There are over 43 known anti-inflammatory essential oils. That statistic can be a bit staggering; where should you begin? Essential oils do not cause many of the side effects that standard medicines for inflammation do, and they are much more potent than the plants themselves; making pure essential oils the best natural medicine for treating inflammation. Here we will discuss the most studied essential oils for inflammation and give you a few ways to introduce them into your life right away.
What Causes Inflammation?
In short, life causes inflammation. There are so many causes of inflammation; it would be hard to pinpoint every one of them. Usually, inflammation is an important part of the proper functioning of the immune system, and does not always need to be eliminated. If you break your thumb, it is probably not a good idea to take anti-inflammatory medicines before you seek medical care; that sort of inflammation is actually the body’s first stage of healing. The inflammation is produced to bring additional blood cells to the area and begin the healing process.
The problem with inflammation begins when it becomes self-perpetuating; lasting for months or sometimes years on end. This type of inflammation is actually doing the body harm; and can lead to degeneration of the tissues which are inflamed. Inflammation is at the heart of most chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and obesity.
Chemical Medicines for Inflammation
In the western world, the standard approach to treating chronic inflammation is through son-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids; both of which can have some undesirable side effects; such as ulcers, bleeding, kidney damage, swelling, increased risk of infection, high blood sugar, and even thinning bones. The need for natural cures to this widespread condition is as high as ever.
Natural remedies for Inflammation
For thousands of years, foods that reverse inflammation have been in the natural diet of many civilizations. It may be no wonder, then, that cases of chronic inflammation have been on the rise in the modern era. The solution may be to simply go back to what was working before – eating our medicine on a daily basis.
Diet is the biggest factor for inflammation. If the diet is filled with processed foods like refined sugars and grains, hydrogenated oils, and fast food restaurants; there is no substance, chemical or natural, that will ever be enough to cure the chronic inflammation it causes. The best any remedy can hope to do is to supplement good diet and lifestyle choices.
- Omega-3 fatty acids – Inflammation and oxidative stress do not respond well to a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Through the consumption of cold fish in particular, such as wild-caught salmon, anchovies, and even krill; omega-3 fatty acids help fight inflammation throughout the body and brain.
- Green Tea – The leaves of the Camellia sinensis tree have been used for centuries to treat inflammation and provide essential nutrients to the body. Green tea in particular is high in antioxidants which help to cleanse the blood of toxins; supporting the body’s healing process.
- Garlic – There is not much that this bulb cannot due. Because of the many antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant compounds in each clove of garlic; you may want to consider adding it to every meal!
- Fermented Foods – Inflammation is directly influenced by a poor immune system. As 70 percent of our immune system exists in our gut; everyone needs fermented foods like kombucha and kimchi to keep their flora in perfect shape.
- Herbs – Because of the relatively high amount of bioactive compounds in herbs and spices; they are the easiest way to give your body an anti-inflammatory boost every single day. Sprinkle some cinnamon in your tea, add turmeric to your soups, or add some oregano to your vegetable sandwiches.
Essential Oils for Inflammation
Providing your body with the right kind of fuel will go much farther, much faster, if you include the use of essential oils for inflammation in your daily regimen. Not only do essential oils contain much higher amounts of beneficial compounds than their respective herbs; they are also much simpler to include in your day to day life. An aromatherapy session does not have to interrupt your day; do what you normally do, only with a diffuser full of these essential oils running in the background.
1. Helichrysum Italicum Essential Oil
It is best to start off with the heaviest hitter of them all. Helichrysum italicum essential oil has demonstrated its ability to reduce inflammation in the body in various studies. When reviewing all the information available about the oil; it seems that the anti-inflammatory action of helichrysum italicum essential oil is actually caused by multiple effects; such as inhibiting inflammatory enzymes, scavenging free radicals, and even corticosteroid-like effects (without the side effects).
2. Thyme Essential Oil and Oregano Essential Oil
Though thyme and oregano are two completely different herbs; the essential oils consist heavily of the same compound, carvacrol. In multiple studies, carvacrol has been shown to reduce the antioxidant load on the body and help eliminate inflammation. Once study even suggested that carvacrol may be used to help treat cases of colon cancer caused by chronic inflammation. The herbs themselves may be added to any dish, and the essential oils are readily absorbed through the skin or inhaled via an aromatherapy diffuser.
Other studies have also suggested that thyme and oregano essential oils work synergistically to reduce inflammation; specifically in inflammatory intestinal diseases like colitis.
3. Clove Bud Essential Oil
As clove bud essential oil has the highest ORAC capacity of any natural substance on the planet; it may come as no surprise that it also helps to reduce inflammation in a big way. The compound responsible is eugenol; and as clove essential oil is made up of up to 80 percent eugenol – talking about one means you are talking about the other. When studied in vivo, eugenol reduces inflammation all around the body; from the teeth to the joints. Rubbing some diluted clove essential oil on an aching joint may be all it takes to relieve the pain.
4. Ginger Essential Oil
Much like the root which it comes from, ginger essential oil shows anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers noted that the oil not only possesses anti-inflammatory abilities, but may also be useful for treating minor pains and reducing oxidative stress in the body. While the study was done using internal application of the essential oil, this is not recommended unless directed by a licensed healthcare provider. Luckily, the skin around the affected area will allow ginger essential oil into the bloodstream as well.
5. Lavender Essential Oil
When discussing the benefits of lavender essential oil, you really can’t leave out its anti-inflammatory abilities. It has a powerful combination of antioxidant, analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect that work to soothe inflammation and release the pain associated with it.
Lavender is also one of the only essential oils which can safely be used on the body undiluted. This is a general rule, however, and you should always test it out on a small area of the body before applying it to an inflamed body part.
6. Cinnamon Leaf Essential Oil
Cinnamon leaf essential oil, on the other hand, WILL cause irritation if used undiluted. This is because of the high content of antioxidants in the neat oil. If you dilute it, cinnamon leaf oil can safely reduce inflammation in relatively small doses. A team of researchers found evidence that extracts of cinnamon leaf are readily absorbed in the body; lowering inflammation in a short period of time. When used with other essential oils which contain sesquiterpenes, such as frankincense essential oil, this effect may be amplified.
7. Peppermint Essential Oil
In cases of airway inflammation, there may be no better oil than peppermint essential oil. The high content of menthol can help to reduce inflammation in glands, ease the pain of a scratchy cough, and reduce the inflammation which leads to further coughing. Peppermint essential oil is also gentle; meaning it should be the first oil you reach for when your airways are inflamed. It works equally well whether you diffuse it overnight while you sleep, or whether you use it in a topical mixture and apply it directly to your skin.
8. Turmeric Essential Oil
Much like the herb itself, turmeric essential oil is a strong anti-inflammatory agent; and may be even more so than other turmeric extracts. Circumin, the world-renown anti-inflammatory compound often extracted from turmeric, has shown time and again that it is poorly absorbed in the body when it is isolated and put into capsules.
On the other hand, turmeric essential oil contains high amounts of Ar-turmerone; which is a potent anti-inflammatory compound and actually increases the absorption of curcumin in the body. This potent compound also increases the production of stem cells in the body, which is beneficial to every tissue and organ. Rather than simply treating the symptom of inflammation; turmeric essential oil may actually help treat the cause as well.
9. Bergamot Essential Oil
People are often looking for the everyday oil that they can use for just about anything under the sun. Depending on what your needs are, that may be bergamot essential oil. From a holistic perspective, the benefits of bergamot essential oil are widespread across the body; from increasing digestion to reducing stress; improving mood, and of course reducing inflammation. Partly because of the high content of linalool in the oil, bergamot essential oil shows anti-inflammatory effects against many common causes of inflammation. Researchers also noted the effects were comparable to commonly used NSAIDs.
10. Lemongrass Essential Oil
In cases of skin inflammation, lemongrass essential oil may be the way to go. After diluting the oil in a carrier like coconut or sesame oil, lemongrass can be applied topically to reduce signs of swelling, especially those caused by water retention and edema. This may be especially beneficial for diabetic patients and people on medications which cause edema. Lemongrass is a staple essential oil for any homeopathic medicine cabinet, and also happens to have quite a pleasant aroma. You can diffuse it or apply it topically.
11. Yarrow Essential Oil
The well-known skin panacea of the herbal realm, yarrow essential oil is great for almost everything skin related. From reducing acne, soothing burns, reducing eczema and itching, and eliminating scars; yarrow oil does it all. A new review is showing yarrow essential oil is a potent anti-inflammatory as well. Because of a class of compounds called alkamides; yarrow essential oil may be all it takes to reduce inflammation in the body; especially if it is caused by skin disorders or fungal infections.
12. Frankincense Essential Oil
In identifying possible anti-inflammatory compounds in frankincense essential oil, researchers didn’t find just one; they found seventeen of them. What’s more is that all but one of the compounds in frankincense showed promise as anti-inflammatory agents. This may be the reason frankincense has been used for years as a natural arthritis treatment. It is gentle enough to use regularly yet powerful enough to reduce inflammation on its own. Add another pain-reducing oil such as peppermint or lavender; and smell your way to relief from inflammation.
13. Vetiver Essential Oil
In Thailand and India, vetiver essential oil has been used for centuries to help treat toothache, headache, ulcers, fever, and chronic inflammation. Western science looked to find scientific backing for these claims, and they achieved that goal. The oil shows strong anti-inflammatory abilities, mainly due to its ability to reduce oxidative stress on the body. If you cannot pinpoint the cause of the inflammation, diffusing vetiver essential oil may be a great place to start. The anti-inflammatory effects of vetiver essential oil become just a bit more impressive when you consider that the plant itself helps to avoid soil erosion, enrich the soil, and rehabilitate polluted water and land anywhere it is grown.
14. Geranium Essential Oil
The problem with natural remedies gaining scientific ground is partly due to the fact that creating proof is a slow concept. It does not matter if there are thousands of people saying essential oils have cured them of inflammation; until the effect is studied under the microscope of science – it is like it never happened.
When researchers set out to see the effects of geranium essential oil on inflammation, this is exactly what they were doing. Many reports of the use of geranium were there, and in vitro studies exist where geranium eliminated inflammatory agents in an isolated experiment; but the in vivo studies were lacking, meaning that no one had studied the effect geranium essential oil has on inflammation IN the body. After weighing the oil against common inflammatory agents in vivo, the researchers were able to conclude that topical application of essential oils like geranium can improve inflammatory symptoms.
15. Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Osteoarthritis is the most widespread musculoskeletal disorder in the world; appearing anywhere in the body and greatly reducing the quality of life. Knee and hip replacement surgeries are often the painful result of a history of incremental damage; usually caused by extreme cases of osteoarthritis.
Seeking a natural cure to the inflammation and pain noted by knee replacement patients, researchers turned to eucalyptus essential oil. The study tested the effects of the oil in cases of patients who had just undergone total knee replacement surgery. After three consecutive days of treatment, inhalation of eucalyptus essential oil was effective at decreasing symptoms of pain and blood pressure; which also shows a reduction in inflammation symptoms.
16. Rosemary Essential Oil
It is important to understand that some essential oils best play the support role, amplifying the effects of other oils they are added to. For inflamed, painful joints, rosemary essential oil is one such oil. Rosemary itself has anti-inflammatory abilities, and may also reduce signs of pain. But the effect can be noticed even more when added to a similar essential oil; eucalyptus essential oil, for instance. The combination of the 1,8 cineole in the oils act to reduce inflammation and signs of pain as well; making them perfect for inflammation due to arthritis.
17. Sage Essential Oil
Considered a blessed herb by many First Nations and Native American herbalists, the essential oil from salvia officinalis may be more potent than ever believed. In addition to its uses for reducing cholesterol, helping symptoms of depression, dementia, obesity, and even cancer; sage essential oil is a powerful anti-inflammatory. The many polyphenols and flavonoids in the oil, such as ursolic acid, combine to give sage essential oil the anti-inflammatory effect it enjoys. While you’ve probably heard of the tradition of burning sage, it works even better when you diffuse the essential oil of sage, or use it in a topical mixture!
A Final Note on Anti-inflammatory Essential Oils
Essential oils, especially pure essential oils, are powerful and should be used with care. The antioxidant levels in pure essential oils are especially high, and can cause serious skin irritation. As anti-inflammatory essential oils are often rubbed on the site of inflammation, the pure oil should always be diluted; and pay attention to any reactions your body may have to it when applied on the skin. Children and pregnant women should use any essential oil under the guidance of a healthcare practitioner.
Any anti-inflammatory essential oils should only be taken internally under the guidance of an experienced practitioner, as the compounds may cause serious damage to the esophagus and digestive organs. The advice here is not intended to replace the instruction of a trained healthcare professional; but rather to supplement it. Always consult your healthcare practitioner about the best ways to use essential oils.
The most important thing to consider when purchasing essential oil is the purity of the product. Always look for pure essential oils. Pure oils are not only the most beneficial – they are the safest. Read more about pure essential oils and how they can positively affect your life.
Do you have an anti-inflammatory mix you use regularly? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!