Is PMS affecting your life? Aromatherapy can help!

What is premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) covers a range of symptoms that many women experience in the week or two before their period. These can include bloating, stomach and lower back pain, headaches, mood swings, irritability, anxiety, fatigue, sore breasts, breakouts, greasy hair and changes in appetite and sex drive. It is thought that these symptoms are caused by changing hormone levels during the menstrual cycle.

Symptoms vary from woman to woman and each woman’s symptoms can vary from month to month and may get worse as the woman reaches her late 30s or 40s or approaches the menopause.

For most women, the symptoms are relatively mild, but for some, they can be quite debilitating and effect their day to day life.

How aromatherapy can help with symptoms of PMS

Leading a healthy lifestyle including regular exercise, eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of sleep can all help – as can stress-relieving activities such as meditation or yoga. Aromatherapy can also be hugely beneficial.

Pure essential oils can not only help to balance your hormones, regulate your cycle and lift your mood they can also help to relieve period pain and water retention. It is best to see a qualified aromatherapist who will prescribe a blend of oils and tailor a massage treatment to your individual needs, but if you’d like to use essential oils at home, perhaps in-between massage treatments, here are some of the best ones to try.

Although expensive Rose Otto (Rosa damascena) is one of the best essential oils for the female reproductive system and all kinds of menstrual problems. It has a regulating effect on the cycle, is a uterine tonic and is also very effective in combating low mood and irritability.

Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) helps to balance fluctuating hormones. It is a useful antidepressant which can help balance hormonal mood swings and its diuretic properties can help to relieve fluid retention which many women experience pre-menstrually. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) are also good for fluid retention.

In addition to Geranium and Rose, Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) and Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis) are also great for improving the mood.

For period pain and menstrual cramps analgesic and antispasmodic oils are recommended. These include Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea), Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana).

A study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research showed that these three essential oils were effective in treating menstrual cramps. Essential oils of Lavender, Clary Sage and Marjoram were blended in a 2:1:1 ratio with an unscented cream (at 3% concentration) and massaged daily into the lower abdomen from the end of the last period until the beginning of the next. The duration of pain was significantly reduced from 2.4 days to 1.8 after the aromatherapy treatment [1].

For abnormally heavy periods Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens), Geranium or Rose can have a regulating effect.

Aromatherapy blends to try at home

To balance hormones, lift the mood and help with fluid retention mix 6 drops Lavender, 4 drops Geranium, 3 Bergamot and 2 Clary Sage in 15ml of fragrance free bath or oil or bath gel (or half a cup of full fat milk) and add to a warm bath.

For period pain mix 5 drops each of Clary Sage, Lavender and Sweet Marjoram. This blend can be used in three different ways:

  1. Mix with a cup of Dead Sea Salt and add to a warm bath.
  2. Mix with 10ml of St John’s Wort Oil and 20ml of Sweet Almond Oil and massage into tummy and/or lower back (always massage the tummy in a clockwise direction)
  3. Add to a litre of hot water, immerse a clean cloth in the water, wring out and apply to the lower back and/or tummy.

For headaches try popping a few drops of Peppermint oil on a tissue and sniffing regularly (this will help to relieve fatigue too).  You can also mix 50ml of Aloe Vera Gel with 10 drops of Lavender, 2 drops of Peppermint and 1 drop of Neroli and massage this into the forehead, temples and back of neck.

For bloating combine 5 drops each of Geranium, Fennel and Sweet Orange with 30ml Sweet Almond Oil and massage into the tummy in a clockwise direction.

Safety advice

All advice has been provided on the basis that there are no known contra-indications to using essential oils. Seek advice from a qualified aromatherapist before using essential oils if you are pregnant, suffering from a medical condition or taking medication. Never apply essential oils undiluted to the skin or take internally. Keep away from children.


  1. Ou MC1, Hsu TF, Lai AC, Lin YT, Lin CC. (2012). Pain relief assessment by aromatic essential oil massage on outpatients with primary dysmenorrhea: a randomized, double-blind clinical trial. J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 38(5):817-22.