Compared to placebo interventions, aromatherapy reduces the pain associated with primary dysmenorrhea, according to a recent systematic review.

The review, “Aromatherapy for Managing Pain in Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Systematic Review of Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trials,” focused on 19 studies with close to 1,800 total participants. These participants were women of reproductive age with primary dysmenorrhea, or lower abdominal pain during menstruation.

Each study assessed the efficacy of aromatherapy for the reduction of pain associated with primary dysmenorrhea. However, the method of administering the aromatherapy varied. Six of the studies used inhalation aromatherapy, whereas 10 of the trials used aromatherapy massage. One study used both inhalation aromatherapy and aromatherapy massage, and the remaining two studies involved oral aromatherapy.

The essential oils used in the studies were rose, lavender, rosemary, Zataria multiflora, Thymus vulgaris, peppermint, ginger and fennel. The following blends of essential oils were used as well: lavender and rosemary; cinnamon, clove, rose and lavender; lavender and peppermint; lavender, clary sage and rose; nutmeg, fennel and marjoram; and lavender, clary sage and marjoram.

The dosage of aromatherapy varied from study to study. For example, one trial involved a single 10- to 30-minute session of inhalation aromatherapy, and another involved 10 minutes of abdominal aromatherapy massage per day throughout each subject’s menstrual cycle.

In each of the 19 studies, the various methods of aromatherapy were compared to placebo interventions for the reduction of pain associated with primary dysmenorrhea. Across the board, the results showed a greater decrease in pain among those who received aromatherapy compared to those who received a placebo intervention.

Comparing the three types of aromatherapy used in the studies, inhalation aromatherapy was linked to the greatest reduction in pain associated with primary dysmenorrhea, followed by aromatherapy massage and oral aromatherapy.

 “Our systematic review and meta-analysis provides suggestive evidence of the superiority of three types of aromatherapy including inhalation, massage and oral use for the treatment of pain associated with dysmenorrhea over placebo controls,” state the authors of the review.

Authors: Myeong Soo Lee, Hye Won Lee, Mohamed Khalil, Hyun Suk Lim and Hyun-Ja Lim.

Sources: Clinical Medicine Division and Herbal Medicine Research Division, Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine, Daejeon, Korea; Public Health & Research Development, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Ministry of Healthy, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Department of Nursing, Howon University, Gusan, Korea; and Department of Nursing, Chodang University, Muan-gun, Korea. Originally published online in November 2018 in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.