Essential Oils For Arthritis
What Is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a common condition that causes joint pain. It is not, however, a single disease. There are actually over 100 kinds of arthritis and related disorders. They all have similar symptoms affecting the joints such as stiffness, swelling, pain, and decreased mobility. Arthritis can range from mild to severe.
Osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis is the most common type. It most commonly affects older people or patients who have injured a given joint. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage cushioning the ends of the bones gradually wears away, so the bones start to rub against each other.
Inflammatory arthritis describes the types of arthritis caused by an autoimmune disorder. Common examples include rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis.
In metabolic arthritis, which is more commonly known as gout, the patient’s blood contains too much uric acid. As the uric acid accumulates, it can form needle-like crystals in the joint and cause excruciating pain. Other types of arthritis can be caused by a viral, fungal or bacterial infection.
Essential oils can help arthritis patients by either relieving the pain or the associated stress. In the latter case, the patient often uses aromatherapy. To treat arthritis pain, you should dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil like coconut oil and apply it to the affected joint. In many cases, you will use one ounce of carrier oil for every 12 drops of essential oil. Examples of commonly used carrier oils include the following:
- Olive oil
- Jojoba oil
- Coconut oil
- Almond oil
Essential Oils For Arthritis
1. Turmeric Essential Oil
Turmeric essential oil is made from the plant of the same name, which has the scientific name Curcuma longa and is a member of the ginger family. In 2010, the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry” described a study in which scientists induced arthritis in rats by injecting them with Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria. They then treated the rats with injections of turmeric oil.(1)
The scientists found that if they injected the rats with turmeric oil before injecting them with bacteria, the oil prevented them from developing swollen joints in about 95 to 100 percent of cases. Even if the scientists waited until after the rats’ acute joint inflammation had peaked, the turmeric oil showed an effectiveness of about 64 percent in relieving it.
Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin that is an anti-inflammatory and can thus be used to treat an inflammatory arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis. An arthritis patient may either use aromatherapy or apply diluted turmeric directly on the affected joint.
One treatment involves mixing turmeric oil with paraffin wax to make a salve:
- 250 mg of paraffin wax
- 25 drops of turmeric oil
Put the wax in a beaker. Fill a deep pan with water hand heat it but keep it below boiling. Use a tong to hold the beaker on the water’s surface so it will slowly heat up. Add the turmeric oil after the wax has melted. Slowly shake the beaker in a circular motion until the oil and wax mix. Apply the salve to the joint.
Ginger oil comes from the plant of the same name, which is known by the scientific name, Zingiber officinale. Ginger oil is a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory that can be used to treat osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
In 2001, the science journal “Arthritis and Rheumatism” described a study in which 261 patients with osteoarthritis in their knees were given either a ginger extract or a placebo during a six-week period. The researchers found that the patients who had been given ginger experienced less pain in their knees while standing up or walking than did the control group. Similarly, the patients who had gotten ginger needed less medication than the control group did. (2)
Ginger can cause allergic reactions in some people, so if you are using it for the first time should do a patch test. To relieve pain caused by arthritis, apply the ginger oil directly onto the affected joint. Massage the joint and then apply a hot compress to increase the effects of the oil. One treatment calls for the following recipe:
- 10 to 15 drops of ginger essential oil
- 1 ounce of almond or jojoba oil
Mix them and massage into the skin.
3. Orange Essential Oil
Orange oil is made from the rind of an orange (Citrus sinensis) and it has antiseptic, anti-depressant, and anti-inflammatory qualities. In 2017, the “Indian Journal of Palliative Care” described a study in which researchers demonstrated that orange oil could also relieve pain.(3)
The scientists used orange oil in aromatherapy to try to relieve the pain of patients with broken bones. They found that the patients who received aromatherapy treatments experienced less pain than those who did not.
Orange oil can be used in aromatherapy. You can also apply it directly to the affected joint or add it to bath water. To do the former, use the following formula:
- 1 teaspoon of almond or avocado oil
- A few drops of orange oil
Massage the mixture onto the affected joint.
Orange oil, like many other essential oils made from citrus fruit, will increase your sensitivity to the sun’s UV rays. You should thus avoid ultraviolet light for 12 to 18 hours. If staying indoors isn’t an option, you should wear something over the treatment area.
Eucalyptus oil is made from the leaves of an evergreen tree by the same name found in Australia. It is both a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory. In 2013, the science journal “Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine” described a study involving osteoarthritis patients who had undergone knee replacement surgery.(4)
The scientists knew that earlier clinical trials had demonstrated that eucalyptus oil could relieve pain and swelling in arthritic mice and rats, and they wanted to learn if it had a similar effect on humans.
The scientists diluted the eucalyptus oil in almond oil and then applied it to a gauze pad placed under the patient’s nose so they could inhale the vapors. A control group was given a placebo that contained only the almond oil. The researchers found that the eucalyptus oil reduced pain and even lowered blood pressure.
Eucalyptus oil can be used in liquid or gel form, and you rub it on the affected joint. Use the following formula:
- 1 teaspoon of carrier oil
- 2 to 4 drops of eucalyptus oil
Frankincense is made from the dried sap from trees in the Boswellia genus. People have used it as an incense at least as far back as Biblical times. It also has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.
In 2010, the science journal “Phytotherapy Research” described research into the effectiveness of frankincense as a treatment for osteoarthritis. The scientists found that frankincense reduced inflammation and slowed the breakdown of cartilage and collagen.(5)
Massage frankincense into the affected joint. Use the following formula:
- 2 to 4 drops of frankincense oil
- 1 teaspoon of carrier oil
The peppermint plant originally grew in Europe, and it is believed to be one of the first plants used for medicinal purposes. Peppermint essential oil contains menthone, menthol, and methyl esters which make it an effective treatment for pain and inflammation. Menthol also has a cooling effect that helps relieve pain in joints or muscles.
Peppermint oil can be used by itself or in a blend with other essential oils like rosemary, marjoram, or lemon. Since peppermint can cause allergic reactions in some people, it’s best to conduct a patch test before using it for the first time.
Use the following formula to make a salve pain relief:
- 5 to 10 drops of peppermint oil
- 2 tablespoons of warmed coconut oil
Apply to the sore joint.
Essential oils can often be blended together to heighten their effects. In 2005, the “Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing” reported a study in which researchers treated arthritis patients with a blend of several essential oils and compared their response to a control group.
The scientists found that the patients who had been treated with essential oils were less depressed and were in less pain than the patients in the control group.
The researchers had used the following formula:
- 8 drops of lavender oil
- 8 drops of eucalyptus oil
- 4 drops of peppermint oil
- 4 drops of rosemary oil
- 4 drops of marjoram oil
- 2 teaspoons of jojoba oil
- 1 ounce of apricot oil
- 1 ounce of almond oil
Rub the blend on the affected joint.
8. Orange Blend Essential Oil
The science journal “Complementary Therapies in Medicine” described a 2008 study conducted at a Hong Kong hospital. The researchers worked with three groups of patients over a three-week period. The first received six massages with a blend of ginger and orange oil, the second group received massages with an olive oil placebo, and the third group got no massages.
The researchers assessed the patients’ knees before the start of treatment, after the first week, and at the end of treatment. They found that the patients who had been massaged with the essential oil blend had less pain and stiffness in their knees than the other two groups.
The scientists had used the following formula:
- 9 drops of ginger oil
- 5 drops of orange oil
- 1 ounce of olive oil
Massage the blend into the affected joint.
As can be seen, essential oils can help relieve the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. If you’re interested in trying an essential oil, you should speak to your doctor, for you do need to use essential oils carefully. Some can increase a person’s sensitivity to ultraviolet rays, and others can cause allergic reactions.
You should always, always use some type of carrier oil with an essential oil. Undiluted essential oils can irritate the skin.
Do a patch test if you’re using an essential oil or blend for the first time. Mix your essential oil and carrier oil and then put a drop or two on a bandage. Place the bandage on your inner arm and wait for 24 to 48 hours. If you experience any signs of irritation, like itching or a rash, don’t use that oil or blend.
You may want to talk to your doctor if you have a reaction. They may be able to help you find essential oils less likely to cause reactions and/or warn you about other oils you should avoid.
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