Getting cramps during your period truly might be the worst. Some intense cramps can even put you out of commission because you're in so much pain and discomfort. You could miss out on work or school or even social events with friends. It can be so frustrating that you want to shout out to the universe, "Being a woman is too much of an inconvenience!" Or maybe that's just me?
Why do we get menstrual cramps in the first place? According to the Mayo Clinic, hormone-like substances called prostaglandins trigger uterine muscle contractions so your uterus can expel its lining. Conditions like endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and pelvic inflammatory disease can cause cramps, too.
There are several treatment methods to deal with annoying cramps, like eating certain foods, using a heating pad, taking over-the-counter pain relievers, acupuncture, acupressure, and getting on hormonal birth control. Another option is trying essential oils—which is pretty easy if you already have them on hand because you're using them for their other various benefits. If you do plan on using essential oils, note that you should never apply them directly to your skin, and you should dilute them first by adding them to a carrier oil. Two exceptions for this are lavender and tea tree oil.
Take a look at the best essential oils that can help menstrual cramps below.
Cue that cooling feeling. "Peppermint is an herbaceous oil that's popular for its refreshing and invigorating aroma," says Sara Panton, co-founder of Vitruvi. "From headaches to cramps, peppermint essential oil has an incredibly refreshing and bright scent that leaves you feeling more balanced and can help decrease feelings of nausea and cramping associated with menstruation. Breathing peppermint oil in the air helps to promote deeper breaths, which improves oxygen in muscles and eases tension. When applied topically, the tingling sensation helps to increase blood circulation to that area." She recommends either diffusing the essential oil, or if you want to apply topically, add a few drops to peppermint oil and massage your lower abdomen.
Lavender can help with sleep, anxiety, and even acne and skin irritations, so its use for menstrual cramps is another bonus. "It's a natural muscle relaxer which helps aid in releasing the tension associated with cramping. You can apply it topically on your abdominal area or add a few drops to a warm bath," says wellness coach Dana Kofsky of Wellness Styled.
"It's a natural astringent, so it helps flush out toxins and helps with water retention. You can use it in a diffuser, in a bath, or mix with some coconut oil and rub it directly on the skin," Kofsky says.
It's not just a flower. Not only do rose essential oils promote better sleep and a decrease in anxiety levels, but they can also relieve menstrual cramps. "It reduces inflammation and helps ease cramping. It's best used by diluting if applying it on the abdominal area. You can use coconut oil to dilute it with," Kofsky suggests.
Sourced from South American trees, copaiba is another option to try. "Another favorite of mine for all pain, but especially cramps, is copaiba," Clark says. "It has powerful anti-inflammatory properties for soothing tense muscles. You can actually place a drop directly under your tongue or apply it directly to the area of pain."
Many brands make proprietary blends of essential oils that can help too. "The top protocol I have found to be helpful with relieving menstrual cramps is to use the blend of oils called ClaryCalm," says Melody Brandon, an essential oils educator. "ClaryCalm is a blend of clary sage flower, lavender flower, FCF bergamot peel, Roman chamomile flower, ylang-ylang flower, cedarwood wood, geranium plant, fennel seed, carrot seed, palmarosa herb, and vitex leaf berry essential oils. This is what we call the 'blend for women' since these oils actually help to balance out your hormones and then in turn help reduce negative side effects like menstrual cramps, mood swings, hot flashes, etc."
If you'd rather use a diffuser instead of applying oils to your skin, Brandon suggests this cramp-relief blend: two drops yarrow pom, one drop clary sage, three drops bergamot, and one drop Siberian fir.
This article was published at an earlier date and has been updated.