The basics

Popular for thousands of years, essential oils are known for their healing properties. They’re said to help soothe the mind and body, and they may treat a number of conditions. Because of this, they’re often seen as a natural alternative to medication.
Neuropathy, or nerve damage, can cause pain and numbness in the affected areas. For people with diabetes, this primarily affects the legs and feet. Severe cases of neuropathy may cause issues with digestion and affect your heart rate.

Although more research is needed, essential oils may help relieve some of these symptoms.

What are the benefits of essential oils?

Benefits

  1. Essential oils may help relieve pain associated with neuropathy.
  2. Certain oils have antimicrobial properties, which can help treat infection.

Essential oils are often viewed as a natural “cure all.” Not only are certain oils thought to relieve illness and reduce recovery time, they may help:

  • treat cuts, scrapes, or infections
  • purify the air in your environment
  • balance your hormones
  • alleviate stress, tension, or anxiety
  • help you fall asleep easier

For people with neuropathy, benefits may include pain relief and improved digestion.

What the research says

Limited research has suggested that peppermint, Roman chamomile, and lavender essential oils may assist with nerve pain. More research is needed to fully assess the potential benefits, risks, and efficacy.

Peppermint

Peppermint essential oil is known to relax muscles, control muscle spasms, and act as pain reliever. Researchers in a 2002 study found that topical peppermint oil helped a 76-year-old woman treat neuralgia.

This woman had been resistant to other standard therapies, but saw almost immediate pain relief after applying topical peppermint oil. This relief lasted four to six hours after application.

There’s also evidence to suggest that peppermint oil may help improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and relieve indigestion.

Roman chamomile

Roman chamomile may also help soothe painful muscles. A 2014 study concluded that Roman chamomile to be beneficial in inflammation disorders. The chamomile also decreased oxidative stress.

Lavender

Lavender is known to improve sleep and act as a pain reliever.

In a 2014 study, lavender was found to have a calming and relaxing effect on lab animals. Researchers confirmed that lavender plant extract produces an anticonvulsant and antispasm effect.

Mixture of essential oils

You may also find relief by mixing essential oils together to create a more powerful solution.

In a 2010 study, researchers gave a homeopathic topical oil to 60 participants with foot pain resulting from peripheral neuropathy. This oil included a blend of geranium, lavender, bergamot, tea tree, and eucalyptus oils. Fifty six participants receiving this treatment reported a decrease in pain within 30 minutes. Only 26 of the 60 participants in the control group reported a similar decrease in pain.

How to use essential oils for diabetic neuropathy

Essential oils can be administered in a number of ways. For pain relief, you can use a topical approach. You should always add 1 ounce of carrier oil, such as coconut or olive oil, to every 12 or so drops of essential oil. This can prevent the essential oil from causing any skin irritation or inflammation.

If you wish to massage the affected area, you can mix the essential oil of your choosing with a massage oil. The massage oil will dilute the essential oil, making it safe to use on your skin. You can also add a small amount to your bathwater, allowing it to absorb into your skin while you bathe.

Diffusing essential oils into the air may help with some of the symptoms associated with nerve pain, such as lack of sleep, stress, and anxiety.

Risks and warnings

Risks

  1. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate essential oils.
  2. Applying undiluted essential oils to your skin may cause severe irritation.

As with herbal supplements, essential oils aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Read all labels to ensure that you’re getting pure essential oil. If the oil is mixed with other ingredients, be sure of what they are. Watch for potential allergens.

You should do a patch test on a small area of skin before applying the oil to a large area. If you notice any breakouts, itchiness, or red patches, discontinue use. Be sure to dilute the oil before application. Applying undiluted essential oil to the skin can cause irritation and inflammation.

If you are pregnant, speak to your doctor before using essential oils.

Check out: Tips for treating diabetic nerve pain »

Other treatments for diabetic neuropathy

There isn’t a cure for neuropathy. Instead, treatment focuses on slowing the progression of the disease and managing any complications that arise.

This typically involves a mix of traditional and complementary therapies, including:

  • acupuncture
  • low-impact exercise
  • physical therapy
  • massage therapy
  • nerve stimulation

Your doctor may also recommend over-the-counter pain relievers or numbing creams. If these medications fail, they may recommend prescription-strength opioids.

What you can do now

Using essential oils for neuropathy can be both a beneficial and inexpensive way to help ease your pain. They may be able to improve muscle spasms, soothe nerve aches, and enable you to sleep better.

You can typically find essential oils online or in health food stores. Be sure to dilute your essential oil and perform a patch test before doing a full application.
Afterward, you can begin to apply this mix topically or diffuse it into the air. You may want to purchase a high-quality diffuser or humidifier to make sure you’re releasing the purest vapor possible.

Keep reading: Diabetic foot care »