Aromatherapy has been around for centuries and affects us on deep levels, the molecules of the essential oils travel to the limbic system, which is one of the most primal parts of the brain, governing survival instincts and emotions.
Everyone has experienced moments of a sudden memory hitting them hard when they smell an unexpected aroma: mine for me it’s town gas – I am right back in my aunt’s flat opposite the gas works. The aroma of baking scones also does it, and I am transported into the kitchen with my grandmother.
Ultimately we should recognise that these feelings are the result of a chemical reaction and not through some bizarre magical experience. In other words the chemicals contained in essential oils are derived from plants and years of research has confirmed what many had suspected, that these scents can have an affect on our mood.
Menopause symptoms are many and varied and not just the pesky hot flushes many of us find so hard to deal with. Brain fog, anxiety, feeling of loss and overwhelm, inability to sleep, hair loss and loss of libido and generally zest for life are experienced by many women.
Aromatherapy can often assist in these occasions, but it is important to always seek your doctors advice as aromatherapy is a complementary therapy, not an alternative to conventional medicine.
So, what to do about those hot flushes which suddenly engulf, and at inopportune moments? A lot of women find relief using peppermint and clary sage.
Peppermint oil can be applied directly to the temples or a few drops put on a hanky and inhaled.
This oil is a vasodilator so cools you down and can also help relieve the tension headaches also often associated with menopause. Clary sage oil is cooling and calming, this oil can be diluted and used to massage the feet before bed. Alternatively, adding a few drops to a magnesium salt foot bath can be beneficial in soothing and cooling before sleep.
Brain fog and loss of concentration can be treated with an inhalation of rosemary and peppermint, this combination has been shown to increase concentration and ease anxiety levels, a good way to take this is through an air vaporiser where a few drops of each are added to water and then diffuse into the air.
Many of us are affected by not only a general change in hair texture but a loss of hair generally. Try adding a few drops of peppermint and rosemary essential oils to a carrier oil such as olive oil or coconut then gently massage into the scalp for a ten minute before shampooing, then wash thoroughly – this should stimulate the scalp and help hair growth.
Depression and anxiety can be helped with a soothing blend of citrus oils, a few drops of lemon, lime and/or orange added to a diffuser can clear foggy brain, elevate mood and help clarity of thought. For a more relaxing blend try a few drops of roman camomile with a little lemon, this should de-stress you and help calm anxious moments. Depression has also been seen to improve with a massage using geranium essential oil, again helpful in the evening, to help relax and unwind prior to bed.
Depression, tiredness and of course the hormonal changes can lead to a loss of libido, well known scents such as rose and neroli mixed with a carrier oil can be used to bathe in and for massage these oils have for centuries been used in aphrodisiac mixes and tinctures, heady oils such as vetiver were used in ancient ceremonies to sanctify brides before marriage and are powerful aphrodisiacs when diffused either alone or in a mix with rose, ylang ylang or damiana ( used as an aphrodisiac in Mayan civilisations). None of these oils are very expensive and having fun with different mixes can be fun and in itself boost libido.
Finally and possibly most importantly difficulty sleeping and interrupted sleep lead to much menopausal misery. Many advocate the use of lavender, however when overused this can lead to headaches and a general mugginess. A gentler mix with a little lavender, some geranium and perhaps clary sage will help rest and can be mixed in a bottle with water and spritzed again to help relieve anxiety and heat in the night.