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The Menopause and Aromatherapy

As with all these articles, I want to make a number of things clear. Firstly, I am not a Doctor. I am a trained nurse, an Aromatherapist and a Beautician. This does not qualify me to give a medical opinion, so please do not treat any of these articles as such. These articles are bits and pieces I have discovered on my travels both in life and on the internet. Secondly, I make no bones about these articles not being "all my own work". I have merely brought together information that I have found to be helpful and relevant. It is also unfortunate that I cannot for the life of me remember where some of this information comes from, so where I have "stolen" someone else's work, I apologise. Please let me know and I will gladly give credit where it is due!

The menopause is a significant change in a woman's life; that said, it is not an illness. The changes of the menopause are normal, natural and inevitable. This does not mean, however, that the menopause is always easy. Hot flushes (or "flashes" as they say across the Pond), vaginal dryness, aches and pains and signs of ageing can be difficult to adjust to. To relieve these symptoms, many women are advised by their doctors to take hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Now, HRT may not be right for every woman. Some women feel the risks that come with HRT are greater than the benefits. For example: if a woman takes HRT for more than five years, her risk of developing breast cancer may increase. There are also higher risks of developing blood clots.

It is, however, the time when the ovaries cease to produce oestrogens and progesterone, and there is a need to replace their effects with adequate nutrition for health and well being. This change in hormone levels can cause irregular periods and the issues mentioned above. Some women also experience aches and pains, mood swings, anxiety and insomnia (difficulty in sleeping).

For information, PROGESTERONE has the following effects on the female body increases libido; helps to prevent cancer of the uterus; protects against fibrocystic breast disease; maintains the endometrium; ensures the normal functioning of breast tissue to prevent breast cancer; stimulates the osteoblasts and helps with the storage of calcium in bone, thus building new bone; strengthens skin elasticity; progesterone is a natural diuretic; it encourages burning of fat and use of stored energy; progesterone is known to have a normalising effect on the clotting process; looks after the foetus; and is involved in the prevention of stress through hormonal pathways. We currently do not know of any essential oils with plant progesterones or with progesterone like actions, however, progesterone is present in wild yams and is part of the realm of phyto-therapy.

OESTROGENS have the following effects on the human body. They decrease libido; increase the risks of uterine cancers; encourage the growth of the endometrium; slow down the re-absorption of old bone; encourage salt and water retention in the body; thin skin; their excess produces depression and headaches; increase blood clotting; encourage fat stores in certain parts of the body; they are steroids; and they encourage the development of the ovum and of the fertilised egg. There are oestrogen-like molecules described as constituents of various essential oils, amongst them sage Salvia officinalis, Clary sage Salvia sclarea, fennel Foeniculum vulgare var. dulce.

Most of the time we use the word "menopause" incorrectly. Strictly speaking it refers to the last menstrual period - the moment when menstruation stops. (It is the counterpoint to the "menarche" when the periods begin.) The transition period of ongoing changes and adjustments which we usually refer to as the menopause, is officially known as the "climacteric". This is divided into three phases:

1. The pre-menopause - the early years, usually from age 40, when hormonal changes take place but may be hardly noticeable - although women may experience a changed menstruation pattern and occasional hot flushes.

2. The peri-menopause - function of the ovaries declines and periods become irregular - the time when most physical changes are noticed.

3. The post-menopause - from the time of the last period (identified in retrospect) until the end of a woman's life

How can Aromatherapy help a during the menopause?

We have already seen that smells can initiate physical and psychological reactions by stimulating the release of neurotransmitters in the brain. This accounts for the findings that people who surround themselves with enjoyable fragrances enhance their self-esteem. Correctly selected, essential oils can enhance your emotional equilibrium. Depending on their selection and blending they are able to alleviate the frequent mood swings and emotional reactions which are often associated with the menopause such as restlessness, tension, listlessness, fearfulness, anxiety and loss of self-esteem by inducing relaxation, calmness and equilibrium

It is important to note that oils which have oestrogen-like properties are not human oestrogen replacements. They have their effect via the neuro-endocrine route and it appears that their action is via the adrenals rather than the ovary, hence their beneficial effects when ovarian oestrogens are contraindicated. The management of the menopause should also include dietary supplements such as wild yam, fresh fennel, fresh celery and fresh spinach leaves in a large salad to which pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds have been added.

Here are some suggested recipes:

Hot Flushes:

10 drops Clary Sage
11 drops Geranium
7 drops Lemon
2 drops Sage

Blend into 30ml of carrier oil and use in the bath or for spot massage application only.

Day and Night Sweats:

10 drops Grapefruit
10 drops Lime
5 drops Sage
5 drops Thyme

Add to 30ml of carrier oil and use in your daily bath or for spot massage application only.

Menopause Body Oil:

6 drops lemon oil
5 drops geranium oil
2 drops clary sage oil
1 drop angelica oil
1 drop jasmine oil
2 ounces vegetable oil or body lotion

Combine the ingredients. Use at least once a day as a massage oil, in a lotion, or in a bath (add 2 teaspoons to the bathwater). If this formula is too oily for you, add the same essential oils to 2 ounces of a commercial body lotion instead.

General pick-me-up:

3 drops of Bergamot
2 drops of Myrrh
2 drops of Ylang Ylang
4 drops of sweet fennel
4 drops of geranium

Prepare a massage oil with this blend of essential oils in about 30ml Rosa Rubiginosa and 20 ml of Jojoba.

Herbal remedies for Menopause

There are many useful herbal remedies which can ease menopausal symptoms and support the body to adjust. The main suggested ones are:

Agnus castus - stimulates and normalizes the function of the pituitary gland, and restore hormone balance.

Black Cohosh - used by native Americans, also supports pituitary gland and reduces fluid retention.

Dong Quai or Angelica Sinensis - (often thought of as the female equivalent of ginseng) alleviates vaginal dryness, regulates periods and reduces hot flushes.

Yarrow - can lower the body temperature, so alleviates hot flushes and night sweats.

Dandelion - has a detoxifying effect so supports the liver in eliminating 'old' hormones and built-up toxins. Also reduces fluid retention.

Wild Yam - helps balance hormones and has anti-spasmodic qualities so useful to relieve period pains and muscle/joint problems.

Motherwort - alleviates vaginal dryness, helps calm anxiety, reduces hot flushes, helps combat insomnia, relieves pain.

Sage - combats flushing, especially night sweats.

Red Clover - a rich source of phyto-oestrogens.

Evening Primrose Oil - a rich natural source of gamma-linoleic acid, encourages healthy skin and helps hormonal balance, reduces PMT and menopausal stress.

Calcium supplement: Put 6 raw eggs with white shells in a jar and add freshly squeezed juice of 10 lemons. Cover the jar and wrap it in dark paper. Let stand in a dark place until eggs dissolve completely. It takes between 5 and 8 days. After it's done add 2/3 pound of liquid honey and 3/4 cup of brandy.Put in dark bottle and keep in a cool place. Take a little bit less then 1 tbsp a day right after meal. Do not keep the mix longer than 3 weeks as it loses its power. Better to prepare a new portion each time. This remedy is a wonderful source of calcium, which women loose in great quantity during menopause.

Remedy to reduce irritability: 10 lemons with skin, cut to small pieces, and crushed shells of 5 eggs mix together, add 1/2 L of vodka and let stand for 5 days. Take 30 g in the morning and in the evening for at least 2 weeks.

To ease menopausal symptoms:

1. Place 1-2 tbsp of sage in 2 cups of boiling water. Drink during the day. Do not take for more than 3 months. Put 25-30 g of rosemary leaves in 100 g of boiling water, and let stand for some time. Take 25 drops 3 times a day 30 min before meal.

2. Blackberry tea - Combine together: 25 g of blackberry leaves, 20 g of woodruff, 10 g of hawthorn flowers, 20 g of juniper berries, 20 g of golden rod herb and 20 g of motherwort herb. 1 tbsp of mix add to 1 cup of boiling water and steep for 1 hour. Filter and drink like tea 1 cup 3 times a day. This remedy greatly improves the state of health in women at menopause.

3. Add 1 tbsp of Shepherd's Purse to 1 cup of boiling water, let stand for awhile and drink all at ones. The remedy helps to reduce heavy bleeding at menopause where the bleeding is connected to anything else.

4. Put 2 tbsp of Origanum in thermos and add 2 cups of boiling water. Keep over night and drink 3 times a day 20-40 min before meal.

5. Add 10 g of Origanum to 150 ml of 70% alcohol. Let stand for 7-10 days in dark place at room temperature. Take 30-40 drops 3-4 times a day. Provides calming effect.

Practical day to day suggestions I found on the web include:

1. Dress in layered clothing, preferably cotton, since natural fibers allow your skin to breathe. Then when you feel a flush coming on, you can simply shed layers to cool off. Since some flushes are followed by chills, it can be helpful to have a sweater to put back on.

2. Limit or eliminate all together substances that may act as triggers: caffeine; alcohol; hot, spicy foods; diet pills; hot tubs; stress.

3. Drink plenty of water. Keeping well hydrated can help modulate your body temperature.

4. Keep a supply of cool (NOT iced) water nearby - even at night, beside your bed.

5. Use lighter blankets or a fan near your bed to deal with hot flushes at night.

6. Limit your intake of red wine, chocolate and aged cheeses, which contain a chemical that can affect your body's thermostat and can trigger a hot flush.

7. Make use of other coping behaviours. Psychological or behavioural coping techniques are getting more attention from the scientific community. (In English, have some therapy about learning how to cope with things!)

8. Occasionally - treat yourself to something nice ..... for yourself.