Joint pain can affect the shoulder, hip, knee, arm, hands, feet, or any other joint within the body. It manifests as inflammation, discomfort, acute or chronic pain. It might be the result of a short-term injury or related to a more long-term disability such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, auto immune disorders, or many other diseases.
Joint pain, like back pain, affects millions of people every year. In 2014, the number of Americans affected by severe joint pain was reported as 14.6 million by researchers of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Along with NSAID analgesics and other types of pain medication, essential oils can be used as part of a pain management program for joint pain. Check with your medical practitioner, or certified aromatherapist, before using essential oils to make sure that prescribed or over-the-counter medication does not interact with an essential oil blend.
Causes of Joint Pain
Joint pain is a short descriptor for a wide range of causes for joint pain. These include (but are not limited to):
- Arthritis: Rheumatoid, psoriatic, and others
- Lyme disease
- Polymyalgia rheumatica
- Bone cancer
- Broken bones
Joint pain presents as inflammation, sharp, stabbing pain, dull pain, aching pain, and in various other ways.
4 Best Essential Oils For Relieving Joint Pain
1. Clove Bud Essential Oil
Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) is an evergreen tree found in places such as Indonesia. It has large, glossy leaves and buds which mature to a color of deep red. Essential oil is extracted from the leaves and the buds, although the tree also has aromatic flowers.
Clove bud essential oil has a sweet and spicy aroma. It is high in the phenol eugenol, which gives it its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties to help with joint pain.
A study on the Anti-arthritic effect of eugenol on collagen-induced arthritis experimental model found that the eugenol component in clove essential oil might be useful in treating arthritis in humans, following a study on the use of eugenol in the knee joints of arthritic mice.
I prefer to use clove bud essential oil over clove leaf essential oil for therapeutic aromatherapy use. Clove essential oil may cause skin sensitivity and mucous membrane irritation. Use it in low dilution and perform a skin patch test first.
Combine clove bud essential oil with sweet orange and cinnamon leaf essential oils in a base of apricot kernel (Prunus armeniaca) oil or tamanu (Calophyllum inophyllum) oil for joint pain in fibromyalgia, lupus, and arthritis. If using tamanu oil, combine with sunflower (Helanthius annuus) oil at a 25/75 split, as tamanu oil is a thick oil.
2. Cinnamon Leaf Essential
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) is another tropical tree found in regions such as southern India and Sri Lanka. Both the leaves and the bark of the cinnamon tree are used to extract essential oil from. The leaves are large and leathery.
Again, the main chemical component of cinnamon leaf essential oil is phenols, namely eugenol. Cinnamon bark essential oil contains a high component of cinnamaldehyde, an aldehyde. Both types of cinnamon essential oil contain these two components (plus others) just in varying amounts.
A study titled Essential oil from leaves of Cinnamomum osmophloeum acts as a xanthine oxidase inhibitor and reduces the serum uric acid levels in oxonate-induced mice, concluded that the chemical component of cinnamaldehyde found in the Cinnamomum spp., may help to reduce uric acid levels (such as those found in gout).
Avoid the use of cinnamon essential oil during pregnancy. It may cause skin sensitivity and irritation to the mucous membranes so use in low dilution. Perform a skin patch test before use.
3. Virginian Cedarwood Essential Oil
Virginian cedarwood (Juniperus virginia) – not to be confused with Atlas cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica) – is a conifer tree which is native to North America. It has a red heartwood that has been traditionally distilled for the essential oil.
Virginian cedarwood essential oil is a woody, sweet, balsamic essential oil. As Virginian cedarwood is actually related to juniper (Juniperus communis) and not Atlas cedarwood, it shares some similar uses and chemical components. Virginian cedarwood essential oil is composed primarily of cedrene (sesquiterpene) and cedrol (sesquiterpene alcohol).
A study titled Topical dermal application of essential oils attenuates the severity of adjuvant arthritis in Lewis rats, used a blend of essential oils, which included 2.2% of Virginian cedarwood essential oil, to test the effectiveness of a topical dermal application for arthritis in rats. The results showed that inflammation was reduced. Although the blend contained other essential oils, it demonstrates the synergy in the use of Virginian cedarwood essential in an effective blend for joint pain such as arthritis.
Avoid the use of Virginian cedarwood essential oil during pregnancy. It is possible that it may cause skin sensitivity, so use it in low amounts.
4. Helichrysum Essential Oil
Helichrysum (Helichrysum angustifolium) is a small, aromatic herb with bright yellow flowers and narrow, silver leaves. The characteristic, daisy-like flowers retain their color even when they are dried out. This plant is native to the Mediterranean region of the world.
Helichrysum essential oil has a rich, honey-like aroma. Its chemical components consist of alcohols and esters, such as nerol and neryl acetate, giving it its anti-inflammatory and healing properties.
I find that helichrysum essential oil is particularly useful for wound healing and inflammation associated with joint pain. There are many sub-species of helichrysum and scientific studies on the many varieties are in their infancy. However, helichrysum essential oil is often used by certified aromatherapists to address bruises and sprains.
Blend helichrysum essential oil with lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and clove essential oils for a powerful blend to address joint pain and inflammation. Dilute in a carrier oil base of sunflower (Helanthius annuus) oil.
How to Use Essential Oils for Joint Pain
Always dilute essential oils in a base vegetable oil before applying to the skin. Dilute at 2% for regular use. For seniors (over 65 years of age), use only a 1% dilution. For use in pregnancy, or with the use of babies and young children, consult a certified aromatherapist before using any essential oil blend.
If you experience any adverse reactions to the essential oil blend (such as nausea, rash, headache or other), stop using immediately and consult a health care practitioner.