People have been used essential oils since ancient times to treat all kinds of health problems. However, many of them have powerful pain-relieving properties and even can be as effective as, or even better than, the modern day analgesics, but with few of their side effects.
Essential oils are particularly useful in the management of chronic pain as in the case of arthritis, sciatica, migraines, back pain or fibromyalgia. What makes them even more special is that, besides easing the pain, they help remedy some of the underlying problems that cause the pain.
Here are some of the best essential oils for pain relief:
Lavender essential oil
Lavender is undoubtedly one of the most popular and well-known essential oils for pain relief. Natural treatments using lavender have been used for centuries to relieve migraines and headaches. Lavender contains compounds that act as a mild sedative which reduces stress and anxiety. So, lavender essential oil can help get rid of tension headaches at the source.
To use lavender oil for pain relief, add a few drops of lavender essential oil to your diffuser. Inhale the therapeutic vapors deeply for around 15 minutes until your headache or migraine pain has eased or gone away completely. For sore muscles, you should mix a few drops in a tablespoon of castor oil or coconut oil and massage into the affected area.
Chamomile essential oil
The Roman chamomile oil extracted from Anthemis nobilis and the German chamomile oil from Matricaria chamomilla have analgesic properties and can be used to treat headaches and neuralgia as well as muscle and joint pains. Both of them have a carminative effect and can relieve abdominal pain due to gas.
Roman chamomile oil is milder and soothing and is often used to treat abdominal discomfort and irritability in small children. However, the deep blue German chamomile oil is more effective in treating pain resulting from inflammatory conditions. It has excellent anti-inflammatory action owing to the compound chamazulene which gives it the characteristic color. It is very effective in treating bowel diseases, lower back pain in adults and PMS in women.
Peppermint essential oil
Peppermint essential oil is obtained from a natural hybrid of spearmint and watermint. The highly refreshing smell of the oil comes from the active ingredient menthol which is the major component of the oil.
The antispasmodic effect of this oil has been put to good use in several medicinal preparations to relieve nausea, indigestion, and stomachache. It soothes the lining of the stomach and intestines and suppresses painful spasms. The analgesic action of peppermint oil is not limited to the antispasmodic effect on the digestive tract. When used topically, it relaxes muscles in the lower back, reduces tension headaches and pain due to fibromyalgia. It is a decongestant and helps relieve headaches due to sinus congestion.
Eucalyptus essential oil
This pungent warming oil is extracted from the bark and leaves of the eucalyptus tree. This powerful decongestant has anti-inflammatory properties that contribute to pain relief in case of sinus congestion and muscle injuries. Being a very strong oil, it should be diluted with coconut oil when applying on the skin, except when used to treat insect stings and bites.
Rosemary essential oil
Extracted from the shrub Rosmarinus officinalis, same as the culinary herb, the essential oil of rosemary is known as a memory-enhancer and appetite stimulant. But it is anti-inflammatory and analgesic too. Inhale the vapors to relieve a headache or apply the oil topically to reduce joint pains and muscle soreness. It is particularly useful in treating rheumatism.
Cayenne essential oil
The hot and spicy essential oil extracted from the seeds of cayenne pepper is surprisingly effective in relieving the most severe types of pain such as that of shingles. Because of its potency, it has to be used in a much-diluted form. A little cayenne oil goes a long way. A single drop of this thick, viscous oil mixed with a light carrier oil like coconut oil makes it easier to apply. Use it topically to relieve arthritic and rheumatic pain and neuralgia.
Ginger essential oil
Ginger essential oil can alleviate joint pain and ease muscle stiffness. The anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of ginger are due to a compound called gingerol. Ginger oil is effective for pain relief when massaged into sore joints or painful muscles.
A review of the therapeutic properties of ginger found that it’s a natural remedy for rheumatoid arthritis, menstrual cramps, joint inflammation, and osteoarthritis. The review also found that ginger has a similar pain-relieving effect as NSAIDs like ibuprofen.
Clove essential oil
The oil extracted from cloves is highly spicy and pungent and gives a burning sensation when applied on the skin in the undiluted form. This is immediately followed by an anesthetic action which helps provide almost instantaneous relief from acute pain as in the case of a toothache. A few drops of clove oil can be mixed with a cup of warm water and used as a throat gargle to get relief from throat pain. Besides that, the antimicrobial action of the oil can help clear the infection too.
Yarrow essential oil
It is extracted from the yarrow plant Achillea millefolium commonly known as nosebleed plant because of its ability to stop bleeding from the nose as well as minor wounds. The essential oil is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory and contains salicylic acid which is behind the analgesic effect of aspirin.
Clary sage essential oil
Clary sage oil derived from the herb Salvia sclarea is best known for its benefits to the eye, but it is an excellent pain killer too, especially in the case of pain associated with menstruation and menopause. It relieves a stress-induced headache when used in a diffuser and reduces cramps and painful stomach spasms when applied to the abdominal area, but it should not be taken internally. This oil should be used sparingly and cautiously.
Precautions when using essential oils
Essentials oils are very potent and powerful. Therefore, generally, you should never apply them directly to the skin and they should always be diluted in a carrier oil.
In general, you should use up to 4 drops of essential oils for every tablespoon of carrier oil. You can mix different essential oils together as long as you keep to these proportions.
Also, you should not use essential oils on pregnant women and young children unless directed otherwise by a certified aromatherapist or another medical professional.