What essential oils are good for menstrual cramps, how should you apply them and should you buy a blend or make your own?
This guide is going to answer all of those questions and, hopefully, even a few more that you may not have already considered.
So let’s kick things off by diving straight into the essentials oils that help with period pain.
Note: this post contains affiliate links and I earn a commission (at no additional cost to you) if you use them to make a purchase.
Derived from the copaiba tree that grows in Central and South America, this essential oil is particularly high in a pain-fighting compound called BCP (beta-caryophyllene).
In case you’ve never heard of BCP, it’s a natural pain-reliever that is also found in hemp, another super potent plant for pain relief (source).
But have no worries: BCP doesn’t have any psychoactive properties and using copaiba won’t get you high!
One thing that is very noteworthy about copaiba’s BCP content is that it can be up to twice as much as the amount found in hemp (depending on the harvest).
So, while hemp essential oil can contain about 30% BCP, copaiba oil can have anywhere from 40% all the way up to 60%!
So, how do you know how much BCP your particular bottle of copaiba oil contains?
Simply purchase your oil from a company that has publicly available test reports (aka GCMS reports). Those reports will list it as β-caryophyllene and it will include the percentage. One of my favorite companies that has their test reports on their website is Plant Therapy (although you can buy from any other company you like).
Now, aside from its pain-fighting properties, copaiba is also very helpful for relieving tension and anxiety, both of which tend to increase during that time of the month.
2. Clary Sage
One of the main reasons why clary sage oil helps with menstrual cramps is that it helps to support hormones.
The entire menstrual cycle is regulated by a series of natural hormonal fluctuations. However, if those fluctuations go to the extreme, then symptoms like menstrual pain can creep up.
So, clary sage is one essential oil that can help you maintain hormonal harmony.
In addition, clary sage has been shown to lower cortisol levels by as much as 36% (source).
This matters a lot because elevated cortisol (which is part of the body’s response to inflammation) can affect hormones. And hormones in turn, can further influence inflammation (source).
Yes, it’s a vicious cycle to put it mildly! However, a lower cortisol-lowering oil like clary sage can play its part in helping you break this cycle.
3. Mint Oils (Spearmint and Peppermint)
Mint essential oils contain menthol, which is a natural analgesic or pain reliever.
In fact, research indicates that menthol has the ability to activate kappa opioid receptors that are part of the body’s pain-suppressing mechanism (source).
Funny enough, it’s this action that causes the cooling sensation that we experience when we apply mint to the skin.
Furthermore, peppermint oil is known to have antispasmodic properties (source). This simply means that it can relieve involuntary muscle contractions. And that’s exactly what we want in a home remedy for period cramps – we want to reduce those uterine muscle contractions.
Ginger oil is one of the best and oldest home remedies for various types of pain.
Furthermore, some research indicates that inhaling ginger oil could be helpful for relieving nausea, which is another common PMS symptoms (source).
Similar to copaiba, clove oil also contains the pain-fighting compound BCP (beta-caryophyllene), though in smaller amounts.
On top of this, clove oil is full of eugenol, an antioxidant that has been shown to numb and lower pain (source).
In fact, if you’ve ever heard of the popular pain-relieving product Tiger Balm, well, one of its main ingredients is clove.
And if you look up natural remedies for toothache, you’ll see that clove oil has a long history of use in this department (source).
So, clove is definitely one oil to include in your collection of natural remedies for menstruation pain.
By the way, aside from the essential oil, you can also get pain relief from other forms of cloves too. To learn more check out this post that gives you 3 simple ways to use cloves for menstrual cramps.
NOTE: clove bud oil is a known skin irritant and should not be used above a 0.5% dilution (source).
6. Black Pepper
Black pepper is yet another essential oil for menstrual cramps that contains BCP. Yes, there’s a theme here 🙂
And similar to oils like peppermint, black pepper is also antispasmodic (source).
In addition, black pepper is a warming oil, meaning that it helps to increase blood circulation.
Since poor circulation can contribute to pain, using an oil like black pepper can improve this aspect of bodily function (source).
Is there anything that frankincense oil can’t do? This popular oil contains boswellic acid, a pain-lowering compound that’s been shown to help with chronically painful conditions like arthritis, bursitis and ulcerative colitis (source).
Furthermore, frankincense is very beneficial when it comes to lowering stress and tension.
And when that time of the month comes around, it definitely helps to keep stress as low as possible.
Now before you rush out and buy any frankincense, be aware that there are different varieties to choose from. These are:
While they’re all helpful, some expert sources state that frankincense serrata is the best for pain (source).
So be sure to read the label to see exactly what type of frankincense you’re buying.
Basil oil is a muscle relaxant that can help to reduce tension and tight cramping (source).
In addition, basil oil is high in both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. This combination means that basil can be beneficial for both physical inflammation (i.e. painful sensations) and systemic inflammation.
And last but not least, basil oil soothes the digestive system, making it a helpful home remedy for period-related nausea.
9. Ylang ylang
Not only does ylang have antispasmodic properties, but it’s also a mood-boosting, aphrodisiac oil.
As an aphrodisiac, ylang ylang can alleviate the emotional stress/tension that comes with dealing with painful periods.
NOTE: ylang ylang is a known skin irritant and should not be used above a 0.8% dilution.
Since no discussion on essential oils ever seems to be complete without mention of lavender, well, here it is…lavender can also help to relieve period cramps!
And there’s also the fact that lavender is well known for easing stress and tension. You can’t have too much of that when cramps strike!
And to top it off, lavender is also a natural source of BCP. However, it’s concentration is quite small (about 4%) compared to some of the other oils we’ve covered.
WHERE DO YOU APPLY ESSENTIAL OILS FOR MENSTRUAL CRAMPS?
The best place to apply essential oils for menstrual cramps is on the lower belly or lower back. Whether you ultimately apply the oils to one location or both really depends on which one gives you the most relief.
When it comes to this application method, there are a few safety guidelines to follow:
- Always dilute the oils in a carrier oil like almond, grapeseed or coconut oil before applying.
- In general, a 3 to 5% dilution is beneficial (see table below for specific measurements). This is based on the fact that a good number of studies done with essential oils for menstrual pain used similar dilution levels.
- According to the Tisserand Institute (an expert source for essential oil safety info) you can go as high as 10% for what they refer to as “specific problems.” However, only do this if you’ve tried all the lower dilutions and didn’t get relief.
- Essential oils like clove and ylang ylang are strong skin irritants. They should be used at dilutions of no more than 0.5% and 0.8% respectively.
The rules above apply regardless of whether you use one oil or combine several oils into a blend. And below is a simple chart showing you the measurements necessary for different dilution levels.
|13 drops essential oil in 1 tbsp carrier||18 drops essential oil in 1 tbsp carrier||22 drops essential oil in 1 tbsp carrier|
ADDITIONAL TIPS FOR USING ESSENTIAL OILS FOR PERIOD PAIN RELIEF
Aside from doing a massage, there are two more ways in which you can ease period pain with essential oils: add to a bath and use together with a heating pad.
Let’s explore how to do both.
1. Add To An Epsom Salt Bath
The heat from an epsom salt bath is very soothing and helps to improve circulation. As for the Epsom salt itself, the magnesium content supports pain relief (source).
So, when you add essential oils to the mix, you’re simply enhancing the pain relieving properties of the bath. Plus, you’ll be inhaling the scent of the oils, which is relaxing.
Do make sure that you stay away from strong oils like ylang and clove. Instead, use lavender, frankincense or clary sage.
They’re milder and have a more pleasant smell.
Lastly, to avoid irritation your skin (source):
- mix anywhere from 5 to 20 drops of essential with 1 tablespoon liquid castile soap. This gives you a 1 to 4% dilution.
- add the essential oil and soap mix to your bath water.
This ensures that the oils are diluted in soap.
You do not want free floating essential oils in your bath water because you can get some major irritation or burns.
2. Use with A Heating Pad
In a previous post, I talked about how a heating pad helps menstrual cramps.
And in this post, I mentioned the fact that you can combine a pad and essential oils for more pain relief.
To do this:
- simply do your abdominal or lower back massage with essential oils (as described above).
- place the heating pad over the area where you’ve applied the oils. Of course, always make sure to follow the appropriate safety precautions for heating pad usage.
If you have really strong cramps, this 2-in-1 approach might give you additional relief.
ESSENTIAL OIL BLENDS FOR MENSTRUAL CRAMPS
Before we dive into essential oil blends, please note that you can use any of the essential oils by themselves. However, it’s common practice to blend oils with 2, 3 or more oils simply because you can enjoy the benefits of various oils at once.
So, first off, if you want to make your own blends, you can use this collection of 6 scientifically-proven essential oil blends for menstrual cramps. That article basically shows you how to replicate blends that have been successfully used in research studies.
Now, if you’d rather skip the DIY steps, then here are a couple of blends that you can buy:
- PMS Ease (this is pre-diluted).
- Muscle Relief (this is not pre-diluted).
- Gal Pal (this is not pre-diluted).
FAQs ABOUT WHAT ESSENTIAL OILS ARE GOOD FOR MENSTRUAL CRAMPS
What can I drink to reduce period pain?
A pain-busting smoothie as well as a warm cup of turmeric milk are two drinks that can help to lower the inflammation and hormonal imbalance associated with painful menstrual cycles.
Does eucalyptus oil help menstrual cramps?
Research shows that eucalyptus oil has ingredients that help to alleviate pain. As a matter fact, inhalation of eucalyptus oil resulted in less pain for patients who’d undergone a total knee replacement (source).
So, based on this, eucalyptus could be used for period-related pain as well.
How do you relieve menstrual cramps naturally?
You can naturally relieve menstrual cramps by drinking herbal teas and doing targeted breathing exercises or yoga, For a deep dive into these topics, I’ve put together a guide on the best teas for menstrual cramps, as well as this list of home remedies for menstrual cramps.
There are dozens of other essential oils (such as wintergreen, fennel, helichrysum, cinnamon and others) that are also beneficial for pain. However, the goal today was to give you the top oils that you can look into if you’re new to using them.
Hopefully this post has answered your burning questions and you’re now ready to experience these oils for yourself 🙂