When undertaking the treatment of menopause for a client who does not wish to go on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), I have found that with the appropriate dietary advice and aromatherapy treatment, she can go through the menopausal years without severe discomfort.
There are probably as many diverse definitions of essential oils (also known as ethereal oils) as there are aromatherapy practitioners and teachers. My favorite definition is that essential oils are volatile, aromatic, usually distilled, plant essences with medicinal and therapeutic effects on all living beings. They can, if used in a therapeutic manner, work not only on human beings, but also on animals, and in some cases help other plants to protect themselves from microbes and fungi. The main functions of essential oils within the plant are to favor pollination, protect the plant from bacterial aggression and attract friendly insects. Depending on the plant, the site of oil production may be mainly in either the leaves, the petals, the rind, the bark or the root.
The menopause is the time when the ovaries cease to produce oestrogens and progesterone, and there is a need to replace their effects with adequate nutrition for health and well-being.
Progesterone has the following effects on the female body: increases libido, helps prevent cancer of the uterus, protects against fibrocystic breast disease, maintains the endometrium, ensures the normal functioning of breast tissue to prevent breast cancer, stimulates the osteoblasts, helps with the storage of calcium in the bone necessary for building new bone, strengthens skin elasticity. Progesterone is a natural diuretic; it encourages the burning of fat and use of stored energy. It is known to have a normalising effect on the blood clotting process, looks after the foetus, and is involved in the prevention of stress through hormonal pathways.
We currently do not know of any essential oils with plant progesterones or with progesterone-like actions. However, progesterone is present in wild yams and is part of the realm of phytotherapy.
Oestrogen has the following effects on the human body: Decreases libido, increases the risks of uterine cancers, encourages the growth of the endometrium, slows down the reabsorption of old bone, encourages salt and water retention in the body, thins skin, increases blood clotting, encourages fat stores in certain parts of the body, its excess produces depression and headaches. Oestrogens are steroids. They encourage the development of the ovum and of the fertilised egg.
There are oestrogen-like molecules described as constituents of various essential oils, amongst them sage (Salvia officinalis), clary sage (Salvia sclarea), fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var. dulce).
How can aromatherapy help during the menopause? It is known that smells can initiate physical and psychological reactions by stimulating the release of neurotransmitters in the brain. This accounts for the findings that people who surround themselves with enjoyable fragrances have enhanced self-esteem. When correctly selected and blended, essential oils can enhance a woman’s emotional equilibrium. Similarly, they can alleviate the frequent mood swings and emotional reactions are often associated with the menopause, such as restlessness, tension, listlessness, fearfulness, anxiety and loss of self-esteem by inducing relaxation, calmness and equilibrium.
Some examples of essential oil formulations that I have used successfully for patients with premenopausal and menopausal symptoms include essential oils of:
4 drops of roman chamomile (anthemis nobilis)
4 drops of spike lavender (lavandula latifolia)
4 drops of true lavender (lavandula angustifolia)
2 drops of clary sage (salvia sclarea)
This blend may be used either in the bath, at a proportions of 5 drops diluted in a teaspoon of almond oil for a full bath, or as a 3 percent dilation in sweet almond oil, Rosa mosqueta oil or jojoba oil for a massage oil. The effect of this formulation is to improve circulation and increase diuresis, hence diminishing irritability, memory and concentration lapses, and other common symptoms due to lack of oestrogens and progesterone that have a direct relationship with the onset of the menopause.
A very pleasant and relaxing blend for those days when hot flashes make you feel awful is:
3 drops of bergamot (citrus bergamia)
2 drops of myrrh (commiphora myrrha)
2 drops of ylang ylang (canaga odorata forma genuna)
4 drops of sweet fennel (foeniculum vulgaris var. dulce)
4 drops of geranium (pelargonium odorantisimum)
Prepare a massage oil with this blend of essential oils in a 3 percent dilution formulation in 30 ml Rosa rubiginosa and 20 ml of jojoba.
The following is strengthening and comforting massage oils and diffuser blend for those days when you feel very stressed and unable to cope with the day’s events:
4 drops of essential oil of black spruce (picea mariana)
4 drops of atlas cedarwood (cedrus atlantica)
5 drops of ylang ylang (canaan odorata forma genuine)
3 drops of sandalwood (santalum album)
Add this to 4 ml hazelnut oil to which you previously added 10 ml Rosa rubiginosa.
All of the above formulations should be used in an alternating weekly pattern for up to seven days each. These should be alternated with the client’s personalised blend, which should be used by them at home in between treatments.
The management of the menopause should also include dietary supplements, such as wild yam, fresh fennel, fresh celery and fresh spinach leaves in a large salad to which pumpkin seeds and sesame seed have been added.
The Aromatic Thymes, Spring, 1997.