Aromatherapy massage may be an effective treatment for menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes, depression and pain in climacteric women, according to a recent study.

Techniques to help improve the health of postmenopausal women may involve using hormone replacement therapy. However, because of the adverse reactions to hormone replacement therapy, use of phytoestrogens has been proposed to help relieve climacteric symptoms. Phytoestrogens are found in some essential oils used in aromatherapy.

The study, “Aromatherapy Massage Affects Menopausal Symptoms in Korean Climacteric Women: A Pilot-Controlled Clinical Trial,” investigated whether lavender, rose geranium, rose and jasmine oils, which are used for improving various menopausal symptoms or are recommended as phytoestrogens, improve menopausal symptoms in climacteric women when applied with massage.

Fifty-two people participated in the study and were divided in two groups: the control group and the aromatherapy massage group. The participants were: between the ages of 45 and 54, were able to understand the content of questionnaires and experimental schedules, had an endometrial thickness less than 6 millimeters, were below a Class II in a Pap smear test, had no history of dysplasia or cervical cancer, agreed to the use of aromatherapy, and had no allergy to aromatherapy in accordance with a skin test. Twenty-five participants were placed in the aromatherapy massage group, while 27 participants were placed in the control group.

Outcome measures were menopausal symptoms as found in Kupperman’s Menopausal Index. Symptoms included hot flushes, paresthesia, insomnia, nervousness, melancholia, vertigo, weakness, arthralgia or myalgia, headaches, palpitations and formication. The items were assessed before and after eight weeks of treatment and were rated on a four-point scale.

Each person in the aromatherapy massage group received a 30-minute aromatherapy treatment session once a week for eight weeks. The treatment included a massage with such essential oils as lavender, rose geranium, rose and jasmine diluted in almond and evening primrose oil. The treatment included an abdominal, back and arm massage. No treatment was provided to the control group; however, the control group did receive aromatherapy-massage treatment after the eight-week period of the study, but data was not collected.

After eight weeks of treatment, aromatherapy massage alleviated all categories of menopausal symptoms, as measured by the Kupperman Menopausal Index. There were also significant reductions in hot flushes, paresthesia and melancholia for the aromatherapy group compared with the control group, in which the melancholia score increased significantly.

“The results of the present study suggest that aromatherapy massage may improve menopausal symptoms of climacteric women,” say the study’s authors. “Our study also supports the proposal that several aromatic essential oils have phytoestrogen effects on menopausal symptoms in climacteric women.”

The authors say further studies on the subject should be conducted to determine whether the positive effects in the current study were due to aromatherapy, massage or both.

Source: Department of Nursing, Eulji University, Daejeon, South Korea; Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, School of Medicine, Eulji University, Daejeon, South Korea; and Center for Integrative Medicine, Institute of Medical Science, Wonkwang University, Iksan, South Korea.
Authors: Myung-Haeng Hur, Yun Seok Yang and Myeong Soo Lee. Originally published in Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, April 23, 2007.