One for my sisters...oils and painful moon cycles

So, I was supposed to get this post out in March! But as is often the case, various motherhood duties took over. Anyway, here it is, inspired by international women's day and women only issues. 

Obviously there are a huge number of issues that can occur around menstruation and during your cycle. For this post I will focus on supporting any mild pain (dysmenorrhea) and your moods generally. If you are suffering from severe cramps and pain, you should get this checked by a medical doctor and or, a naturopathic doctor. Oils can still help, but it could be symptomatic of something more serious that needs attention.

What is dysmenorrhea?

Intermittent cramping and pain below the waistline before the onset of bleeding and during, around 80% of cases have no identified medical reason. A huge number of women suffer from dysmenorrhea, studies show anywhere between 25%, to 95% of women.

How can you support your cycles?

It is very interesting to note that medically there is often no ‘reason’ to have a painful period. This seems to illustrate quite clearly we must look at other lifestyle factors. From experience, my number one recommendation would be to honor your cycle. What the hell does that mean? We are not the same all month. I repeat, we are not the same all month. This goes against our whole modern rhythm of life, which is generally, go go go and in fact we applaud ourselves for this. But there is a movement out there gaining pace led by many wonderful health practitioners, yoga teachers, healers, doulas, dancers that is really inviting us to respect and celebrate these cycles.

We simply cannot function the same all the time and our bodies are often screaming out to us to STOP and SLOW DOWN, LISTEN to what it needs.

  • When your cycle is approaching and during it, avoid big nights out, drinking alcohol, sugary food and vigorous exercise.
  • Practice gentle stretches, relaxing walks, warm baths
  • Use it as a time of reflection, a time to take a moment to pause, spend more time alone

Of course, I completely understand having 2 young kids myself, you can’t change your whole lifestyle, life still goes on, and sh&t needs to get done. But just adjust things, make tweaks here and there, you might be surprised what a different it makes. 

What are some affective pain relieving and mood calming blends?

  • Rose, Clary Sage, Lavender

This is a great all round choice to relieve pain, cramping and support difficult emotions during or before your cycle. 

There was a good placebo controlled trial carried out on 85 nurses with dysmenorrhea using rose, clary sage and lavender in 3% dilution. It was applied to the abdomen and reduced symptoms significantly.

  • Rose, Vertiver, Ginger

If you are suffering with stronger deeper pain, especially around lower back, this warming blend reduces feelings of discomfort.

  • Roman Chamomile, Lavender, Clary Sage

If you are suffering with slightly delayed menstruation, heavier cramping and feeling agitated, try this combination.

Want to know a little more about each of the oils? Read on for more information

Rose – (Rosa Damascena)

analgesic, anti-spasmodic, calming, supports nervous system, calms heart

This is one of the most precious and complex known essential oils with over 300 chemical compounds. Possibly originating in Persia, the rose flower and its oil have been highly sort after for centuries and throughout many cultures, the ancient world knew its healing power. Today the best oil originates in a region of Bulgaria. The roses are harvested between 5am-10am for maximum potency and it takes around 60 rose flowers to make a single drop of essential oil.

Due to such a huge range of chemical compounds the oil has a wide range of healing properties. Particularly good for skincare, cardiac health and women’s reproductive health, with good results in clinical trials in place of anti-anxiety drugs and insomnia. It calms the nervous system at a deep level.

For reproductive health it is considered a general tonic and can help support a range of issues. It is a light analgesic, so should ease pain, relax your nervous system and support any feeling of oversensitivity during your cycle.

Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia)

analgesic, anti-spasmodic, calming

As mentioned before, this super oil, will get a post all of its own soon! It is the paracetemoal of aromatherapy. Amongst many other properties, it has pain relieving qualities and has been studied in many clinical trails for its effectiveness. A go to, for any kind of pain and nervous tension.

Vertiver (Vertiveria Zizanoides)

Analgesic, anti-spasmodic, grounding

This oil is extracted from the root, so it has a very grounding energy and strong analgesic properties to ease pain. Many root oils have analgesic properties, so if you have a different one in your cupboard, you could use that instead.

It has an earthy, mossy, wet and sweet smell and is used extensively in perfumery as a fixative. It blends nicely with flower oils, creating a great synergy of depth and strength together.

Ginger (Zingiber Officinale)

Analgesic, rubefacient, grounding, increase circulation & warm

This is a warming oil for the uterus; increases circulation to help combat any stagnation in the area. It is analgesic, and acts as a restorative. It is used a lot in TCM for various conditions such as after childbirth to keep the body warm. It is believed to stimulate the yang (fiery, masculine) energy of the kidneys, so useful for warming and easing lower back pain around the kidney area.

Roman Chamomile (Anthemis Nobilis)

Anti-spasmodic and analgesic properties to ease menstrual cramps, nerve tonic, eases anxiety

A classic analgesic oil, used for centuries in western medicine for calming the nervous system. Its sweet, herby, gentle nature is also used a lot for children’s remedies. Eases pain, relaxes the nervous system.

Clary Sage (Salvia Sclarea)

Anti-spasmodic and analgesic properties to ease menstrual cramps and general tonic

A classic western herb used for women’s health, from menstruation, labour to childbirth. It is said to exert a regulating affect on the pituitary gland, promoting regular cycles. So it can be used throughout the month to help promote a regular cycle.

It is not recommended during pregnancy, especially first trimester. Although please note that if used in normal dilation it is unlikely to destabilize any pregnancy. It is often referred to as having emmenagogue properties, meaning it can cause tiny uterine contractions to promote menstruation. However, there have been no recorded cases of it ever being abortifacient. I used it throughout my first pregnancy without any issues.

How to blend & apply the oils?

Select your vegetable oil and add a small amount of evening primrose oil to the base if desired, blend the essential oils at a ratio of 2% – 5% - meaning for 20ml of vegetable you would add anywhere between 10 -25 drops of oil.

Apply over abdomen, lower back, hips a few times a day and during the evening put a warm compress on top (if that feels good), this is old but effective remedy for pain and cramping, it will also help absorb the oils too. 

Finally, are you curious to look more deeply into your rhythms and cycles? If so, take a look below.

Alongside doing some 'women's work' seeing an alternative therapist can make a huge difference. Over ten years ago when I suffered with painful cycles I regularly saw an Ayurvedic doctor who really helped end my cycle of pain and bloating amongst other things, much later on I worked with a traditional Chinese doctor and acupuncturist, which was also highly effective. 

For online courses or those in the US take a look at the work of Sara Avant Stover who I have studied with for a number of years and highly recommend, she offers a plethora of wonderful courses and is a published author    

For courses online and around the globe, Chameli Ardagh is doing very powerful work

For those of you in Singapore - take a look at Urban Spirit who regularly host various women's temples

If you are Hong Kong based check out Corinne Konrad Calder. She loves to help women find healthier balance between self-care, caring for others, and replenishing rest and action through learning more about monthly cycles, intrigued? Check out her workshops and women's temples

For those in UK look up Uma Dinsmore-Tuli and her Womb Yoga    

A note on buying rose essential oil

If you intend to invest in some rose essential oil, you need to know a few things first. There are three ways of purchasing it.

Rose Absolute (solvent extraction)

Rose Otto (Steam distillation)                           

Rose Otto pre-blended in vegetable oil

Rose Otto is produced using the steam distillation method, and Rose Absolute is produced using a solvent extraction method i.e. using a chemical to extract the aromatic oil, which means its not technically an essential oil. While both methods produce beautiful aromas, the steam distillation process keeps its therapeutic properties and is not contaminated with any chemical. The solvent extraction method produces more oil and the resulting scent is stronger. Rose Absolute is used by the perfume industry extensively and for retail aromatherapy.

In professional aromatherapy Rose Otto steam distilled is the only one used, so we are working with the complete and unadulterated oil for full healing benefits.

If you want to buy pure rose essential oil, steam distilled, it will be very very expensive, price fluctuates according to seasonal factors, annual harvesting, weather conditions and so on. Expect to pay a minimum of 200 USD for 5 ml for an oil from Turkey, from Bulgaria it will be more, you could pay as much as 500 USD for 5ml.

If that seems way out of your price range, I would suggest buying the pre-blended version of steam distilled Rose Otto, or have an aromatherapist customise a blend for you, ensure they are using the steam distilled product, not an absolute.