By Alexandra Wee
Note: Essential oils should never be used to replace medical treatment.
When it comes to our giving our bodies the best #selfcare, good things often come in bottles. No, not the kinds filled with pinot noir (though I won’t turn down a glass). I’m talking about essential oils.
Not only can essential oils soothe you to sleep and relax a sore muscle, these natural remedies can also invigorate you on a dreary day, help you find your sultry self, and tune you into focus.
“Essential oils are the quintessential experience of mind-body integration,” Amy Galper, wellness consultant and co-founder of the New York Institute of Aromatic Studies, tells us. “They deliver both a physiological experience, through what is being absorbed into our bodies, and a psychological experience that is more often than not quantifiable.”
The best part? They smell ahh-mazing.
If you’re looking for more ways to bring natural healing into your everyday routine, here are the best essential oils to complement every phase of your cycle — plus, the DOs and DON’Ts of using them, so you can relieve stress, recharge, and live your best (naturally scented) life.
Phase 1: Menstruation
As you begin your first few days of bleeding, you may feel tired, in need of stillness or solitude, especially reflective, or crave some alone time.
To help you harmonize with these restorative needs, Galper suggests surrounding yourself with frankincense, which “can help quiet the mind, focus attention and mindfulness inward, and soothe any nervous energy.”
If you’re feeling especially gentle with yourself or with others, Galper also recommends rose oil, which nurtures the heart center and promotes regeneration and self-love.
Phase 2: Pre-Ovulation
Wrapping up your period can often leave you with a feeling a newfound determination (read: ready to get shit done!!!). Your body will start to wake up more refreshed, energized, and down to get moving on whatever big plans you’ve been sitting on.
And when you’re ready to slay, New York-based multi-disciplinary healing arts practitioner, Anna Brooke, is all about soaking up some peppermint and wild orange. “This particular blend is excellent for focus. The orange helps brighten my outlook, while the peppermint both invigorates and concentrates my mind.”
To help her seize the day, Brooke also opts for lemon—which helps support healthy levels of dopamine in the brain—and grapefruit. “Grapefruit is very high in limonene, which is an excellent support for the liver to natural detoxify itself.” (New phase, new you, right?!)
Phase 3: Ovulation
After hustling hard, your body is just about ready to play… hard. While your ovaries start churning, you’ll likely be feeling more sensual, playful, and ready to socialize. But before getting cozy with your partner or dolling up for a hot date, both Galper and Brooke recommend jasmine to get things, you know, going.
“Jasmine is amazing! It’s often used as an aphrodisiac,” says Brooke, who’s also fond of dabbing on a bit of vetiver to stay level while out and about.
“It’s a really sexy scent that carries beautifully from day to night, but it’s also really grounding and keeps my decisions grounded while I’m having fun.”
Phase 4: Pre-Menstrual
Ahh, the glory phase. Besides craving chocolate cake, a triple-decker burger, and a room of fluffy puppies that will give you nothing but love for all time, you’re probably also feeling more anxious, irritable, and bummed out. Meanwhile, your body may have turned into headache/cramp/back pain central. And while *every body* is different and will experience different symptoms, there are a few general scents that could help lighten things up.
For Galper, it’s clary sage, which can help relax the body and ease cramping and spasms. “Ginger can also help soothe aches and pains while helping to ground and center you,” she adds.
And if you feel your emotions are all over the place (and then some...), take Brooke’s personal favorite blend: “I use a mix of cedarwood, petitgrain, bergamot, and vetiver to help calm me down. Cedarwood is rich in sesquiterpenes, a chemical compound that can interact directly with the fight-or-flight part of our brain. The effect is deeply soothing and reassuring.” Add in petitgrain to aid in easing tension and feelings of stress, and bergamot and vetiver to round off an overall supportive and grounding combination.
The DOs and DON’Ts of Essential Oil Usage
Though diffusing may be the most popular way to use essential oils, some users prefer to DIY their own room spray, apply the oil directly to skin, or even ingest them (as supplements or by adding a drop or two into a glass of water). However, there are a few important things to keep in mind for your own health and safety:
- DON’T ingest oils without doing your research first. “Make sure the oils you use are pure and therapeutic grade,” says Brooke. “Some companies use synthetic ingredients and fillers that may smell like the ingredient on the label, but can be very damaging to your health.” If you’re unsure about what’s best for you, consult your doctor.
- DO know your body (and your oils) before applying anything to your skin. If you are sensitive to synthetic fragrances, be sure to double-check labels to ensure your oils are pure and filler-free. Brooke also says to be cautious when using citrus oils specifically, as these can cause skin to be extra sensitive to light.
- DON’T use oils around pets or newborns. “Diffusing is not recommended for moms of newborns or for adding to baby baths, whether diluted or not,” says Galper. If you have furry friends nearby, keep your space well-ventilated and your hands oil-free before petting.
- DO be mindful when spraying or diffusing in a shared space. “It’s always worth finding out if anyone is scent-sensitive or allergic to any fruit, flowers, or herbs prior to diffusing,” says Brooke. “One person’s heaven can be another person’s hell, so please be mindful and ask before you diffuse.”
Do you have any favorite oil blends to help soothe a bad day, or energize a good one? Share your faves with us in the comments!
Alexandra is a freelance writer who loves the planet as much as she loves dogs (so, a lot). Her work has appeared in Martha Stewart and Time Out New York. When she’s not writing, you can find her buying ugly produce at the farmer’s market or trying to do yoga.