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Essential Oils for PMS Symptoms

By Jodi Cohen

Person jumping on a black sand beach with arms up, facing towards the ocean. Waves are crashing onto the shore, and lush green vegetation is visible on the left. The sky is clear and blue.

Essential oils may help to naturally balance hormones and help relieve physical and emotional symptoms related to premenstrual syndrome or PMS, including mood swings, irritability, painful cramping or back pain, fatigue and/or break outs.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) refers to unpleasant changes in psychological, physical, and behavioral health that occur in the last week of the menstrual cycle and resolves at the beginning of the new menstrual cycle. This syndrome can be quantified by the sum of psychological symptoms and physical symptoms.

Research on “The Effects of Aromatherapy on Premenstrual Syndrome Symptoms: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials”  found that essential oils “significantly reduce” both physical and psychological symptoms of PMS.

Specifically, research on Aromatherapy Massage on the Abdomen for Alleviating Menstrual Pain in High School Girls described how “menstrual pain is caused by reduced blood flow due to uterine hyperactivity.  It can occur when the menstrual flow is constricted and can be relieved by increased blood circulation and antispasmodics. Topically applied diluted essential oils in combination with abdominal massage may be beneficial in improving blood circulation.  The scent of the essential oils activates the olfactory senses, which triggers the limbic system. This may be effective in helping to alleviate menstrual pain.”

Symptoms of PMS

PMS — or premenstrual syndrome — occurs after ovulation in the monthly cycle when hormonal changes and fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone prepare the body for menstruation. These hormonal changes also affect mood-stabilizing neurotransmitters such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and serotonin, which can worsen the symptoms of mood disorders and physical symptoms including:

  • Mood swings
  • Skin problems or Acne
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Back pain
  • Bloating or Digestive upset
  • Changes in appetite, including cravings for certain foods, like chocolate
  • Feeling tense or anxious
  • Anger/Irritability,
  • Headache
  • Tender or swollen breasts
  • Trouble concentrating/brain fog
  • Weight gain
  • Breast tenderness
  • Bloating or water retention
  • Fatigue or tiredness

Essential Oils for PMS Symptoms

Essential oils may help balance hormones and relieve physical symptoms like menstrual cramps and stress associated with PMS, in part by increasing circulation to alleviate constriction and pain. On an emotional level, oils may also help alleviate anxiety, irritability, and mood disturbances often experienced during PMS.

Research on “The Effects of Aromatherapy on Premenstrual Syndrome Symptoms” notes that “the volatile compound of essential oils contains flavonoid and trepan chemicals such as limonene, gamma-terpinene, linalool, and linalyl acetate that have shown to act as anxiolytic antidepressants and contain sedative properties”

One explanation for aromatherapy’s effects on PMS is the way in which these volatile compounds affect the limbic system. The volatile odorant molecules are inhaled through the roof of the nose where cilia enable them to reach the receptor cells in the nose. When these volatile odorant molecules reach these cells, the olfactory bulb and olfactory tract transmit an electrochemical impulse to the primary olfactory areas in the brain that are contained in the hypothalamus, hippocampus, and the limbic system. These systems are responsible for controlling autonomic homeostasis, managing conscious thought processes, and creating emotional feelings, respectively

Many research studies have indicated that various essential oils, such as lavender, lemon and bergamot can help to relieve stress, anxiety, depression and other mood disorders. Most notably, inhalation of essential oils can communicate signals to the olfactory system and stimulate the brain to exert neurotransmitters (e.g. serotonin and dopamine) thereby further regulating mood.


PMS Support™ for PMS Symptoms

PMS Support™ may help alleviate pre-menstrual discomforts, reduces bloating and helps with relaxation and depression.

Formulated with a proprietary blend of organic and/or wild crafted essential oil to assist in balancing hormones alleviating pre-menstrual and menstrual cramps, discomfort and other associated problems, PMS Support™ includes:

Bergamot: Known as a natural yet potent antidepressant, Bergamot contains chemical constituents that act as anxiolytic agents to relieve anxiety, stress, and depression, according to research on “Essential oils and anxiolytic aromatherapy”.  A blend containing Bergamot and Lavender essential oils helped research subjects  feel ‘more calm’ and ‘more relaxed’ during a 2011 study.  Additional research on “Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) Essential Oil Inhalation Improves Positive Feelings in the Waiting Room of a Mental Health Treatment Center” found that inhaling bergamot oil improved positive feelings, which may be helpful during your menstrual cycle.  Bergamot Essential Oil contains around 40% Limonene, a chemical constituent which has been found to play a role in the stimulation of the sympathetic system and subjective alertness which may help to lift mood.

Clary Sage: Known as one of the best antidepressant oils, Clary Sage may be helpful in dealing with strong emotions, such as fear, stress, and anxiety. It may help alleviate symptoms of depression, melancholia, and chronic dissatisfaction and hostility. Because it has an estrogen-like hormone, Clary Sage has been used to help support hormonal imbalance, menopause problems, PMS, and menstrual cramps.

Smelling Clary Sage has been shown to reduce cortisol levels which may help lift mood and reduce stress levels.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Phytotherapy Research  found that inhalation of clary sage oil helped to reduce cortisol levels by 36% and improved thyroid hormone levels. The study was done on 22 post-menopausal women in their 50s, some of whom were diagnosed with depression, and at the end of trial the researchers stated that “clary sage oil had a statistically significant effect on lowering cortisol and had an anti-depressant effect improving mood.”  It has also been shown to act as an antispasmodic to relax muscles and ease menstrual pain, according to research on Aromatherapy Massage on the Abdomen for Alleviating Menstrual Pain in High School Girls.

Geranium: Promotes emotional stability by helping to calm the nervous system which may help alleviate anxiety. Geranium is known to help support regulation and restoration. It may help address female hormonal issues, including PMS symptoms,  by balancing estrogen and progesterone deficiency. According to Peter Holmes work in his book, Aromatica: A Clinical Guide to Essential Oil Therapeutics. Volume 1: Principles and Profiles, geranium essential oil nourishes the blood and regulates menstruation and menopause.

Geranium has also been shown to regulate and restore the adrenal and cortisol function, which may help to manage PMS symptoms.  In research on the “Effects of essential oil exposure on salivary estrogen concentration in perimenopausal women”  found that the inhalation of Rose and Geranium essential oils increased salivary estrogen concentration, leading to the conclusion that “olfactory exposure to some essential oils can influence salivary concentration of estrogen.” Similarly, research on “Effects of geranium aroma on anxiety” found that inhaling Geranium essential oil helped to reduce anxiety.

What’s more, research on Effect of Inhalation of Aroma of Geranium Essence on Anxiety and Physiological Parameters during First Stage of Labor in Nulliparous Women found that Geranium essential oil can help pregnant women decrease anxiety during labor, finding that the “aroma of essential oil of geraniums can effectively reduce anxiety during labor and can be recommended as a non-invasive anti-anxiety aid during childbirth.” The women also exhibited decreases in diastolic blood pressure after smelling the geranium essential oil.

Neroli: One of the top oils for supporting and alleviating depression and anxiety, Neroli is known to help relieve nervous tension, stress related conditions, and emotional problems. Neroli contains the constituent Linalool, a key volatile component with sedative properties known to harness glutamate binding, which allows the calming neurotransmitter GABA to bind, according to research on Aromatherapy and the central nerve system (CNS).

Petitgrain Bigarade: Like other citrus essential oils, Petitgrain Bigarade is an excellent antidepressant. It may help support different mild, long-term depression disorders like those associated with PMS. It may help relieve nervous exhaustion, stress, and mental fatigue. It stimulates the conscious mind and helps you have clear perception and focus. It is also good to use to help ease panic, anger, anxiety, and disharmony.

Gamma-Terpinene, a component of essential oils made from citrus fruits, has been found to decrease stress by enhancing the dopamine release. Petitgrain is also known to be anti-spasmodic and may help to induce relaxation in the tissues, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels, thereby helping to relieve painful cramps and abdominal aches that are common PMS symptoms.

Petitgrain oil is also known as a nerve tonic, known for its soothing and relaxing effect on the nerves, helping to protect them from the adverse effects of shock, anger, anxiety, and fear. Petitgrain essential oil is equally efficient in calming nervous afflictions and mood swings and strengthening the nervous system as a whole.

Sandalwood: May help support healthy hormone levels, including increasing libido and helping to support issues involving the reproductive organs, relieving menstrual problems and pelvic congestion. Research on Evaluating the effectiveness of aromatherapy in reducing levels of anxiety in palliative care patients” found that patients who were receiving palliative care felt much more relaxed and less anxious after inhaling sandalwood.  Because of its sedative properties, Sandalwood may help you quiet your mind and center your body which can be helpful supporting symptoms related to mood fluctuations during PMS.  For example, a study published in the international journal Planta Medica evaluated the effect of sandalwood oil on attention and arousal levels. The researchers found that sandalwood’s main compound, alpha-santalol, generated high ratings of attentiveness and mood.

Vetiver: Known as the “Oil of Tranquility,” Vetiver is one of the top oils for calming the mind. It helps you focus on needed tasks. It helps ease symptoms of PMS and postpartum depression. It also helps relax tight muscles and support aches, pains and headaches associated with PMS symptoms.  Vetiver oil may also help alleviate emotional stress associated with PMS, including anxiety, overwhelm, panic attacks and depression.  Research on Smell and Stress Response in the Brain investigated the effects of vetiver oil on anxiety and the neurological actions in the central amygdaloid nucleus. The central amygdaloid nucleus connects with brainstem areas that control the expression of innate behaviors; it’s responsible for the perception and results of emotions, such as changes in heart rate, blood pressure and respiration. When vetiver oil was given to rats, it altered this neuronal activation from stress. In fact, vetiver oil had the same impact as Diazepam, a medication that treats anxiety, muscle spasms, seizures and other medical conditions.

You can help relieve PMS symptoms by massaging 2 -3 drops of PMS Support™ over the abdomen to reduce menstrual cramps. PMS Support™ can also be applied over the lower back, lower abdomen and around ankles. Apply with a hot com-press to areas of discomfort.


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About The Author

Jodi Cohen

Jodi Sternoff Cohen is the founder of Vibrant Blue Oils. An author, speaker, nutritional therapist, and a leading international authority on essential oils, Jodi has helped over 50,000 individuals support their health with essential oils.