Want a natural way to ease your pain? Essential oils may offer the relief you’re looking for.
Essential oils are natural compounds found in the petals, stems, roots, and bark of plants. They’re typically removed from the plant though steam distillation.
Each type of oil has its own unique scent and benefits, and oils can be used individually or as blends.
The oils resulting from this centuries-old technique may improve physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing.
Researchers have found evidence to suggest that some oils may help treat the symptoms of certain ailments, such as:
More research is needed to fully understand how essentials oils can work for pain management, although there’s generally no harm in adding essential oils to your current pain management plan. Still, always talk to a healthcare practitioner to make sure essential oils are right for you.
The following essential oils may help with pain relief:
- clary sage
According to a 2013 study, lavender essential oil may help treat pain in children after a tonsillectomy. Children who inhaled the scent of lavender were able to reduce their daily dose of acetaminophen, or Tylenol, post-surgery.
Researchers in a
When diluted lavender essential oil was applied topically during one test, it provided pain relief comparable to that of the prescription medication tramadol. This suggests that lavender could be used to help treat pain and any associated inflammation.
Many women experience abdominal cramping during menstruation.
Rose essential oil has been shown to relieve pain associated with periods when paired with conventional treatment.
The results of a 2015 study found bergamot essential oil to be successful in reducing neuropathic pain, usually caused by chronic nerve disease. This type of pain is often resistant to opioid pain medications.
Wintergreen and peppermint
Wintergreen oil (methyl salicylate) and peppermint oil (menthol) produce a cooling and tingling sensation when applied topically, which may be why they are two of the main active ingredients of Bengay and Icy Hot pain relieving ointments.
Research on peppermint is more favorable. For instance, a
Many popular over-the-counter (OTC) creams and ointments use eucalyptus to soothe pain, including Icy Hot.
A 2021 study on animals found that eucalyptus can be an effective pain reliever and anti-inflammatory at doses of 100, 200, and 400 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.
A 2019 review noted that ginger oil has several therapeutic properties, including:
- pain relief
- pain receptor blocking
- reducing inflammation
- relieving cough
Clove oil has been found to be beneficial for tooth ache as well as general pain.
A 2017 study on people with rheumatoid arthritis found that topical lemongrass oil decreased arthritis pain from 80 to 50 percent on average within 30 days.
According to a 2011 study, native Australian lemongrass may relieve pain caused by headaches and migraine due to a compound called eugenol that may be similar to aspirin.
A 2012 study on mice found that lemongrass essential oil helped prevent gastric ulcers, a common cause of stomach pain.
A 2014 study on animals noted that frankincense could be helpful for arthritis, though more human studies are needed.
Essential oil blends
Researchers in a
According to another
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate essential oils. This means that essential oil products can vary in purity, strength, and quality across manufacturers. Be sure to only purchase essential oils from reputable brands.
Essential oils can be inhaled or applied topically when mixed with a carrier oil. Never apply undiluted essential oils directly to the skin. Do not swallow essential oils. Do a skin patch test before applying diluted essential oils to your skin.
Before you use essential oils
Start with a patch test
To do a patch test, mix 3 to 5 drops of the essential oil with a tablespoon of carrier oil. Apply a dime-size amount to unbroken skin on your forearm. If you have no reaction in 24 to 48 hours, it should be safe to use.
Dilute your oil
Be sure to use a carrier oil to dilute your chosen essential oil. Applying undiluted essential oils can cause skin irritation and inflammation.
Common carrier oils include:
In general, you only need to use a few drops of essential oil. The dose can vary, but a good rule of thumb is to add about 10 drops of essential oil to every tablespoon of your carrier oil.
Massaging diluted essential oil into the skin can help to loosen up muscles and alleviate pain.
You can practice self-massage or opt for a professional massage using essential oils.
Just make sure to dilute the oil in a carrier oil first!
Add a few drops of your chosen essential oil to a diffuser and inhale the steam in a closed room. No carrier oil is necessary for this method.
If you don’t have a diffuser, try this method:
- Fill up a bowl or plugged sink with hot water.
- Add a few drops of essential oil to the water.
- Lean over the bowl or sink.
- Cover your head with a towel.
- Inhale the steam.
- Continue for up to 10 minutes.
You may also take a hot bath with essential oils.
To dissolve the essential oil, first add the appropriate dosage of the specific type of essential oil to a tablespoon of carrier oil. If you don’t want oil in your bath, you can add the drops to a cup of milk and the essential oil will mix with the fats in milk.
Sitting in the bath will allow the essential oil to enter your body through your skin. The steam that rises from the hot water can provide added aromatherapy.
Avoid very hot baths as this can cause weakness or dizziness.
Always use caution when trying a new essential oil. Take care to dilute essential oils in a carrier oil such as olive oil or sweet almond oil.
Never apply essential oils directly to the skin. Always do a patch test before use (see above).
Talk to your doctor before use if you:
- are pregnant
- are nursing
- have an existing medical condition
- wish to use essential oils on children or older adults
Potential side effects of using essential oils include:
- skin irritation
- skin inflammation
- sun sensitivity
- allergic reaction
If you want to start using essential oils, do your research first. The National Aromatherapy Association is a good place to start. It’s important to be aware of the unique benefits and risks associated with each type of oil.
You also want to buy from a reputable brand. The FDA doesn’t regulate essential oils, so the ingredients in each product can vary across manufacturers. Some essential oils or oil blends may contain added ingredients that can cause adverse side effects.
Be sure to:
- Always dilute oils before applying to your skin.
- Perform a skin patch test to check for any irritation or inflammation.
- Avoid applying essential oils to sensitive areas, such as around your eyes or near open wounds.
- Discontinue use if you experience any irritation or discomfort.
- Never ingest essential oils.
You can purchase essential oils online or at your local holistic health store. It also may be helpful to speak with a certified aromatherapist. They can answer any questions you may have and help you pick out the essential oils best suited to your needs.
Emily Cronkleton is a certified yoga teacher and has studied yoga in the United States, India, and Thailand. Her passion for yoga has laid the foundation for a healthy and inspired life, while her teachers and practice have helped shape her life experience in many ways.