In the big world of hormones, women often wonder if they will ever be able to have a normal period. Mood swings, hot flashes, cramps, heavy flow—you name it, someone’s suffering from it. But I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way! When our bodies are functioning at optimal levels, we don't have to suffer through our monthly cycles.
The sad truth is that most of our bodies aren't in tiptop condition, and I’m not just talking about estrogen. Stress1 tends to be the biggest culprit, causing our reproductive system to take a back seat to fight-or-flight survival responses. Cortisol levels raise, our blood redirects to our extremities, and our digestive and reproductive systems get put on hold until we can resolve whatever crisis is at hand. So, our estrogen and progesterone production are put on hold until we can reclaim control of our situation.
The good news is that you are fully capable of reducing the stress in your life with proper diet, exercise, restful sleep, reduction of toxic load, and stress management. Essential oils are the golden ticket to supporting this transformation in your life, as they can bridge the gap from imbalance to balance while you work to recharge your system. While essential oils are NOT hormones and don’t function as such, they are capable of supporting the bodily systems that do influence and control hormones to help your body to heal itself.
Here are my top five favorites for diminishing the symptoms of PMS and balancing your hormones—STAT:
1. Clary sage (Salvia sclarea):
Often called "the best oil for your worst time of the month," clary sage (CS) is an essential oil that no woman should be without. With the ability to reduce cortisol levels by simply inhaling it from the bottle, CS should be the first oil that you reach for when stress levels run high2 near your cycle. In fact, research demonstrated2 its ability to lower cortisol levels by 36 percent as well as improve the levels of your thyroid hormones. It also works well when used as an abdominal massage to relieve tightening menstrual cramps and uncomfortable tension during your period by relaxing3 your smooth muscles. Calming and soothing the mind and body coupled with some deep breathing exercises can also help to resolve your stress levels and bring calm to your body and mind while helping you to reclaim the balance in your life. Diffused with lavender, it can provide an ultimate calming environment, especially when used in tandem with topical application on your pulse points or an Epsom salt bath for total body relaxation with a dose of much-needed magnesium. If you don’t have it yet, it’s time to get your hands on this amazing oil!
2. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia):
Lavender appears on just about every list of essential oils due to its versatility and the immediate results that it provides from a single whiff. While lavender is known for its ability to calm the mind and body instantaneously4, the most popular use for lavender is to help you fall asleep5. It can whisk away stress, tension, and anxiety while helping your body6 to de-stress and rebalance emotions. When used as an abdominal massage or in a relaxing Epsom salt bath, lavender also alleviates7 painful symptoms associated with our menstrual cycles while allowing you to have a restful night’s sleep.
3. Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata):
This oil tops the chart for aphrodisiac essential oils and has been used for centuries in religious and wedding ceremonies to encourage this usage. Its intoxicating aroma both calms and uplifts the mind and body while relieving stressful tension. It enables the body to reduce blood pressure while providing total body relaxation with such intensity that it's an almost sedative effect. While many women use this oil daily for hormonal balance and to boost libido, the actual results achieved are a lowering of the body’s stress levels in order to calm the mind and body, allowing for normal reproductive functioning.
4. Bergamot (Citrus bergamia):
Bergamot never ceases to amaze me with its dual power of both uplifting and calming simultaneously. Diffused or applied topically, bergamot alleviates stress and anxiety while reviving your emotions and uplifting your mood. By reducing8 your heart rate and blood pressure, it allows the body to recover from stressors and harmonize the body’s systems back to normal functioning. Again, the stress component restricts the body’s reproductive functions, so lowering cortisol levels must be achieved before the body can regulate its other systems. Just remember that citrus oils like bergamot are highly phototoxic, so you always want to dilute 1:1 before topical application, and do not expose your skin to direct sunlight for at least 72 hours after use.
5. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris):
Thyme caught the attention of researchers after a study showed9 its ability to aid in the balancing of progesterone levels due to its phytoestrogen content. Obviously, progesterone plays an essential role in our monthly cycle, preparing the lining of the uterus for potential implantation by a fertilized egg. The grounding and balancing properties of this essential oil helps to keep our stress levels in check but also alleviates the symptoms associated with low progesterone—like mood swings, insomnia, hot flashes, and weight gain. Thyme is also well-known for its ability to support a healthy immune system10, which helps your body stay in balance. A note of caution: If you have a problem with estrogen dominance or any condition that would suffer from excess estrogen, you should avoid the use of thyme, as it may exacerbate your condition.
While many people know that their PMS symptoms are caused by imbalanced hormones, they have the wrong hormones in mind. Reducing cortisol levels should be your main goal, which will help to rebalance your estrogen and progesterone levels. This means stress management is the biggest gift that we women can give to ourselves. I recommend incorporating some self-care rituals into your daily routine in order to take time each day to reduce those stress levels.
High-quality essential oils can support this step by reducing your cortisol levels and allowing your body to find the calm that it needs to support your monthly cycle. Deep breathing techniques, relaxing nighttime routines, yoga, and anything that helps you to find your inner peace are your ticket to keeping stress low while replenishing your energy and mood.
Ever wondered what essential oils functional medicine experts always have on hand?
Mariza Snyder, D.C., is a functional wellness practitioner and public speaker currently living in Northern California. She received her Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic College West and her Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and Health Psychology from Mills College. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, Women's Health and O, The Oprah Magazine and is the author of five best-selling nutrition books. Snyder specializes in holistic medicine and nutrition, aiming to help people live a healthy and abundant life.