It’s easy to be a skeptic about the effectiveness of the use of essential oils when it comes to physical or mental health issues, especially when many people peddle them out as a cure-all. However, there is a growing body of scientific research to support the use of essential oils for pain relief and for anti-inflammation. And, since chronic inflammation (aka, your body’s immune response to physical irritation and stress) can be a central cause of chronic pain and many health conditions, it can be super helpful to incorporate foods, herbs, and yes, even essential oils with anti-inflammatory properties into your daily routine.
Essential oils are used in many different ways: Some people prefer to inhale them through aromatherapy, others like aromatherapy massage, and some people straight up ingest certain essential oils — like peppermint — via capsule. Of course, you can’t just go lathering these potent oils on your skin, or ingesting them, because they can cause mild irritation and toxicity in large amounts. But, after consulting with your physician, if essential oils are used or administered correctly, they can promote physical and mental relaxation. From lavender to evening primrose oil, here are nine essential oils that can help calm pain, according to science.
1. Peppermint Oil
As The New York Times reported in 2011, research suggests peppermint oil is an effective method in managing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms — which can include abdominal pain and bloating. Further, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) says, “Peppermint oil has been used topically for tension headaches and a limited amount of evidence suggests that it might be helpful for this purpose.” While you should still consult with your doc first, consider using peppermint essential oil if you have IBS, chronic headaches, or even muscle aches.
2. Rosehip Oil
The organization Arthritis Research U.K. says rosehip oil contains polyphenols (antioxidants) and anthocyanins (the dark blue pigment of many foods and plants), which can help reduce inflammation and joint pain, making it an effective essential oil for managing pain. According to Healthline, “The anti-inflammatory benefits of rosehip oil may make it a good option for people who cannot take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or other pain medicines.”
3. Lavender Oil
Lavender oil is best known for aiding people with sleep issues and anxiety, but it also may be useful if you are experiencing pain or headaches. A 2012 study found that inhaling lavender essential oil safely relieved migraine pain in the research participants. Moreover, a study from 2015 found lavender essential oil has both anti-inflammatory and analgesic (aka, pain relieving) properties, making it a perfect essential oil for both your mental and physical health.
4. Evening Primrose Oil
If you experience PMS symptoms or cramping during your time of the month, evening primrose oil could be a great way to manage your menstrual-related pain. A 2009 article published in the American Family Physician explained evening primrose oil is commonly used as a treatment for breast pain, menopausal and PMS symptoms, and to reduce inflammation. Despite promising studies, the NCCIH reported additional research needs to done before the efficacy of this essential oil is determined.
5. Flaxseed Oil
Flaxseed oil is packed with healthy fats — like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids — making this oil super beneficial to your overall health. Specifically, the Arthritis Foundation says some people claim ingesting essential flaxseed oil “eases symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and Raynaud’s phenomenon,” but more studies need to be done to confirm flaxseed oil’s impact on arthritis symptoms. However, omega-3 fatty acids do have anti-inflammatory properties, so that fact alone means ingesting flaxseed oil could help ease pain.
6. Clary Sage Oil
Clary sage is a flowering herb that is part of the mint family, and it’s used in cooking, teas, aromatherapy, and for natural medical purposes. A 2017 study conducted on rats found the antioxidants in clary sage oil may give the oil its anti-inflammatory effects. Additionally, a 2012 study found an essential oil massage that used a mix of clary sage, lavender, and marjoram oils reduced both he intensity and duration of dysmenorrhea (aka, painful periods) in patients.
In addition to reducing inflammation and reliving pain, studies have found clary sage essential oil can lower blood pressure, calm anxiety, and even improve your mood. All-in-all, this earthy-smelling essential oil is packed with benefits for your health.
7. Eucalyptus Oil
A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2003 found that eucalyptus oil, often utilized in traditional medicine, has both pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. Further, research from 2013 found that inhaling eucalyptus essential oil reduced pain, and lowered the blood pressure in study participants who had recently underwent total knee replacement surgeries. If you’re experiencing aching or pain, sit back and relax with peppermint eucalyptus bath bomb.
8. Rosemary Oil
You probably think of rosemary mostly in terms of cooking, but the essential oil of this popular herb has been found to be one of the most widely-used oils in aromatherapy that’s aimed at reducing pain. A 2015 study even found that rosemary oil does in fact have analgesic properties, and it’s an effective adjunct treatment to pain medication.
9. Juniper Berry Oil
Though juniper berry essential oil has not been as widely researched as other essential oils, a 2017 study from the journal Cogent Medicine found juniper berry oil “affected many important signaling pathways that are closely related to metabolism, inflammation, immune response, wound healing, and cancer biology.” So, adding it to an essential oil mix for pain relief and relaxation might be helpful for you.
While essential oils won’t cure chronic pain or muscle aches, they are yet another tool you can use to improve your overall health and wellbeing. Just be sure to check in with your doctor, to dilute your essential oils when necessary, and enjoy.