Between the hot flashes, leg cramps, and spontaneous rushes of emotion, it can sometimes be hard to keep in mind that menopause is actually something to be celebrated. “Menopause is a huge transformation physically, emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically—a renewal, in a way,” says Amy Galper, founder of the New York Institute of Aromatic Studies.
During menopause and perimenopause, women can look within and reflect; it can be really satisfying to take a beat and appreciate all you’ve accomplished so far and plan out where you want your life to go next. But the side effects can be, well, distracting, to say the least. That’s where essential oils come in. “Essential oils are tremendous at elevating some of the simplest things like hot flashes and heart palpitations and leg cramps—all the buckets of symptoms women have,” says Galper.
Here, Galper and The Healing Power of Essential Oils author Eric Zielinski, DC, give their tips on which ones you’ll want to keep on on-hand, and the best way to use them. Consider it your new, deliciously smelling tool kit.
For hot flashes: sandalwood oil
Galper loves sandalwood oil for its soothing properties, saying it works to calm both heat flashes and heart palpitations. “I find that just putting a few drops in the palms of my hand and holding it over my sternum, right on the center, immediately cools me down when I feel the flash coming,” Galper says. “I find it grounding, cooling, quieting, and just nourishing.” Studies have also linked sandalwood to helping provide relief for depressive symptoms.
For muscle cramps: clary sage
Both experts say clary sage can be instrumental at easing physical pain. It’s actually the first essential oil Dr. Zielinski says he recommends for women going through menopause because of how effective many have found it to be. “It’s been the go-to women’s health solution forever,” he says. “It is very potent and does a great to mitigating cramps and symptoms related to menopause.”
“[Clary sage] has an incredible ability to really relax and sedate muscles, like cramping or spazzing,” Galper agrees. “Massaging your legs with clary sage—maybe with a little sandalwood—before bed can mitigate any kind of cramping.” She adds that because clary sage helps sedate the body and mind, it’s also a good primer for sleep. She often recommends mixing it with coconut oil and chamomile for a DIY bedtime massage oil.
For vaginal dryness: lavender
Lavender is often thought of as the OG sleep inducer—and Dr. Zielinski says it’s still great for that—but it can also work as an all-natural lubricant. “It’s been known to soothe vaginal tissues and the perineum,” he says. Want to make your own lube at home? He suggests adding a few drops to coconut oil, diluting six drops of lavender per one ounce of coconut oil.
If you want to stick with using lavender to get to sleep, Dr. Zielinkski says it works great in a diffuser, where it also pairs well with chamomile.
For mood: citrus
Whether you’re struggling with depression or are just feeling down in the dumps, Dr. Zielinkski says citrus scents such as grapefruit, orange, bergamot, lime, and lemon can help. “These work wonderfully for women to elevate mood, but it has to be a scent that resonates with you,” he says.
Pick your favorite, one that makes you feel the most peaceful when you take a long inhale. Sometimes, happiness really is just a few deep breaths away.
For overall balance: vitex
If Dr. Zielinkski were to recommend only one essential oil to women going through menopause, it would be vitex. Extracted from a shrub native to China, it’s a bit harder to find, but he swears by it for holistic relief. “If you just feel ‘off’ or have a disturbance with digestion, headaches, nausea, or hot flashes, vitex is a good one to try,” he says.
Dr. Zielinkski recommends massaging it right into your belly, which he says is one of the most effective places to apply essential oils because the skin is permeable and it’s where many of the vital organs are housed.
Like any transition, chances are, going through menopause isn’t going to be seamless. But a carefully curated set of oils may be just what the doctor ordered to help you find some relief—and smell great, too.
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