Can essential oils reduce inflammation? Research is limited, yet people who use essential oils for inflammation believe they work. Here’s what you should know.
Ancient civilizations have used essential oils to treat medical ailments for centuries. That’s a fact, but do they work? Using essential oils to treat inflammation has its detractors and fans.
Stacy Mantle, a writer based in Arizona, uses essential oils to treat inflammation.
“Essential oils have a valid function in healthcare,” she said. “I use a variety of them for immediate relief from back and neck pain (peppermint and other cooling oils work well), while marjoram provides the best relief for inflammation from TMJ symptoms. Individuals respond differently to essential oils. So, it’s best to work with a certified practitioner to find what works best for your body’s chemistry.”
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are distilled from plant roots, leaves, stems, flowers, or bark. The result is highly concentrated oils that contain the fragrance and properties of the plant. Several online sites claim that oils can cure a wide range of illnesses.
A study found that six essential oils could reduce inflammation by at least 25 percent. The six essential oils are:
Thyme, a popular herb used in cooking, was the most effective because it reduced inflammation by 75 percent. Researchers found that thyme contains antioxidants, which can help reduce an overabundance of inflammation.
How to use essential oils for inflammation
You can purchase essential oils at some drugstores and health food stores. You can apply them in three different ways.
- Diffusion is when you inhale the scent. You’ll need to buy a diffuser and place the essential oil into it. You then let the aroma fill the room. This helps if your inflammation is stress-related.
- Massage is a relaxing way to use essential oils. You apply diluted essential oil directly onto the inflamed area. The oil is used to reduce swelling and pain.
- You can also take essential oils by mouth, BUT DO NOT SWALLOW. This method is rare; some essential oils are meant to be gargled, not swallowed. A study found essential oils were used as a mouthwash to reduce inflammation of the gums caused by gingivitis.
In addition to not swallowing essential oils, don’t put the pure oils directly on your skin. You should dilute the oils with a carrier oil, a base or vegetable oil. Start with a ratio of one ounce of carrier oil to 6 drops of essential oil. Popular carrier oils include coconut or jojoba oils.
Before you use the mixture, place a tiny drop on the inflamed area to determine how your body will react. If you don’t have redness or irritation within 24 hours, it should be safe to use. It’s always wise to talk with your doctor about using essential oils.
The amount you use also matters.
“Moderation is key because essential oils are powerful and can cause serious injuries,” said Mantle. “For instance, orange and other citrus essential oils can cause sensitivity to sun, so you shouldn’t be exposed to sun for several hours after applying. Many oils are ‘hot’ (such as clove and cinnamon) and must be properly diluted or you risk injury to skin. There is a lot to understand, including why and how essential oils function before you begin use.”
If you are experiencing inflammation, your first line of action should be talking to your physician before reaching for an essential oil. It’s possible that some essential oils may mask your problem without treating its underlying cause. And if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your doctor before using any essential oils.
July 13, 2023
Janet O’Dell, RN