What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a common condition that affects a great many people worldwide. It is characterized by pain and inflammation anywhere that the bones meet in the body. It is possible for arthritis to occur at any stage of life but is far more common as we get older and people over 60 years of age are at a much higher risk. Women and people who are obese or overweight are also at a higher risk of the condition.
The Different forms of Arthritis
By far the two most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis or rheumatism.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a common autoimmune disorder which occurs when the body’s own immune system attacks the tissues. The condition affects a thin layer of tissue called the synovial membrane which is responsible for lubricating the joints. When this membrane is not properly lubricated, the joints and the cartilages are damaged often beyond repair.
Rheumatoid arthritis can strike at any stage of life and more often occurs at an earlier age than osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis occurs because of damage to cartilage tissue over time. Because it is generally caused by wear and tear to the joints, it is known also as degenerative arthritis. This type of wear and tear can occur naturally over the years but certain risk factors like being overweight or heavy physical exercise can also put a strain on the body and lead to osteoarthritis. When the cartilage is worn down and the amount of tissue gets reduced, the bones tend to make contact with one another. This can end up causing the inflammation and pain associated with the condition.
Symptoms of Arthritis
Both these forms of arthritis share a number of symptoms. They can both be debilitating and extremely painful. Other signs and symptoms of both types of arthritis are inflammation or swelling, redness and stiffness in the joints which may be worse just after waking up.
Why Essential Oil?
Common treatments for arthritis include NSAIDs to control pain and inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis is often treated with corticosteroids that control the body’s immune response. While these medications can be very effective, they also produce a number of unwanted side effects which may be severe.
Fortunately, essential oils offer a more natural and safer alternative for treating your condition. Research has demonstrated that a number of these plant oils are high in medicinal properties that can help relieve pain and inflammation of the type caused by arthritis. As you are about to find out, many essential oil are both analgesic and anti-inflammatory in nature making them the perfect topical treatment to relieve pain and swelling in your joints and bones.
What are the Best Essential Oils for Arthritis?
1) Frankincense Essential Oil (Boswelia sacra or Boswelia serrata)
Frankincense essential oil is an extremely popular and safe oil used to treat a wide range of conditions from digestion to skin health. It makes for a great topical treatment for arthritis because of its well-researched anti-inflammatory properties.
Several studies have demonstrated that frankincense oil is an effective treatment for arthritis. According to a study published by Cardiff University, frankincense may inhibit the production of inflammatory molecules linked to the condition. The same study points out that frankincense oil may help protect against a reduction in cartilage tissues. (1)
The oil is one of the more gentle acting oils and is regarded as safe for topical application. Nevertheless, you should always dilute it with a carrier oil before you apply it to your skin.
2) Thyme Essential Oil (Thymus vulgaris)
Thyme essential oil is a powerful oil that is extremely effective for treating the pain and inflammation that arthritis patients deal with on a daily basis. It has outstanding anti-inflammatory actions as well as antispasmodic properties that help soothe the muscles.
Thyme oil is extremely powerful and must not be applied directly to your skin without diluting it first. There are plenty of suitable carrier oils for dilution purposes but some of the most popular are jojoba, sweet almond, coconut and olive oil.
3) Lavender Essential Oil (Lavandula angustifolia)
Lavender essential oil is still the most popular of all essential oils and there is good reason for this. Lavender oil is among the most gentle acting of oils but it is also one of the most diverse in terms of the physical and mental complaints that it can help to treat.
Lavender essential oil has excellent anti-inflammatory and mild analgesic properties making it a great natural remedy for arthritis. While it is one of the few oils that does not need to be diluted before you apply it to your skin, it is still good practice to mix it into a carrier oil before massaging it into your skin.
4) Myrrh Essential Oil (Commiphora myrrha)
Myrrh essential oil is another popular treatment for arthritis and muscle pain. It has excellent anti-inflammatory properties with research showing it can inhibit an enzyme called COX-2, involved with inflammation and pain.
A study published in 2011 confirmed the anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and antioxidant effects of this healing essential oil. (2)
5) Ginger Essential Oil (Zingiber officinale)
Ginger may be best known for its culinary uses but it is gaining a reputation for its medicinal benefits. Ginger and its essential oil have outstanding anti-inflammatory actions making it a great natural treatment for arthritis and other conditions linked to inflammation. The oil contains a number of medicinal compounds including zingiberene, geraniol, neral and camphene.
6) Cypress Essential Oil (Cupressus sempervirens)
Cypress essential oil is extracted from the cypress tree which has long been used for its medicinal effects. It is popular in aromatherapy and cosmetics because of its fresh, woodsy aroma and its healing qualities one of which is the treatment of joint pain and arthritis.
Massaging cypress essential oil into your sore joints can provide excellent relief from inflammation and pain. Try diluting it with a carrier oil and massaging it into your body or adding a few drops to your bathtub for a relaxing and healing soak.
7) Wintergreen Essential Oil (Gaultheria procumbens)
Wintergreen is not the most popular of essential oils, but this minty, fresh oil packs a powerful punch when it comes to treating pain and inflammation. Wintergreen oil is also an excellent remedy for muscle pain, tendonitis, burstitis and gout.
When applied topically to your joints and muscles, this powerful remedy stimulates circulation and aids on the removal of toxins like uric acid.
Be careful when using wintergreen oil because it contains a compound called methyl salicylate which can be toxic in large enough doses. Dilute your wintergreen oil with a suitable carrier oil before massaging it into your painful joints and limbs.
8) Rosemary Essential Oil (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Rosemary essential oil is widely used for pain including treating headaches, muscle pain gout and arthritis. It has analgesic and anti-inflammatory actions that make it a great, natural choice for arthritis patients but make sure to dilute it before applying it to your body.
Don’t forget that essential oils are often more effective if you blend them. A study published in 2014 found that a combination of rosemary, lavender, black pepper, marjoram and peppermint oil was extremely effective in relieving pain in patients suffering from chronic neck pain.
9) Eucalyptus Essential Oil (Eucalyptus globulus)
The essential oil extracted from Australia’s eucalyptus tree is another excellent remedy for the pain and inflammation caused by arthritis. It has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect when massaged into the body and cit can also help to ease your pain.
Eucalyptus oil is known to cause irritation in some people so make sure it is well diluted and perform a patch test before using it for the first time.
10) Peppermint Essential Oil (Mentha piperita)
And last but by no means least, we come onto another popular and extremely diverse essential oil. When you think of peppermint, you immediately think of its cooling but spicy effects and it acts very much the way you would expect it to.
Peppermint oil has excellent analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve both pain and inflammation in people with arthritis whether you are suffering from rheumatism or another form of the condition.
How to Use your Essential Oil for Arthritis
So now you have chosen your essential oil or oils, what is the best way to use them to treat your condition?
There are actually several effective ways to employ your essential oils to treat arthritis. These are the most popular….
Massaging your essential oils into your skin is an especially effective methods of treating arthritis. The oils get easily absorbed through the skin and into your bloodstream where they get to work on your pain and inflammation.
Don’t forget to dilute your oil with a carrier oil. This is very important because essential oils are extremely powerful and can cause irritation to the skin if they are applied neat or they re not well enough diluted.
You will need to use a carrier oil often referred to as base oils to dilute the essential oil. There are plenty to choose from and the choice is yours. Coconut, jojoba, sweet almond and olive oil are among the most popular for massage purposes.
One of the best ways to relax your body and sooth the pain in your joints and muscles is to take a long, relaxing bath. The effects are even more significant when you add some essential oil into the mix.
Run your bath and add 5 or 6 drops of your chosen oil to the water. Make sure the water has finished running before you add the oils or you risk losing a lot of the goodness through evaporation.
3. Warm Compress
A warm compress is another great way to employ your essential oils for arthritis pain. All you need is your essential oil, a towel and some warm or hot water.
Boil up a pint or so of hot water and add 5 or 6 drops of your essential oil. Drop a cloth or small towel into the water and let it soak up the liquid for 5 minutes or so.
Remove your towel from the water and wring out the excess liquid. Apply the compress to the affected areas and hold it in position for 20 or so minutes to allow the oils to do their work
The Bottom Line
Essential oils have a huge variety of uses and provided they are used carefully, they are safe. They make for a wonderful alternative to prescription medications and have a far lower risk of adverse side effects. Research suggests that many of these wonderful oils have anti-inflammatory effect as well as the ability to kill pain. This makes them highly effective for arthritis and other painful inflammatory conditions.
Hopefully, you will find some relief by using one or more of the essential oils we have written about. If you have any favorite oils for your arthritis pain, please let us know.