The therapeutic use of essential oils for pain & inflammation is estimated to be over 6000 years old – but does it actually work?
Ancient healing practices with essential oils have stood the test of time – from Traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine– but can they help with your pain in today’s modern world?
Now you might be skeptical (I was!) but studies prove that essential oils do really have pain-relieving power.
Why use essential oils for your pain?
Essential oils are entirely natural and can work as an effective alternative or complementary remedy to your usual medications.
Essential oils are the highly fragrant sections of plants such as roots, petals or stems. Each essential oil has a unique scent & health benefit.
Scientists have discovered essential oils can help a long list of ailments including:
- sleep disorders
- respiratory problems
Many hospitals have started to incorporate essential oils as a non-invasive way to reduce patients’ anxiety before surgery. Aromatherapy during childbirth reduced the mother’s fear, anxiety & even reduced reliance on pain medication.
Research published in Pain Research & Treatment examined the effectiveness of aromatherapy & using essential oils for pain – the conclusion?
Aromatherapy can effectively treat pain when combined with traditional treatments.
Although we still don’t know exactly how essential oils work to relieve pain, it is widely accepted that there is no harm including them in your current pain management plan.
What works? Essential oils for pain & inflammation
Studies have found that a variety of essential oils have pain-relieving qualities.
Helps to build immunity, relieve chronic pain, boost circulation & reduce inflammation.
It has been shown to help with a number of chronic inflammatory diseases including arthritis, asthma & chronic bowel diseases.
Recent studies have also shown it may help to boost brainpower & improve memory disorders.
Helps with relaxation, improves mood, lowers inflammation & acts as a powerful pain reliever.
Studies found that diluted lavender essential oil applied to the skin, provided pain relief comparable to the prescription opioid, tramadol.
Further research found that children recovering from tonsil surgery who inhaled lavender were able to reduce the amount of Panadol needed to relieve their pain.
Inhaling lavender was also found to lessen the severity of migraines.
Helps with muscle pain, irritable bowel syndrome, aids digestion & lowers inflammation.
The positive effects of peppermint are not confined to essential oils – you can also enjoy a cup of peppermint tea.
Helps to release stress-induced anxiety, mood disorders & chronic pain.
Neuropathic pain is notoriously difficult to treat and is often resistant to pain medications such as opioids.
Recent studies have found that bergamot was effective at easing neuropathic pain.
Rose oil has been shown to relieve pain associated with menstrual cramps & endometriosis.
Studies have also shown that inhaling rose oil can be effective in relieving the pain of kidney stones.
Relieves nausea, aids digestion, reduces inflammation & soothes aching joints.
Ginger is one of the most popular herbal remedies in Chinese medicine and is often used for inflammatory & rheumatic conditions such as arthritis.
Studies now show that it works on inflammation & is effective at relieving the associated pain.
Essential Oil Blends
Essential oils can also be blended together to provide different healing benefits.
The duration & severity of menstrual pain improved when women rubbed cream containing marjoram, lavender & clary sage into their tummies every day.
Frankincense, bergamot & lavender in sweet almond oil is shown to reduce the pain & depression of cancer patients.
How to use essential oils for pain & inflammation
Essential oils can be applied directly to the skin with a carrier oil or inhaled.
Massaging diluted essential oils into the skin can help to relieve tension, loosen muscles & relieve pain.
You can massage yourself (depending on where the pain is of course!), find a friendly helper or go to a professional masseur.
There are a wide variety of ‘how to’ videos online on self-massage & massaging a friend/loved one.
Essential oils can cause inflammation and irritation if applied directly to the skin so make sure you dilute with a carrier oil.
Exact measurements can vary but as a general rule add 10 drops of essential oil to a tablespoon of carrier oil.
Common carrier oils include:
- sweet almond
- apricot kernel
A relaxing way to enjoy essential oils is in a hot bath. Adding to your bath water allows the oils to enter your body through your skin.
You also get the additional aromatherapy benefits of the scented steam rising from the bath.
Essential oils used in the bath still need to be mixed with a carrier oil.
If you don’t fancy adding oil to your bath you can act like Cleopatra & mix the oils with milk.
The fats in the milk mix with the essential oils. Just add a couple of drops to your bath and enjoy!
Add a few drops of essential oil to a diffuser & inhale the steam in an enclosed area.
If you don’t have a diffuser you can opt for the good old-fashioned steaming bucket of water. Add a few drops and lean over with your head covered in a towel. You can do this for up to 10 minutes.
If you feel woozy – come up for air straight away!
Essential oils for pain: Safety
They may be natural but essential oils are very potent so follow a couple of simple safety rules:
- Never swallow essential oils
- Never apply undiluted oils to the skin
- Do a ‘patch’ test of the oil mixed with a carrier oil on a small area of your forearm & then wait for around 24 hours to check no irritation
- Buy from a reputable essential oil brand – most countries don’t regulate the manufacture of essential oils so they can vary in purity, strength & quality
Although they are natural, essential oils do contain active ingredients. Some potential side effects include:
- Skin irritation
- Sensitivity to the sun
- Allergic reactions (hives or a rash)
- Skin inflammation
Talk to your doctor before using if you:
- Are pregnant
- Are using on older adults or children
- Have an existing medical condition
Essential oils have been used to relieve pain for thousands of years.
Scientific research now agrees that essential oils can be helpful in treating a wide variety of ailments including pain, inflammation, nausea and even boosting brainpower.
Essential oils are natural & a great alternative or complement to your existing pain management plan.
Why not try essential oils for pain & inflammation?
At the very least they will just make your home smell nice.
Have you tried essential oils for pain or inflammation?