Objective: The purpose of this study was to explore the effect of aromatherapy on menstrual cramps and symptoms of dysmenorrhea.
Design: The study was a randomized placebo-controlled trial.
Subjects: The subjects were 67 female college students who rated their menstrual cramps to be greater than 6 on a 10-point visual analogue scale, who had no systemic or reproductive diseases, and who did not use contraceptive drugs.
Intervention: Subjects were randomized into three groups: (1) an experimental group (n = 25) who received aromatherapy, (2) a placebo group (n = 20), and (3) a control group (n = 22). Aromatherapy was applied topically to the experimental group in the form of an abdominal massage using two drops of lavender (Lavandula officinalis), one drop of clary sage (Salvia sclarea), and one drop of rose (Rosa centifolia) in 5 cc of almond oil. The placebo group received the same treatment but with almond oil only, and the control group received no treatment.
Outcome measures: The menstrual cramps levels was assessed using a visual analogue scale and severity of dysmenorrhea was measured with a verbal multidimensional scoring system.
Results: The menstrual cramps were significantly lowered in the aromatherapy group than in the other two groups at both post-test time points (first and second day of menstruation after treatment). From the multiple regression aromatherapy was found to be associated with the changes in menstrual cramp levels (first day: Beta = -2.48, 95% CI: -3.68 to -1.29, p < 0.001; second day: Beta = -1.97, 95% CI: -3.66 to -0.29, p = 0.02 and the severity of dysmenorrhea (first day: Beta = 0.31, 95% CI: 0.05 to 0.57, p = 0.02; second day: Beta = 0.33, 95% CI: 0.10 to 0.56, p = 0.006) than that found in the other two groups.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that aromatherapy using topically applied lavender, clary sage, and rose is effective in decreasing the severity of menstrual cramps. Aromatherapy can be offered as part of the nursing care to women experiencing menstrual cramps or dysmenorrhea.