Known for its anti-inflammatory properties (amongst other things), ginger is a proven essential oil for arthritis. An analgesic as well, a 2001 study found that ginger extract had a significant effect on reducing knee pain resulting from osteoarthritis. (3) A study of ginger essential oil’s effects on rheumatoid arthritis was equally positive since the oil prevented chronic joint inflammation. (4) You can find a recipe for a ginger compress to relieve arthritis pain here.
Curcumin, a phytochemical in turmeric, is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Rheumatoid arthritis is a debilitating condition in which joints are chronically swollen, causing pain and disfigurement. Turmeric is an exceptional essential oil for swelling, not only because it reduces inflammation but it is a potent antioxidant and pain-blocker. (5) Click here for details on turmeric and how to use it for inflammation and pain relief.
A resin from the Boswellia plant, frankincense is a herb used as a natural remedy for inflammation for millennia. It is one of the especially effective essential oils for inflammation and joint pain, including arthritis. With analgesic and anti-depressant properties, frankincense can also kill cancer cells—even those resistant to chemotherapy. Use it topically (mixed in a carrier oil) or internally, as a few drops mixed in warm water.
In the same family as frankincense with similar properties. A 2015 study combined frankincense and myrrh for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, “in order to obtain a synergistic effect for relieving pain and activating blood circulation, and especially to treat inflammatory diseases”. Researchers found that the combination was more effective at reducing joint inflammation than either extract alone. In addition, these essential oils contain bioactive compounds that blocked pre-inflammation signaling pathways to prevent swelling. (6) Myrrh is antiseptic and soothing—also good for tooth and gum pain.
Orange oil significantly inhibits the expression of genes involved in inflammatory response. It also has the ability to stop the cellular signaling that tells your body to swell.
“The limitation of current anti-inflammatory therapies is widely acknowledged and evident in the continuous efforts in the pharmaceutical industry to develop drugs targeting specific steps in the inflammatory cascade. Natural products have the potential to fill this therapeutic gap addressing the complexity in the inflammatory cascade thereby reducing side effects and compensatory reactions requiring secondary treatment. Orange peel is rich in flavonoids [antioxidants] including methylated derivatives such as poly methoxy flavones (PMFs). PMFs have been shown to exhibit strong anti-inflammatory effects both at the level of gene expression and enzyme activity,” write a 2014 study published in Food Science and Human Wellness (7)
Mixed with a carrier oil, orange oil can be rubbed on the affected area to relieve inflammatory pain.
Carvacrol is a phytochemical in thyme that inhibits an enzyme in the body (COX-2) that contributes to inflammation. A study of six essential oils for swelling found that thyme suppressed COX-2 activity more than the others—by almost 75%. (8) Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) work in the same way. The problem with NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen is that, with frequent use, they can damage the liver and stomach. Additionally, thymol, a compound in thyme, has the ability to kill cancer cells.
Mix thyme with a carrier oil (4 drops per tablespoon of carrier) and rub this essential oil for sore muscles directly on the site of pain for quick relief. Thyme oil easily penetrates the skin to get to the muscles underneath.