Essential oils may help relieve menopausal symptoms, according to electroencephalography (EEG) data in a new study.

The study, published this October in Experimental Neurobiology, focused on how essential oils impacted the psychological symptoms associated with menopause. These symptoms may include anxiety or changes in mood, such as depression.

It’s not news that inhaling certain fragrances can help change a person’s mood. However, the effects of smell are unknown for women suffering menopausal symptoms.

There were 28 women ages 43 to 56 in the study. The severity of their menopausal symptoms at baseline were rated using the Kupperman menopausal index (KI), which includes both physical and psychological symptoms.

The authors monitored each woman’s brain activity at rest and then under increased psychological distress. This was meant to exacerbate their psychological symptoms of menopause, and was achieved by showing them negative images from the Nencki Affective Picture System.

After seeing an image, each participant was then randomly exposed to a fragrance, including lavender, palmarosa, and frankincense essential oils, or a non-scented control solvent. Participants also rated each scent and recorded how it affected their stress after seeing the photos.

EEG results confirmed that essential oils can have a relaxing effect and help return brain activity to normal after emotional distress (in this case, from seeing a negative image).

Lavender and a frankincense were the most effective fragrances in helping return brain activity to normal. This was true, regardless of a participant’s noted preference for them or any other used in the study.

“In this study, we revealed the fragrance–EEG, index–menopausal symptom severity links,” write the authors. “Our finding shows that EEG indexes, which are related to relaxing effects, are regulated by fragrance, and this fragrances effect varies depending on the severity of menopausal symptoms.”

This study was quite small, but it can provide valuable insight to help the suffering of many women. It also shows how EEG continues to help us unravel the mysteries of how our brains react to stimuli.

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