Contrary to popular belief, arthritis isn’t a single disease. Arthritis is simply a term that refers to a large number of medical conditions that affect the joints in our bodies. In fact, there are more than 100 different types of arthritis.
The most common types of arthritis include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Other relatively common variants include inflammatory arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, infectious or septic arthritis, metabolic arthritis, and gout. Most types of arthritis affect older people; however, there are certain conditions that affect teenagers and even children.
Arthritis is one of the most common causes of disability around the world. Most types of arthritis are chronic. Arthritis is more frequent in women, and it affects approximately one in every three adults. This condition can result in a significant loss of income and quality of life for those who suffer from it.
Since a different mechanism causes each type of arthritis, they all have various risk factors. However, some of the most common risk factors for osteoarthritis include:
- Previous joint injury
- Cigarette smoking
- Family history
- Older age
- Female gender
- Occupations or sports that require repetitive joint movements
The main symptom of arthritis is joint pain. Your joints can also exhibit symptoms such as stiffness, swelling, redness, and decreased mobility. Arthritis can affect multiple joints at the same time, and common patterns can include your knees, hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, ankles, feet, and even your neck and jaw.
Arthritis usually requires some type of medical treatment. However, certain essential oils can relieve the pain and inflammation caused by this condition. Read on to learn more about the best essential oils for arthritis and joint pain.
Do essential oils for arthritis really work?
Certain essential oils can reduce inflammation and joint pain, making them ideal for arthritis. It is important to remember that you should never stop taking your medical treatments without discussing your options with your doctor. But if you use them properly, essential oils can be an excellent way to boost and complement your usual medication.
You can also combine traditional treatments, lifestyle changes, essential oils, and other alternative strategies, such as acupuncture and massage therapy. You can find a treatment plan that works for you by trying out these combinations.
Although research regarding many essential oils is still limited, there is evidence that supports using certain oils to relieve joint pain and inflammation. You should always do your own research before trying out any type of treatment. Some companies might market oils for arthritis, even though their benefits haven’t been scientifically proven.
But now, let’s talk about the essential oils that work for arthritis!
What are essential oils good for pain and inflammation?
Several essential oils have shown to have a powerful effect on joint pain. Consider trying different essential oils to see which ones work best for you.
These are the ten best essential oils for arthritis:
Clove essential oil has potent analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that can help relieve arthritis pain.
Clove essential oil comes from the Eugenia caryophyllata plant. This plant contains a compound called eugenol, which has been shown to act as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory substance. Eugenol is so powerful, in fact, that it can help relieve many different types of pain.
Studies have found that clove essential oil can help reduce arthritis symptoms, including joint pain and swelling. This oil has a potentially reduce serum levels of inflammatory markers while increasing the production of anti-inflammatory substances in our bodies. It can also inhibit the nerves that produce painful sensations.
Clove oil has also been traditionally used to treat toothaches, muscle pain, and headaches.
Ginger essential oil can reduce inflammation and help you find relief.
Ginger, also known as Zingiber officinale, has many incredible properties. It is no surprise that it can also be used as a natural anti-inflammatory and pain reliever.
Ginger contains α-Phellandrene, which has been shown to have powerful nociceptive or pain-relieving properties. It can affect several different pain pathways inside the human body in order to reduce pain.
A 2014 study also found that ginger can reduce oxidation and inflammation in many different cells. It also found that ginger has a higher anti-inflammatory activity than many other plants. Another study found that ginger essential oil can prevent chronic joint inflammation.
Lavender can relieve pain and reduce the anxiety caused by arthritis.
The lavender essential oil contains linalool, which can reduce inflammation. Linalool can inhibit certain substances that produce pain, and it might also block the receptors that react to these substances.
A 2016 study found that aromatherapy massages using lavender essential oil can significantly reduce the pain caused by osteoarthritis of the knee. This oil can help manage your body’s acute inflammatory response.
Lavender oil can also be used to reduce depression and anxiety in patients with arthritis. Physical pain can lead to mood disorders, sleep problems, and anxiety. Lavender oil can effectively improve these symptoms and lead to a better quality of life.
Eucalyptus can reduce swelling and increase circulation to help your joints heal, whilst also reducing joint pain.
Eucalyptus contains Citronellyl Acetate, which has been shown to have pain-relieving properties. This oil can also potentially improve circulation, which can help relieve swelling and speed up healing.
In 2013, a study found that eucalyptus aromatherapy reduced pain, inflammation, and even blood pressure in patients who had undergone joint replacement surgery. Menthol can block sodium and calcium channels that cause pain, and it can also reduce neuronal excitability.
Eucalyptus oil also contains antioxidants and compounds that can reduce swelling and stimulate muscular relaxation.
Bergamot acts similarly to lavender oil thanks to its linalool content.
Just like lavender oil, bergamot essential oil also has a high linalool content. This compound helps relieve many different types of pain, and it can also help improve your mood and reduce anxiety.
Bergamot oil has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties that could help manage symptoms such as pain and swelling. It can also help manage stress and anxiety, which are very common in patients with arthritis.
Bergamot essential oil can also help you reach a healthy weight by improving your lipid metabolism. Managing obesity is one of the most important steps to relieve arthritis since extra weight increases pressure on your joints.
Basil contains many different beneficial compounds that can help relieve joint pain.
Basil is yet another plant that contains linalool. It also contains 1.8-cineole, another anti-inflammatory compound.
A 2013 study found that basil essential oil can help prevent cartilage damage, edema, and swelling in patients with arthritis. These properties make basil a fantastic option for the management of arthritis symptoms.
Basil essential oil can also be mixed with other oils, such as lavender and bergamot, in order to reduce anxiety and stress. Aromatherapy with these oils can also improve sleep disorders, which are very common in patients with chronic pain.
Peppermint essential oil contains menthol, which is one of the easiest ways to relieve acute joint pain.
Peppermint contains menthol and L-menthol, which are the reason why peppermint produces a cooling sensation. Low to moderate concentrations of menthol can produce pain relief and reduce hypersensitivity. Menthol acts as a counter stimulant, meaning that it produces physical sensations that temporarily override your ability to recognize pain.
Peppermint essential oil also contains limonene, which is a compound that can help relieve inflammatory pain. Peppermint oil can be used topically in order to relieve joint and muscle pain quickly.
Peppermint aromatherapy can also be used to relieve mood alterations, anxiety, and depression caused by living with arthritis and chronic pain.
Cinnamon is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can help you manage your pain.
Cinnamon is a spice that comes from the bark of the cinnamon tree. Cinnamon has been used for millennia to treat different types of inflammatory ailments.
Cinnamon contains Cinnamaldehyde. This compound has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and analgesic properties. The cinnamon essential oil can help relieve both chronic and acute pain caused by arthritis. Cinnamon has also been found to bolster the effect of analgesic medications, such as diclofenac.
Some research suggests that cinnamon can also help you manage your weight by inducing thermogenesis, which results in calorie loss. Cinnamon could also potentially help reduce bone tissue turnover, which can be beneficial for your bone health.
Thyme is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic powerhouse that can help fight off your symptoms.
Thyme, known scientifically as Thymus vulgaris, contains thymol. Thymol can inhibit our bodies’ inflammatory responses and act as an analgesic. Thyme can also inhibit nerve conduction, which is necessary for the pain to occur.
Studies have also found that thyme has antioxidant properties which can be helpful in the treatment of different types of arthritis. Thyme can also reduce collagen degradation; collagen is one of the most important components of a healthy joint.
Frankincense can suppress inflammatory processes and relieve arthritis.
Frankincense essential oil, which comes from the Boswellia carterii plant, has anti-inflammatory properties. Frankincense oil contains compounds such as linalool, α-pinene, and 1-octanol, which can reduce swelling and inflammation.
This essential oil has been shown to relieve pain whether it is used topically or through inhalation. Frankincense has been shown to suppress the progression of arthritis.
How do you use essential oils for arthritis?
You can try using an aromatherapy diffuser to reap the benefits of these essential oils. Diffusers are devices that disperse a fine spray which you will then inhale. You can use diffusers with a single oil, or purchase or create your own mix of different essential oils.
You can also apply essential oils topically. Before applying any essential oil, make sure to dilute it with a carrier oil. Some of the most popular carrier oils include:
- Coconut oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Almond oil
- Jojoba oil
- Apricot kernel oil
- Argan oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Avocado oil
- Sunflower oil
- Rosehip oil
You can apply the oil mixture directly onto the affected joints. Some essential oils, such as peppermint oil, are particularly effective for acute pain relief when used topically.
What are the risks of essential oils for arthritis?
Please keep in mind that taking essential oils by mouth isn’t recommended. Ingesting essential oils leads to a higher risk of developing adverse side effects. Taking essential oils orally can also result in interactions with the medications you take.
Don’t discontinue your usual medications without talking to your doctor. Different types of arthritis require different treatments and dosages. Stopping your treatment could lead to worsened symptoms and joint degeneration.
Don’t apply essential oils directly onto your skin. Essential oils are very concentrated and can cause chemical burns or allergic reactions when undiluted. Instead, mix your essential oil with a carrier oil before applying it to your skin.
You should also always do a patch test before using an essential oil for the first time. To do this, simply apply a small amount of the oil on a small area of your skin, such as your wrist. Wait a few hours before checking for redness or swelling, which would indicate that an allergic reaction is happening.
Certain essential oils contain photosensitive compounds and might cause burns if you use them while out in the sun. In some cases, the resulting injuries can be severe. To avoid this, try applying these oils at least 12 hours before sun exposure.
Photosensitive essential oils include:
- Angelica root
- Rue leaf
Final thoughts on Essential Oils for Arthritis
Arthritis is one of the most common causes of disability, and it affects millions of people around the world. Regardless of its origin, it can have a significant effect on your quality of life and independence.
Living with joint pain can make even small tasks difficult. From getting out of bed to cooking your own meals, the activities that we usually take for granted can become impossible for patients with arthritis.
Essential oils can be a natural way to relieve some of your arthritis symptoms. Several oils have been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Meanwhile, other oils can improve other arthritis-related symptoms, such as anxiety and insomnia.
Andrea, M.D is from Valencia, Venezuela. She is passionate about sexual health and education, and public health and global health. Additionally, she enjoys researching and learning about beauty, skincare, and cosmetic innovations. She has also volunteered in several NGOs in Venezuela. In her free time, Andrea enjoys reading, drinking copious amounts of coffee, making desserts for her family, going to the beach, and spending time with her dog, Dorito.