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Essential oils can be used for pain relief – a look at your best options

Essential oils are packed with potent bioactive properties that work against infection, inflammation and even diseases like diabetes, according to a recent review published in the Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research. In their paper, researchers Tanu Bansal and Kaur Harpreet from the Lovely Professional University in India shed light on the therapeutic use of essential oils for the prevention and treatment of various ailments, including chronic pain, diabetes, epilepsy and cancer.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are natural oils extracted from plants, like lavender, rosemary, peppermint and eucalyptus. Each essential oil is known for its strong, distinct fragrance – or “essence” – obtained through distillation (via steam or water) or cold-pressing (via a hydraulic press). Due to their distinct smells, essential oils are primarily used in aromatherapy to relieve stress, calm nerves, improve mood and ease fatigue. There are more than 90 essential oils available, each with its own unique smell and health benefits. Some of the most common essential oils include peppermint, chamomile, jasmine and lavender.

But the importance and uses of essential oils go beyond aromatherapy. The researchers examined the use of essential oils as natural anti-viral, antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-diabetic and anti-carcinogenic agents. For instance, tree wormwood (Artemisia arborescens) essential oil possesses potential anti-viral properties that fortify the immune system against diseases like herpes type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes type 2 (HSV-2). Meanwhile, thyme and oregano essential oils act as potent antibacterial agents against bacterial strains like Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Salmonella choleraesuis. Essential oils from plants like basil, nutmeg and oregano, on the other hand, may help fight disease-causing free radicals and reduce inflammation due to their antioxidant properties. Additionally, the oral administration of a combination of essential oils like cumin, fennel, myrtle and cinnamon may also lower blood sugar levels and regulate insulin production in diabetic individuals. Some essential oils that contain the citrus compound D-limonene may be instrumental in preventing the progression of cancer. (Related: The healing properties of essential oils.)

Essential oils for pain relief

A recent article in NaturalHealth365 suggests that essential oils may be used as natural treatments for chronic pain relief due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Chronic pain is a persistent condition that affects about 50 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is characterized as a dull, aching sensation that lasts up to 12 weeks. Chronic pain can occur in any part of the body. Some common types of chronic pain include migraines, joint pain and lower back pain. Many physicians prescribe synthetic drugs for the treatment of chronic pain, but these often cause side effects, like constipation, nausea and rashes.

If you suffer from chronic joint or body pain, you can try the following essential oils for natural relief without the risk of side effects:

  • Lavender – The oil of the Lavandula angustifolia plant has been shown to possess analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. As such, lavender essential oil may be used to treat pain and reduce swelling. Lavender essential oil may also be used to ease menstrual cramps, treat anxiety and promote relaxation.
  • Rosemary – Rosemary essential oil is typically used to relieve mental stress and fatigue, but it may also help reduce pain, soothe inflammation and boost the immune system due to its antioxidant properties.
  • Peppermint – Peppermint contains active pain-relieving compounds, like menthol and limonene, that help relax sore muscles. Peppermint essential oil may also be used to relieve digestive distress, sunburn, insect bites and rashes.
  • Eucalyptus – Eucalyptus essential oil is a popular ingredient in lip balms, massage oils and dental hygiene products due to its ability to provide a cooling sensation. Eucalyptus is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which may also relax sore muscles and reduce swelling.

Some commercially available essential oils may be diluted with alcohol and other chemical components that affect their potency, so be sure to look for 100 percent pure, natural essential oils.

Sources include: [PDF]

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