Sore muscles can manifest in a number of ways including stress, injury, infection, joint disease, and medication. All muscles within the body are potentially susceptible to soreness, depending upon the cause. Sore muscles can often be extremely limiting in their effects.
One of the common methods for treating sore muscle pain is the use of over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Heat packs may also help.
However, the effectiveness of a heat pack might be increased with the addition of essential oil blends. Essential oil blends can also be used with a compress or massaged into the skin over the affected area.
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 Sore Muscles
As mentioned above, sore muscle can be the result of various factors. These include (but are not limited to):
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Sport injury
- RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury)
As with other joint pain, sore muscles can be acute or chronic and can range in severity. Sore muscle pain can restrict daily activities and impact your quality of life, if left untreated.
In this article we discuss the scientific research behind the treatment of sore muscles with essential oils and reveal the four best and how to use them.
4 Best Essential Oils For Sore Muscles
1. Juniper Berry Essential Oil
Juniper (Juniperus communis) is an evergreen tree with green needles, small flowers and green berries which mature to blue-black in color. Although native to northern Europe, Canada, and northern Asia, various species of juniper can be found in other parts of the world as well.
Juniper berry essential oil is extracted from the berries of the tree. It has a woody-balsamic aroma. The essential oil is high in monoterpenes.
Rosemary Caddy, in her book Aromatherapy: Essential Oils in Color, cites the use of juniper berry essential oil for painful joints and stiffness. Personally, I have had success in using juniper berry essential oil for the management of sore muscles. Combine with lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and black pepper (Piper nigrum) essential oils in a base carrier oil. Apply to the affected area and place a heat pad over it. Alternatively, add the essential oil blend to a warm compress and place over sore muscles. This method can also be used with other essential oils discussed in this article.
Avoid using juniper berry essential oil during pregnancy. Do not use if you have kidney disease.
2. Clary Sage Essential Oil
Clary sage (Salvia sclarea) is a small, perennial herb with blue-pink or purple-blue flowers. Its stem is thick and hairy. The leaves are long and green. The plant is native to the Mediterranean, but it will grow in any agreeable climate.
Clary sage essential oil is extracted from the flowers. It has a sharp, herbaceous aroma which is not pleasing to everyone, but when blended with another essential oil, such as lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) or peppermint (Mentha x piperita) essential oil, it can work well within a blend, both aromatically and therapeutically. Clary sage produces a number of essential oil chemotypes, so the chemical composition of the oil varies.
An article published in The Korean Journal of Hospice and Palliative Journal entitled Analysis of Experimental Researches in Korea on the Effects of Aromatherapy to Relieve Pain, concluded that “most of essential oils to relieve pain is composed of three to four kinds of oils, including Lavender, Roman chamomile, Rosemary, and Clary sage.”
Avoid the use of clary sage essential oil in pregnancy.
3. Black Pepper Essential Oil
Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is a perennial woody vine which is native to India and China. It has small, white flowers and heart-shaped leaves. However, it is the berries (or peppercorns) which are used to extract the essential oil from. The berries are used when they have matured and turned from red to black. They are dried and crushed for extraction.
Black pepper essential oil is a warm, woody, spicy oil. Use in moderation to avoid overstimulating the kidneys. It should not be used in conjunction with homeopathic treatments. It can also cause skin irritation if used in large amounts.
Black pepper essential oil is high in monoterpenes such as limonene, pinene, and sabinene. In a study on the Evaluation of Analgesic Properties of Piper Nigrum Essential Oil: a Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study, patients who inhaled black pepper essential oil showed a decrease in pain.
4. Rosemary Essential Oil
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a small herb or shrub that can grow significantly if left unchecked. It loves the sun as it is native to the Mediterranean. Its leaves are spiky and needle-shaped. It also has pale blue flowers. The whole plant is aromatic.
Rosemary essential oil is extracted from the flowering tops of the herb. It has a camphoraceous aroma with minty undertones. There are several chemotypes of rosemary essential oil such as ct. camphor, ct. verbonone, ct. cineole, and ct. camphor. The dominant chemical component in each chemotype dictates the name and therapeutic properties of that particular essential oil.
In a study on the Analgesic effects of rosemary essential oil and its interactions with codeine and paracetamol in mice, it was concluded that the administration of rosemary essential oil was more effective for pain than the use of codeine and paracetamol.
Avoid using rosemary essential oil with high blood pressure, in pregnancy, or with epilepsy.
How to Use Essential Oils for Sore Muscles
Always dilute essential oils in a base vegetable oil (here’s a list of 21 popular carrier oils) 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.