Essential Oils Massage Beats Tylenol for Menstrual Pain

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Ancient botanical therapies like aromatherapy massage promise non-toxic relief from monthly menstrual agonies

Widely used for headache and menstrual pain relief, acetaminophen poses substantial liver toxicity risks, especially with overuse.1 Essential plant oils, integral to ancient healing traditions, remerge as a safe complementary therapy for common ailments without adverse effects.2  

A new randomized preliminary study in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that an aromatherapy massage with diluted essential oils decreased self-reported menstrual pain more than acetaminophen in high school girls.3

The study involved 55 teenage girls with moderate to severe menstrual cramps. Thirty-two participants received a 10-minute abdominal massage using essential oils of clary sage, marjoram, cinnamon, ginger, and geranium diluted in almond oil. Twenty-three girls self-administered the over-the-counter drug acetaminophen for pain relief.

After 24 hours, the massage group reported significantly greater pain reduction on a visual analog scale compared to the acetaminophen group - a superior effect independent of baseline pain score differences between groups.3

The researchers concluded that aromatherapy massage therapy may provide effective relief from painful menstrual cramps. However, it is unclear whether benefits came from the oils themselves, the gentle stomach massage technique, or their synergistic combination.3

More rigorous research is warranted with larger samples, randomization, placebo controls, and additional outcome measures beyond self-reported pain scores.4 Understanding the biological mechanisms would also help establish aromatherapy abdominal massage as an evidence-based treatment for difficult menstrual symptoms in adolescent girls and women.5

For more information on the therapeutic properties of massage, visit our database on the subject.

For more natural approaches to menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea), visit our database on the subject here.

For more information on the harms of Tylenol, visit our database on the subject.

For more information on the benefits of aromatherapy, visit our database on the subject here.


References

1. Graham DY, Chan FK. Ann Intern Med. 2019.

2. Ali B, et al. Sci Pharm. 2015. 

3. Hur MH, et al. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012.

4. Han SH, et al. J Altern Complement Med. 2006.

5. Valiani M, et al. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2010.

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