Are menopausal symptoms—the hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia and moodiness (including even anxiety and depression) among all else—cramping your style…stressing your relationships…in short, ruining your life? Sure, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is an option, but maybe its risks, such as blood clots, gallstones, breast cancer and stroke, have nixed that idea for you.
Although our terrific Bottom Line guide, Menopause Central: Your Guide to Part 2 of Your Life is chock-full of ways to more smoothly navigate the rigors of menopause, I want to tell you about another great one that I recently tried that’s helping me wind down and recharge.
No, it’s not another supplement, mind trick or exercise routine. It’s aromatherapy using a lusciously exotic scent—neroli oil.
Neroli oil is extracted from the blossoms of the bitter orange tree and is rich in limonene, a compound that has antianxiety and muscle-relaxing effects. Neroli oil vapor, when inhaled, is known to relieve anxiety, stress and depression, reduce high blood pressure and stimulate an underactive libido. Because symptoms such as mood swings and underactive libido are so common in menopause, a group of Korean researchers decided to scientifically test whether neroli oil had an effect on those and other menopausal symptoms.
Here’s what they did. The team recruited 63 healthy menopausal women and divided them into three groups. One group received several vials of a 0.1% concentration of neroli essential oil in scentless sweet almond oil…the other, a 0.5% concentration (in scentless sweet almond oil)…and the third group received plain scentless sweet almond oil (a placebo).
The women sat in a comfortable position every morning and evening for five days and inhaled the oil vapor for five minutes at each sitting. To inhale the scent, the women simply poured a small vial of oil on a fragrance pad and held the pad about 12 inches from their noses while they breathed normally.
Before and after the five-day treatment period, each woman was given special questionnaires that rated and scored their quality of life and levels of stress and sexual desire. Blood pressure and pulse were also checked, and blood tests were done to measure cortisol (a stress hormone) and estrogen levels.
The results: Compared with the placebo group, women inhaling neroli felt better and had fewer hot flashes. After the five days of daily aromatherapy, their quality-of-life scores improved by an average of 28% in the women smelling 0.1% neroli oil and 20% in the women smelling 0.5% neroli oil compared with an average 7% improvement in women smelling the placebo oil.
Sexual desire also got a lift in the women who inhaled neroli oil, most especially if they were inhaling the 0.5% concentration. It improved by an average 113% in women using the higher concentration and 27% in women using the 0.1% concentration. Meanwhile, sexual desire took a 50% dive in women using the placebo oil.
HOW TO BENEFIT FROM NEROLI OIL
Some pure essential oils, such as clove and cinnamon, come with strong precautions because they can irritate the skin or lungs. Neroli oil is much milder. Still, no undiluted essential oil should be daubed on the skin straight out of the bottle—remember, this is concentrated stuff. A few drops should be placed in a scentless “carrier oil,” such as sweet almond oil or jojoba oil.
To approximate your own 0.5% concentration of neroli oil, the ratio should be four drops of the essential oil per ounce of carrier oil. (A good aromatherapy oil will come with its own dropper.)
Don’t want to fuss with mixing essential oils and carriers? Another simple way to enjoy aromatherapy is to place up to five drops of an essential oil in a pot of hot water and, keeping a safe distance of about a foot away, breathe the steam. Or consider purchasing an aromatherapy diffuser and vaporizer. They come in different styles and have different user directions that come with the packaging. These gadgets either warm an essential oil or mix it with steam to create a scented vapor. They cost anywhere from a few bucks to about $60 and can be easily found in department stores or online through Amazon.com and other sellers.
No side effects were seen in the study, so why not take a few minutes a day to stop and smell the neroli to manage The Change?