As well as helping with emotional issues such as stress and anxiety, aromatherapy can be extremely helpful for a wide range of ‘physical issues’including natural pain relief.
There are a wide variety of essential oils that are beneficial for relieving many different types of physical discomfort, ranging from joint and muscle pain through to headaches, digestive problems and period pain.
How do these oils work?
Essential oils can be useful in a number of ways. However it is important to know which to use and how to make the most of your choice.
Relaxation is key in helping to combat pain. Many studies have shown that emotional issues such as anxiety, stress and depression can cause a range of physical symptoms including pain and inflammation. Emotionally calming oils can therefore aid relaxation and help reduce stress-related tension. Equally, it can be hard to stay relaxed when in pain, as we naturally tense-up in reaction to discomfort, so soothing essential oils will help reduce stress levels and tension in the body to allow more space for healing to take place.
Oils that have a relaxing effect include Bergamot, Chamomile, Lavender, Frankincense, Jasmine, Sweet Marjoram, Neroli, Sweet Orange, Patchouli, Petitgrain, Rose, Sandalwood and YlangYlang.
Reducing pain & inflammation
Certain oils have analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties. Some oils stimulate the circulation to such an extent that pain can be eased by the increase in blood flow to the area. Other oils ease pain by their effect on nerve impulses – by interrupting the pain impulse or inhibiting them. Sweet Marjoram, Clary Sage, Lavender, German Chamomile and Peppermint oils are particularly useful.
Pain is often related to acidity in the body. Following an alkaline diet is especially helpful, as are detoxifying essential oils which will help detox the body and reduce acidity. Regular massage with oils such as Cypress, Juniper, Fennel and Lemon is particularly recommended.
Top 5 essential oils for natural pain relief
As you can see from the above there are many useful essential oils for natural pain relief and choice of oil will very much depending on the underlying cause. We outline 5 of the most popular choices below:
- Lavender is useful for many different types of pain ranging from burns and bruises through to headaches, sinus pain, muscle and joint pain, sciatica and even labour pains.
- Chamomile (particularly German Chamomile) is a strong anti-inflammatory making it especially useful for relieving pain where inflammation is present. It is particularly recommended for digestive pain, period pain, arthritis, sprains and strains, inflamed tendons and swollen joints.
- Clary Sage is a powerful relaxant making it excellent for muscular tension, especially when caused by stress. It is also a strong anti-spasmodic which is helpful for tummy cramps and period pains.
- Sweet Marjoram warms the skin and boosts the circulation making it excellent for soothing tired, tight muscles. It can also help reduce the pain of rheumatism and arthritis as well as intestinal and menstrual cramps.
- Peppermint is excellent for headaches and sinus pain and for relieving discomfort arising from digestive issues such as IBS, indigestion and trapped wind.
How to use the oils
Using the oils for massage is one of the most effective ways of getting the oils into your system and reducing pain. In addition to the therapeutic benefits of the oils, massage itself can help to reduce stress and tension, increase blood flow and oxygen to painful areas and encourage the body to excrete toxins. It is also thought that massage stimulates the release of natural pain killers and changes the way in which the brain senses pain.
The oils must always be diluted in a carrier oil before application to the skin. As a general rule, for pain-relief use a maximum of 3 drops of essential oil per 5ml of carrier oil.
For muscular pain and tension try 30ml of carrier oil with 7 drops Lavender, 5 drops Sweet Marjoram, 2 drops German Chamomile and 1 drop Peppermint.
For period pain mix 30ml of carrier oil with 5 drops each of Clary Sage, Sweet Marjoram and Lavender and massage into the tummy in a clockwise direction. This can also be applied to the lower back.
Having a soak in a warm bath can also help to boost the circulation, aid relaxation, and relieve pain and tension. Try mixing up to 15 drops of your chosen essential oils with mineral rich salts such as Dead Sea Salt or Epsom Salt which are also beneficial for the muscles and joints. Alternatively, you could use either of the essential oil blends from above.
Hot or cold compresses are also helpful. Hot compresses are generally recommended for relieving pain and cold compresses to reduce inflammation and swelling. Add your essential oils to a bowl of very hot or very cold water, place a clean cloth into the water to soak, wring out excess water and place the cloth over the affected area. Repeat the process once the compress reaches skin temperature.
For period pain try a warm compress with 6 drops of Lavender, 4 drops Clary Sage and 4 drops Sweet Marjoram, then place on the lower abdomen and/or back.
Diffusion / Inhalation
Diffusing calming essential oils can be helpful for relieving stress and aiding relaxation. If you don’t have a diffuser you could use an aromatherapy inhaler or simply pop a few drops of oil on a tissue and sniff regularly. A couple of drops of Peppermint oil on a tissue can be particularly helpful if suffering with a headache.
Essential oils are powerful substances that should be used with care. Always check the safety instructions for each oil prior to use and seek medical advice if pregnant or taking medication. Always dilute before direct application to the skin and never take the oils by mouth.