Every woman will go through menopause, usually starting between the ages of 40 and 55. Many women will experience symptoms resulting from changes in hormone levels as they age. Essential oils may be a safe and natural way to help balance hormones and relieve symptoms.
Hormones are chemical messengers produced by the endocrine system that are used in many of the body’s functions. The main hormones involved with menopause include progesterone, estrogen, cortisol, insulin and the thyroid hormones (Sidlo, 2018). As we age, progesterone decreases more than estrogen and an estrogen dominance frequently occurs (Clanton, n.d.). It is the imbalance of these two hormones that is responsible for menopausal symptoms.
A decrease in progesterone can lead to anxiety, hot flashes, headaches, irritability, weight gain and bloating.
Low estrogen can lead to anxiety, brain fog, depression, mood swings, hot flashes, low sex drive, osteoporosis, vaginal dryness, weight gain and sleep issues.
Cortisol is a stress hormone and when imbalanced, it affects insulin and thyroid. Cortisol levels are affected by stress, blood sugar, emotions, exercise and alcohol (Sidlo, 2018).
When insulin is high it raises cortisol (Sidlo, 2018). It causes hormone imbalances and therefore an increase in headaches, PMS, hot flashes and night sweats and leads to an increase in breast and ovarian cysts and the risk of cancer (Sidlo, 2018).
Thyroid hormones regulate the body’s metabolism and affect energy level and heart rate. Low levels can cause anxiety, brain fog, depression, tiredness, low sex drive and weight gain (Sidlo, 2018).
Menopause is a natural stage in a woman’s life, when the ovaries stop producing estrogen, and is defined as the first year without menstruation. Post-menopause is the last phase which starts after menopause and continues for the rest of a woman’s life. Perimenopause usually happens between the ages of 35 and 50 and lasts 5-10 years before menopause (Clanton, n.d.). Although some women experience no menopausal symptoms at all, 85% of women experience at least one symptom (Woods, 2005, as cited in Sussman, 2015). The average age for starting menopause is 51 and symptoms typically lasts 6-13 years.
The changes in hormone levels lead to a wide variety of symptoms including but not limited to hot flashes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, irritability, mood swings, dry skin and mucous membranes, anxiety, loss of libido, headaches, depression, swelling, weight gain, vertigo and muscle and joint pain.
Hot flashes, or night sweats, affect 50-85% of menopausal women worldwide (Kazemzadeh, 2016). Hot flashes may be experienced a few times a year or up to 20 times per day for a few months or up to 10 years (Clanton, n.d.). Hot flashes affect quality of life as they can disrupt sleep and cause embarrassment. Hot flashes are caused when the hypothalamus attempts to stimulate estrogen production, but the ovaries don’t respond due to the lack of eggs (Clanton, n.d.). The hypothalamus then releases epinephrine which triggers the fight or flight reaction (Kazemzadeh, 2016). The heart pumps faster, blood vessels dilate, and skin temperature rises, and the face, neck and chest get flushed (Sidlo, 2018). The body begins to sweat to get rid of the excess heat then it cools off and your brain believes that the temperature has regulated (Sidlo, 2018).
Doctors usually prescribe hormone replacement therapy. While effective, many of the synthetic hormones increase the risk of heart disease, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, osteoporosis, decreased blood sugar, stroke and gallstones (Life Science Publishing, 2014).
Only a few studies have been conducted on the effects of essential oils on menopausal symptoms. Most studies have used lavender essential oil, on its own or in a blend, however one study was found using neroli.
The effect of lavender on hot flashes was studied in a randomized clinical trial that used lavender and placebo aromatherapy on menopausal women in Iran. The women inhaled lavender for 20 minutes, twice a day for 12 weeks. This study found that hot flashes decreased significantly in the intervention group compared to the control group (Kazemzadeh, R., 2015).
Another study in Iran gave participants either a 2% lavender dilution or a placebo which was inhaled for 20 minutes before going to bed, for four weeks. Menopausal symptoms (hot flashes, sweating, palpitation, fatigue, insomnia, depression, headache, etc.) decreased significantly in both groups but the decrease in the lavender group was significantly greater than the placebo group (Jokar, 2018).
A study was conducted on sleep problems in menopause using lavender wipes and lavender scented pillows in Turkey for 15 days. The women were asked about their sleep before and after the study and the results were statistically significant that lavender increased sleep quality (Demirbag, 2019).
A clinical trial on aromatherapy massage was conducted on Korean menopausal women using a blend of lavender, rose geranium, rose and jasmine essential oils at 3% dilution. The experimental group were given a 30-minute massage once a week for 8 weeks and there was no treatment given to the control group. The mean scores for all menopausal symptoms decreased in the aromatherapy group (Hur, 2007).
A double-blinded, randomized controlled trial tested the effects of inhaling neroli at concentrations of 0.1% and 0.5% in 63 postmenopausal women for five days. This study found that inhaling neroli led to decreased menopausal symptoms, decreased blood pressure and increased sexual desire (Choi, 2014).
The use of aromatherapy is effective in significantly reducing menopausal symptoms and can improve the quality of life. It is also safe, easy to use and with few risks. Lavender by inhalation seems to be effective at reducing symptoms and particularly hot flashes. Neroli also appears to be effective for decreasing symptoms such as low libido and hot flashes when inhaled. Lavender and neroli both have hormone balancing and nervine properties and are likely best for reducing hot flashes.
Other considerations for treating menopause symptoms include a diet low in fat and high in vegetables, exercise, calcium rich foods or supplements and relaxation techniques (Thompson, 2012).
Choi, S.Y., Kang, P., Lee, H.S., & Seol, G.H. (2014). https://www.naturalhealthresearch.org/effects-of-neroli-oil-aromatherapy-on-menopausal-symptoms-stress-and-estrogen-in-postmenopausal-women/
Clanton, M.A. (n.d.). https://achs.edu/mediabank/files/melissa_clanton.pdf
Demirbag, B., & Calik, K. (2019). https://www.researchgate.net/publication/335609779_The_Effect_Of_Using_Levander_Wipes_And_Pillows_On_Sleep_Problems_In_Menopause
Hur, M.H., Yang, Y.S., & Lee, M.S. (2007). https://doi.org/10.1093/ecam/nem027
Jokar, M., Zahraseifi, Baradaranfard, F., Khalili, M., & Bakhtiari, S. (2018). https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329377353_The_effects_of_lavender_aromatherapy_on_menopausal_symptoms_A_single-blind_randomized_placebo-controlled_clinical_trial
Kazemzadeh, R., Nikjou, R., Rostamnegad, M., & Norouzi, H. (2016). https://www.researchgate.net/publication/304821849_Effect_of_lavender_aromatherapy_on_menopause_hot_flushing_A_crossover_randomized_clinical_trial
Life Science Publishing. (2014). Essential oils desk reference, 6th edition.
Sidlo, A. (2018). Aromatherapy for menopause success. Saddle Mt. Healing Arts Press.
Sussman, M., Trocio, J., Best, C., Mirkin, S., Bushmakin, A. G., Yood, R., Friedman, M., Menzin, J., & Louie, M. (2015). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12905-015-0217-y
Thompson, C. (2012). Aromatherapy certification course AT201.
Men and women both encounter hormonal fluctuations, but women experience them twice as much and have at least twice as many hormone related conditions as men. Men experience imbalances in testosterone at puberty and as they age. Women experience imbalances in estrogen and progesterone in puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. Additionally, women can experience changes in their level of testosterone. High levels of testosterone are related to polycystic ovary syndrome as well as other symptoms. As we age, we also produce less testosterone which is responsible for a low libido, among other symptoms.
Today, I’m looking at female hormone and reproductive issues. At puberty and beyond we can experience PMS, menstrual cramping and bloating, irregular menstruation, mood swings, and painful swollen breasts. In pregnancy we can experience swelling, constipation, nausea, heartburn, back pain, stress, stretchmarks and finally labour pains. But it doesn’t end there. There’s also post-partum depression and balancing breast milk production. Or there’s infertility. Throughout life we may experience yeast infections, ovarian cysts, high libido, sexual tension, heavy or no menstruation and endometriosis. As we age, we can experience irregular menstruation, uterine prolapse, low libido and menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. And that my friends, is not an exhaustive list.
We can try to manage our hormone levels using the birth control pill or hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Is there a difference between the two? Yes, there is. HRT is a supplement to the hormones your body is producing, while the birth control pill is much stronger and takes over hormone production. Additionally, HRT isn’t a type of birth control.
The birth control pill is helpful for hormone imbalances and is generally safe. Side effects can include spotting, nausea, breast tenderness, headaches, migraines, weight gain, mood changes, missed periods, decreased libido and vaginal discharge. Risks include blood clots, stroke, heart attack, increase in blood pressure, benign liver tumours and some types of cancer.
Hormone replacement therapy side effects include monthly bleeding, irregular spotting, breast tenderness, fluid retention, headaches, skin discolouration and increased breast density. Risks include increased chance of breast and endometrial cancer, blood clots and stroke, gallbladder/gallstone problems and increased risk of dementia.
There are external factors which may also affect our hormone levels such as plastics (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222987/), genetically modified food, phthalates (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5391940/ and https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0917504017301120), hormones in meat and dairy (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4524299/), sugar (as insulin levels affect hormones), phytoestrogens, or plant “estrogens” found in soy for example, (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3074428/) and pesticides (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1524969/).
By the way, labeling is not required in Canada or the US for genetically modified foods but you can check the produce codes (those five-digit numbers on the stickers). Numbers starting with an eight indicate GMO and numbers starting with a nine indicate organic. Other numbers indicate that they were conventionally grown.
We can also try to balance our hormone levels with supplements and essential oils. A study on menopause shows that after 8 weeks of aromatherapy massage (using lavender, rose geranium, rose and jasmine), symptoms decreased compared to the control group (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2529395/). Another study on perimenopause shows that inhalation of geranium and rose otto essential oils increased estrogen secretion (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28326753).
Essential oils can help with more than menopause and perimenopause. All those hormonal and reproductive issues that I mentioned earlier can be helped by essential oils. Let’s have a look at some common issues and what oils can help.
PMS can be helped by using bergamot, clary sage, geranium, lavender and rose to balance hormones, ease headaches and cramping and help with acne.
Hot flashes can be helped by clary sage, grapefruit, lemon, geranium, lavender, peppermint and patchouli which help by balancing hormones, improving circulation, constricting blood vessels and cooling.
Yeast infections can be helped with cinnamon, eucalyptus, lavender, lemon and tea tree which have powerful antifungal properties.
Clary sage, grapefruit, lavender and rose are great for helping balance hormones.
Cinnamon, clary sage, geranium, patchouli and ylang ylang have aphrodisiac properties.
Not sure which oils to use or how to use them? Make an appointment with an aromatherapist today.
Essential oil safety is probably the most talked about subject in aromatherapy. And probably the most confusing too. Although essential oils have been used for hundreds of years, there’s not a lot of scientific evidence to refer to. Since essential oils cannot be trademarked, big companies don’t want to invest in it and small companies can’t afford it. Which leaves whatever information you can find online, in books, in classes or from suppliers. And it’s difficult to tell if the author is an expert or an amateur. Sometimes even the experts don’t agree, but it’s usually to do with the amount of caution they’re comfortable with. Now I’m certainly not claiming to be an expert, but here are some guidelines most experts will agree on:
It’s helpful to remember that essential oils are highly concentrated, and their properties need to be respected.
For more information see Robert Tisserand’s site (a highly respected expert) at https://tisserandinstitute.org/safety/safety-guidelines.
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Here are some of the aromatherapy myths that I hear most often.
1. You can ingest essential oils.
Oral use of essential oils has not been approved in North America. The only country that allows the administration of essential oils orally is France, and even then, you have to be under the close supervision of a licensed medical practitioner. Generally, it’s safe to add a couple of drops to food or to swish around a dilution in your mouth before spitting it out, but even then, some essential oils can irritate mucus membranes. Make sure to do your research before using any oil orally.
There is a company out there that will completely disregard this and advise you it’s safe to use essential oils orally. At a market I was at, a rep from this same company advised a customer to put a drop of peppermint oil in her eye. This should never be done because it burns!
2. You can apply them directly to your skin.
Almost all essential oils should be diluted before applying them to your skin neat. Essential oils are extremely concentrated and can cause irritation, burns and rashes. Don’t take chances – dilute them in lotion, carrier oil, shower gel, bubble bath, liquid soap, massage oil, etc. If you’re going to use one neat, do a patch test and don’t use it for a prolonged period.
3. Essential oils labelled pure and therapeutic are of better quality.
Essential oils, by their nature, are pure and therapeutic, whether it’s on the label or not. An essential oil labelled “pure” means only that it hasn’t been diluted. Using “therapeutic” on a label is only a marketing strategy. There is no such thing as a non-therapeutic version of an essential oil!
4. Essential oils are safe because they’re natural.
While essential oils are indeed natural, they still need to be used with caution. Just think of poison ivy, some types of mushrooms, stinging nettle, poinsettia. You get the picture. Essential oils are extremely concentrated and many have contraindications (specific situations where they may be harmful), for example in pregnancy, with medications or in other medical conditions.
5. Major brands sell superior quality essential oils.
If you’re comparing apples to apples, this is simply not true. If an essential oil is pure, then an essential oil is an essential oil is an essential oil. An organic essential oil may be regarded as a better-quality oil but that’s because of the lack of pesticides and herbicides, the oil isn’t any different. And the essential oil’s chemical constituents (affected by country of origin, soil conditions, weather, time of harvest, etc.) may cause one oil to be safer, sweeter or better for a certain condition than another. But again, if you compare an organic lavender oil from Bulgaria from one company to another they would be the same. When you shop at a major brand you’re not paying for superior quality, you’re paying for their name.
Bonus myth: There’s a company out there who claims that you can only use their essential oils in their diffusers. Great marketing ploy! I went in to one of these stores to “shop” for a diffuser. As soon as I questioned this, the employee quickly backed down.
All essential oils have multiple beneficial properties but geranium, German chamomile, lavender, lemon and peppermint are five of the most versatile must-have oils. Remember that all oils should be diluted for topical use and can be diluted in lotion, body wash, liquid soap, carrier oils, etc. They can be used for inhalation with a diffuser, lava bead bracelet or a couple of drops on a tissue.
Geranium is a strong but lovely floral scent.
German Chamomile is a sweet, expensive and very strong essential oil. It is often available diluted in jojoba oil at 3% or 10%, which is still enough to give it a good scent and retain its beneficial properties.
Lavender has a fresh floral scent.
Lemon has a fresh and sharp citrus scent.
Peppermint has a sharp but minty sweetness.
There seems to be a number of stories out there about how essential oils are toxic for pets. And it’s no surprise really, as there’s very little scientific research readily available on how they affect pets. Because of this lack of information, people are quick to believe opinions. I can’t say I blame anyone, as it's better to be safe than sorry and digging for the truth is time consuming and difficult.
These often unscientific opinions conclude that an essential oil was responsible for an effect on their pet. Most likely it was their misuse of the essential oil rather than the essential oil itself.
Anytime I need to research something, I start by googling it, reviewing the results and the frequency of the information. Skeptically, of course. I think about what sources would be trustworthy. In this case, aromatherapists, veterinarians and reliable scientific studies.
My search turns up no results from aromatherapists, probably because few of them specialize in pets. I found a few vet clinics that were happy to publish some information that sounded scientific and reliable. These veterinarians want to help protect pets, even though they are not essential oil experts, which is great, but none of them seemed to reference any scientific studies.
Then I hit the jackpot! An Alternative Care Veterinarian. There’s so much scientific reference here it even made MY eyes gloss over! Melissa Shelton has been working with essential oils and pets since 2008 and has dedicated her practice to it since 2011. In her article she dispels all the myths and bad science that is sometimes referenced. Here’s an overview, but you should really read it here: https://londonalternativevet.com/2018/01/12/essential-oils-with-pets-dr-melissa-shelton/:
Most issues with pets occur because of misuse. It’s like making prescription medicine available to everyone without any dosage or instructions. A leading expert in aromatherapy, Robert Tisserand, cautions that it’s not that we need to avoid certain essential oils but that we need to use essential oils responsibly. See https://roberttisserand.com/2011/06/cats-essential-oil-safety.
So how do we use them responsibly? Treat them more like medicine and less like an air freshener, being conscious of how much and how long you use them. Don’t trap your pet in a room with a diffuser running all day; they need to escape if they're impacted negatively. And do not use essential oils topically, unless advised by your veterinarian.
See the attachment below for some rules that you can print or share. Happy and safe diffusing!
More reading: https://www.canadianveterinarians.net/documents/cats-and-essential-oils.
You’re running low on essential oils and start shopping for more, but what’s the deal with the range of prices? How do you know what you’re really getting?
Start by reading the label:
If you think something is shady, there is a test you can perform:
Now that you’re armed with knowledge, enjoy your shopping!
Essential oils have amazing properties and unlimited uses. Today I'm going to talk about seven ways you can use them - some might just surprise you!
Cause life should smell good!
Do you have another use for them? Tell us about your essential oil hacks!
Thinking about a diffuser? There are so many options that it can be overwhelming. Which kind should you get? Which options do you need? How much should you spend?
You can spend $15 on a mini diffuser and $150+ on high end models, but I’ve found most of them fall in the $50-$90 range. Styles are endless too as they come in a variety of materials, colours and shapes.
You can get a basic one or you can get one with all the bells and whistles. Options can include different modes and light settings, timers, auto shut off, alarm clock and relaxing sounds. They can be powered by USB, electrical cords or rechargeable batteries. Most will hold 60-100ml of water and some even come with a remote control.
In order to decide which one is right for you, think about when and how you’re going to use it. Do you want it for your bedroom with some lavender to help you sleep? You might want relaxing sounds and maybe even an alarm clock. Will you run it during the day to energize you or lift your mood? Lights may or may not be necessary.
The optimum time to run a diffuser for therapeutic benefits is 30-45 minutes. If you have pets, be careful what oils you use; cats have adverse reactions to more essential oils than dogs. Run it in a secluded space or make sure there is plenty of air flow.
Once you purchase one, don’t be surprised to find yourself wanting another one or two! My husband and I enjoy having one in many of our rooms so that we can use different oils depending on what we’re doing or the mood we're in.
And if you don't want to look any further, I have two models available, both at $59.99, or build your own aromatherapy kit (see website for details).
Loves living a healthy lifestyle and sharing what she learns along the way.