Let’s face it: inflammation is usually painful (and annoying)!
But it’s not always this way since internal inflammation can exist without presenting any noticeable symptoms. One thing is sure: if your body is producing an inflammatory response, you’ll feel it eventually.
Essential oils for inflammation are just another a useful tool that can be used to renew your health and we’re here to tell you why.
For every human illness, there’s a plant to relieve or fix it. Essential oils are distilled plant matter that captures their nutrients and phytochemicals. The oils can contain leaves and twigs, flowers, sap, and even roots. Our ancestors relied on these plants–quite succesfully–for millennia.
The Low-Down on Inflammation
It’s been said that the root of all human ailments is inflammation.
“Inflammation refers to a biological response to stimuli interpreted by the body to have a potentially harmful effect. While after injury or in certain conditions inflammation is a normal, healthy response, inflammatory disorders that result in the immune system attacking the body’s own cells or tissues may cause abnormal inflammation, which results in chronic pain, redness, swelling, stiffness, and damage to normal tissues,” explains the Hospital for Special Surgery. (1)
Some common inflammatory conditions include:
- Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
- Erectile dysfunction (2)
- Heart disease
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Myositis (chronic muscle inflammation)
- Peptic ulcer
While some drugs may temporarily reduce inflammation, they rarely cure the cause. Because essential oils are concentrated phytochemicals, the intrinsic anti-inflammatory properties of these plants go right to work to naturally reduce inflammation, hence pain.
16 Essential Oils for Inflammation
Below are some essential oils that are known to combat inflammation. With rare exception, essential oils shouldn’t be applied directly to the skin. Instead, dilute them with a carrier oil before applying to the skin. Avocado, castor, coconut, jojoba, olive, and almond oil are all excellent choices. For internal use, consult a naturopath before ingesting any essential oils.
Some essential oils for inflammation reduce swelling, while others are analgesic. Some are particularly calming and relaxing, which can help the whole body to heal. Read on to find out which work best for your particular pain.
Known for its anti-inflammatory properties (amongst other things), ginger is a proven essential oil for arthritis. An analgesic as well, a 2001 study found that ginger extract had a significant effect on reducing knee pain resulting from osteoarthritis. (3) A study of ginger essential oil’s effects on rheumatoid arthritis was equally positive since the oil prevented chronic joint inflammation. (4) You can find a recipe for a ginger compress to relieve arthritis pain here.
Curcumin, a phytochemical in turmeric, is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Rheumatoid arthritis is a debilitating condition in which joints are chronically swollen, causing pain and disfigurement. Turmeric is an exceptional essential oil for swelling, not only because it reduces inflammation but it is a potent antioxidant and pain-blocker. (5) Click here for details on turmeric and how to use it for inflammation and pain relief.
A resin from the Boswellia plant, frankincense is a herb used as a natural remedy for inflammation for millennia. It is one of the especially effective essential oils for inflammation and joint pain, including arthritis. With analgesic and anti-depressant properties, frankincense can also kill cancer cells—even those resistant to chemotherapy. Use it topically (mixed in a carrier oil) or internally, as a few drops mixed in warm water.
In the same family as frankincense with similar properties. A 2015 study combined frankincense and myrrh for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, “in order to obtain a synergistic effect for relieving pain and activating blood circulation, and especially to treat inflammatory diseases”. Researchers found that the combination was more effective at reducing joint inflammation than either extract alone. In addition, these essential oils contain bioactive compounds that blocked pre-inflammation signaling pathways to prevent swelling. (6) Myrrh is antiseptic and soothing—also good for tooth and gum pain.
Orange oil significantly inhibits the expression of genes involved in inflammatory response. It also has the ability to stop the cellular signaling that tells your body to swell.
“The limitation of current anti-inflammatory therapies is widely acknowledged and evident in the continuous efforts in the pharmaceutical industry to develop drugs targeting specific steps in the inflammatory cascade. Natural products have the potential to fill this therapeutic gap addressing the complexity in the inflammatory cascade thereby reducing side effects and compensatory reactions requiring secondary treatment. Orange peel is rich in flavonoids [antioxidants] including methylated derivatives such as poly methoxy flavones (PMFs). PMFs have been shown to exhibit strong anti-inflammatory effects both at the level of gene expression and enzyme activity,” write a 2014 study published in Food Science and Human Wellness (7)
Mixed with a carrier oil, orange oil can be rubbed on the affected area to relieve inflammatory pain.
Carvacrol is a phytochemical in thyme that inhibits an enzyme in the body (COX-2) that contributes to inflammation. A study of six essential oils for swelling found that thyme suppressed COX-2 activity more than the others—by almost 75%. (8) Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) work in the same way. The problem with NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen is that, with frequent use, they can damage the liver and stomach. Additionally, thymol, a compound in thyme, has the ability to kill cancer cells.
Mix thyme with a carrier oil (4 drops per tablespoon of carrier) and rub this essential oil for sore muscles directly on the site of pain for quick relief. Thyme oil easily penetrates the skin to get to the muscles underneath.
Especially effective as a topical analgesic and anti-inflammatory, marjoram eases muscle stiffness, allowing for a freer range of movement. (9) With sedative and antispasmodic properties, applying marjoram essential oil topically for muscle pain loosens any tightness you may have. A small study in Britain in which an essential massage oil blend (including marjoram) was used daily on patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease showed a marked improvement of symptoms in less than 3 months. (10)
Rose oil can effectively reduce menstrual pain if applied topically and massaged into the abdomen. It’s even gentle enough for children’s aromatherapy. (11, 12)
This is a potent oil so it’s best not to take internally. Inhale it instead!
Eucalyptus is a top essential oil for muscle pain as well as swelling and congestion. In a study published in 2013 found that eucalyptus oil reduces pain and blood pressure of post-op surgery patients. (13) Inhaling eucalyptus relieves sinus congestion while its antibacterials work to help the body rid itself of harmful germs.
An effective herb for menstrual pain, diluted fennel is safe to take internally. (14) In addition, fennel is very effective at easing colic in babies.
“Despite its benign, natural course, colic is a significant problem in infants and imparts a psychological, emotional, and physical burden to parents. Dicyclomine hydrochloride is the only pharmacological treatment for infantile colic that has been consistently effective. Unfortunately, 5% of infants treated with dicyclomine hydrochloride develop serious side effects, including death. Fennel seed oil has been shown to reduce intestinal spasms and increase motility of the small intestine…There was a significant improvement of colic in the treatment group compared with the control group…Side effects were not reported for infants in either group during the trial,” writes the researchers of a 2003 study. (15)
The key flavor in Earl Grey tea, this herb contains carvacrol just as thyme and oregano do. A proven anti-inflammatory, bergamot essential oil can soothe sore muscles by reducing the enzymes that cause swelling. (16) Bergamot oil can be used topically to heal cold sores, mouth ulcers, chicken pox, and shingles. Moreover, it can also kill parasites!
Its leaves and stems are effective in topically treating skin conditions. Take yarrow tea to cure respiratory and gastrointestinal infections and support the liver and gallbladder. Moreover, fleas and ticks don’t like yarrow; so be sure to use it as a potent insect repellant.
Soothing and healing, chamomile tea and oil reduce inflammation. Applied topically, it’s effective for gum swelling and bleeding.
Good for muscle pain and increasing blood circulation, reducing inflammation, peppermint also helps to manage chronic pain, such as arthritis and sciatica (17). Plus, peppermint essential oil is particularly effective for headaches and migraines. You can find a recipe for a topical essential oil blend for migraines here.
A very fragrant analgesic and anti-inflammatory, rosemary promotes blood circulation to speed healing. It’s a true essential oil for swelling and minor wounds. Although you can take it internally with the help of a carrier oil, it’s best to apply topically.
Terrific for nerve pain, anti-inflammatory helichrysum removes toxins, promotes blood circulation, and provides stress relief, among other things. (18) combines with black pepper, birch, and clove essential oils for a homemade nerve salve.
How to Use Essential Oils
To use any of these essential oils for inflammation, mix four drops of essential oil per tablespoon of carrier oil. It’s okay to mix and match oils based on their particular effects and how your body reacts to them—just keep the proportions the same. Natural medicine sources (like essential oils) work synergistically to compound efficacy. (19)
Here are a few options:
Avocado oil promotes the absorption of other nutrients and contains antioxidants. It’s known to effectively treat inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis. (20)
Castor oil is a superior anti-inflammatory agent that stimulates the lymphatic system, a major component of the immune system. As chronic inflammation is a by-product of an immune system that’s in trouble, castor oil helps heal from the outside in and inside out.
Coconut oil is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and moisturizing.
Jojoba’s chemical make-up is very similar to what human skin produces and so is readily absorbed, taking with it the added nutrition of the essential oils. It has anti-inflammatory properties as well. (21)
Extra-virgin olive oil contains antioxidants and has the ability to protect skin from carcinogens and reduce inflammation. (22, 23)
Almonds contain antioxidants, vitamin E, and magnesium—all necessary nutrients for the skin. Magnesium deficiency, especially, can lead to inflammation. Almond oil also boosts your immune system, protects against liver damage, and inflammation. (24)
You can reap the benefits of essential oils via aromatherapy using a diffuser.
The use of essential oils for inflammation and pain is superior to prescribed and over-the-counter drugs in every way. Use the right oil(s) for your particular type of pain and your pain will be a thing of the past. Other than the potential for an allergic reaction, as with any plant—you can expect no adverse side effects. You’ll smell nice, too.