus oil is the best anti-cough, anti-pain, and anti-inflammation remedy out there – but it’s surely a safe, noninvasive, and natural remedy, which can suit some people’s lifestyles best!
- Neroli Oil
Neroli oil, which comes from the blossom of orange trees, may have the most surprising effects of them all. According to one study in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, ‘inhalation of neroli oil by postmenopausal women improved their quality of life related to menopausal symptoms, increased sexual desire, and reduced blood pressure’. The women in the study were told to inhale the oil twice a day (at 10AM and 10PM) for 5 days – and these were the results! That’s not to say that this result is entirely reproducible, but if a little bit of this orangey fragrance can bring back your sex drive in such little time – why not?
And the list goes on and on!
Other popular essential oils used for the menopause include rose oil, clary sage, and geranium oil, all with more or less similar effects. The main point here is that essential oils can help, but are not the best remedy for menopausal symptoms out there. Above anything else, they’re used for aromatherapy, which can lower stress, anxiety, and depression (all symptoms of the menopause). Using essential oils as a room freshener, or smelling the (diluted) oil directly can definitely help keep you calm and relaxed – just choose the scent you prefer! Otherwise, when it comes to more specific symptoms, use with caution. Just because a study shows certain positive effects, doesn’t mean these effects hold true for everyone and every time. Essential oils shouldn’t be used to replace other remedies or treatments (like HRT, exercise, or a healthy diet) but can help alongside. Rest-assured: at the very least, your room will smell great!