What Exactly Is Arthritis?
Before we delve into the specific essential oils that will help you with arthritis, let’s go over some basic information. Arthritis is a joint condition marked by acute or chronic inflammation of one or more joints of the body. If you or a loved one has arthritis, you know it is often accompanied by pain and even structural changes within the body. The combined numbers of people living with the over 100 different types of arthritis make it the most common chronic illness of the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are an estimated 52.5 million adults in the United States who have a form of doctor diagnosed arthritis. Add to this estimated 294,000 children living with arthritis in some form or another, and you have somewhat of widespread disorder.
There are many varying causes of arthritis, including injury, metabolic disorders like gout, autoimmune disorders, and effects of bacterial or viral infections. Other contributing factors include heredity and diet. While many people who have been diagnosed with arthritis consider their symptoms more of an annoyance than a debilitating illness, unchecked arthritis can lead to serious damage of joints and bones and even disability. Here we will outline the current prescription treatments for arthritis, as well as their side effects, and take a look at the many benefits essential oils may have in effectively treating this illness.
Prescription Arthritis Treatment
In western medicinal practices, the treatment for arthritic symptoms includes the use of different classes of drugs. As you can imagine, with over 100 different types of arthritis, there are hundreds of drugs used as prescription medications. While many of these drugs do provide temporary relief in most cases, many prescriptions come with the possibility of unwanted side effects, and the long term use of such chemicals can cause harm to the body. The most popular classes of drugs are Analgesics, NSAIDs, Biologics, and Corticosteroids, and are quickly highlighted below.
Analgesic substances are those that can relieve pain, but do not decrease inflammation. A known example of an analgesic is Acetaminophen. Long term use of chemical analgesics may lead to liver damage. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are taken to reduce both inflammation and pain. The long term use of NSAIDs increase the risk of serious heart conditions such as stroke and heart attack. Biologic response modifiers, known as “Biologics” for short, are taken in an effort to stimulate the body’s natural response to infection and disease. Because they work to actually suppress the immune system, they make the body more prone to sickness and infections. Corticosteroids are medicines which act to mimic the effects of cortisol, a hormone in the human body. Their use has been linked to bone loss and Vitamin D deficiency.
Natural Alternatives For Arthritis
In recent years, due in part to the increased awareness about chemical drugs and their side effects, various natural solutions have become more prominent. Natural alternatives include the intake of various supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin, acupuncture and shock therapy, chiropractic and physical therapy, and preventative measures including increasing the intake of important fatty acids maintaining an ideal body weight, and stretching and exercising regularly. Here we will outline one of the most promising natural solutions to arthritis pain, the use of essential oils.
So, what is the best natural treatment for arthritis, you might be thinking?
In a nutshell, essential oils are created by processing individual types of medicinal herbs and plants to isolate their beneficial components. Through the extraction of these chemical compounds, the potency of the medicine within the plant is increased exponentially. When taken into the body via ingestion, inhalation, or skin absorption, the beneficial compounds in the essential oils act upon the body quickly in a safe and determined way, and are noticeable in the plasma of the blood.
What Do Essential Oils Have To Do With Arthritis?
You may be trying to do some basic addition in your head at this point, such as how skin + delightful smelling oil = relief from arthritis. There is a very simple way to understand the use of essential oils on the skin, and it has everything to do with permeability.
The skin is semi-permeable, meaning it guards the inside of your body from harm by blocking out dust, debris, and a various sort of particles. It is not impervious, and that is mainly a good thing. One of the most regular ways your body eliminates toxins is through the perspiration of the pores on the skin. When applied to the skin, essential oils cross the layers of the epidermis to reach the dermis and the bloodstream, where their presence has a notable effect. By concentrating beneficial essential oils around the area of your arthritis symptoms, you can ensure a high concentration and rapid delivery of the important beneficial compounds which alleviate the symptoms. In fact, a study shared on the U.S. National Library of Medicine showed topical delivery of creams containing essential oils notably reduced the severity of arthritis in tests, and that said reduction involved direct changes in the body’s mediators of inflammation.
The essential oils most notably associated with the reduction of arthritis symptoms contain much the same compounds as their pharmaceutical counterparts. They are oils high in anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antioxidant, antiphlogisic, diaphoretic, antibacterial, and antifungal compounds. The following essential oils show the most benefit when dealing with arthritis.
Finally, here are the top 10 essential oils that will help treat your arthritis.
Top 10 Essential Oils For Arthritis
If you are in the natural health world, you know: If you are talking anti-inflammatory, you are talking turmeric. The main component in Turmeric is the polyphenolic compound known as Curcumin. In addition to giving turmeric its yellow color, Curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory. Curcumin was noted to help significantly reduce inflammation caused by the cytokine (IL)-6 in patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Turmeric Essential oil is generally composed of 50-65% alpha-curcumene, which delivers more of the impressive anti-inflammatory potency of turmeric in a much smaller dosage.
Rosemary essential oil is distilled from the plant Rosmarinus oficinalis. It is composed of largely 1,8-cineol and camphor. 1,8-cineol is noted to be a potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic compound, which are the same characteristics attributed to most NSAIDs. Camphor is known to act as a mild local anesthetic, creating a cooling effect and temporarily reducing the pain associated with arthritis.
The essential oil from the peppermint herb Mentha Piperita is a powerful natural pain reliever. This is due in part to the presence of calcium antagonism in peppermint oil, and also due to its intense cooling capabilities. Topically applied to areas of injury or wound, peppermint essential oil can reduce swelling and inflammation and reduce pain. A medical study done in South Korea noted an aromatherapy mixture (which included peppermint oil) had a significant effect in reducing pain and depression in the lives of patients with arthritis.
Ginger essential oil contains many amazing health boosting compounds. As well as its potent anti-inflammatory constituents and benefits to circulation, the analgesic compound in ginger acts upon vanilloid receptors, which are located on sensory nerve endings. Regular use of ginger can lead to the reduction of prostaglandins, which are the compounds associated with pain in general. This leads to a great reduction in pain to the applied area. Ginger is one of the most successfully studied herbs of our day. In fact, one such study indicated ginger was more effective at reducing cytokine production leading to arthritis than ibuprofen. Before you reach for towards the medicine cabinet, check the aromatherapy drawer!
When you squeeze an orange peel, likely you are not thinking of the many medicinal properties of the fragrant oil which comes out. But in fact, Orange essential oil was found to be a potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative substance by a study released in 2009. As Inflammation reduction is key in effectively reducing arthritis, including orange oil in your treatment blends would be a great benefit.
Eucalyptus oil acts as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic in the body. Through topical application, the compounds within Eucalyptus oil reduce inflammation and pain associated with arthritis and rheumatism, much the same way as over the counter medications. A particular study noted an aromatherapy mixture (which included Eucalyptus oil) had a significant effect in reducing pain and depression in the lives of patients with arthritis.
One of the most commonly used essential oils, there may be more that meets the nose on this one. Lavender essential oil has always been revered for its relaxing effects on the mind, and as more data comes out, we find its list of benefits is seemingly without end. In the realm of inflammation and pain relief, Lavender essential oil was found in one study to be an efficient analgesic and anti-inflammatory and noted for its “important therapeutic potential”. Arthritis is associated with pain and inflammation, and this therapeutic potential in Lavender essential oil may be the key to relief.
Both German and Roman Chamomile Show promise in the battle against rheumatism and arthritis. As the ailments are caused in part by improper circulation and accumulation of uric acid, antiphlogisics like chamomile essential oil act to alleviate them. The essential oils cure dysfunctions of the circulatory system, stimulate circulation and purify the blood of toxins like uric acid, providing relief to swelling.
9. Frankincense and Myrrh
These two always seem to be paired together. A study on arthritis says there may be more to it than a nativity story. The study, found in the US National Library of Medicine, showed that Frankincense and myrrh are highly effective in treatment of inflammatory diseases, especially when used together. They act to suppress the causes of inflammation as well as the intensity of joint inflammation. Whether tested separately or alone, the extracts of Frankincense and Myrrh showed significant differences when compared to a control group.
Yarrow is a beautiful flowering plant whose health benefits make it even more alluring. When used, Yarrow essential oil acts as an anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic, and circulatory substance. It improves circulation throughout the body and thereby prevents accumulation of uric acid in the joints and muscles, one of the toxins linked to rheumatism and arthritis. Its diaphoretic properties help to further remove said toxins through the sweat, and the anti-inflammatory properties help to relieve the pressure associated with the swelling joints. Yarrow is considered a tonic substance; its use over a long period of time is very beneficial to toning up the entire body system.
How To Use Essential Oils For Arthritis
Essential oils can be used alone or in combination to naturally treat arthritis. The important thing to note is that the oils be diluted, either in a carrier oil for topical application, or in water for use in an aromatherapy diffuser. Take a look to these recipes to get a good idea of arthritis treatment mixes:
Natural Ointment for Arthritis
- 10 drops Ginger oil
- 10 drops Frankincense oil
- 10 drops Myrrh oil
- 10 drops Orange oil
- 5 drops Rosemary oil
- 4 oz. Sesame oil (untoasted) or your favorite carrier oil.
- Add ingredients to 4oz jar with lid, mixing well. Massage the ointment onto arthritic areas of the body multiple times daily as needed for relief
Aromatherapy Blend for Arthritis
- 2 drops Frankincense oil
- 2 drops Myrrh oil
- 2 drops Orange oil
- Add to your aromatherapy diffuser and diffuse as you lay down for sleep.
- Wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and ready for the new day!
Don’t be afraid to mix things up, experiment, and find what works for you. Not all ointment blends have to have a perfect scent, they just have to be effective! Maybe a recipe which includes more menthol rich oils works for you, or maybe an anti-inflammatory focused oil does the trick. There is no wrong way to treat arthritis with aromatherapy, if it works for one person, then it is the right way (for them, at least). It is most important to listen to your body, and do not be afraid to try new things!
An Important Note
Pure undiluted essential oils are powerful, and should be used sparingly. The risk of reactions and sensitivity to essential oils is generally associated with high levels of use. Always be sure to dilute essential oils, whether take topically or internally, and to do a patch check on the skin before applying to a larger area on a regular basis. Be aware that many essential oils are potent anti-inflammatory substances, and therefore may interact with certain high blood pressure medications. If you have a heart condition, or are pregnant or breastfeeding, or when you first begin using essential oils, contact a qualified natural health care practitioner to be sure they are right for you. Though diluted essential oils are safe for children, check with your health care practitioner before use.