Treating Arthritis with Essential Oils

by Emily Bowles

For those suffering from arthritis, perhaps the main concerns are joint inflammation, stiffness, and pain. I’ve compiled a list of anti-inflammatory and analgesic roots, flowers, and herbs that offer liberation from these symptoms without side effects. Read through each description and find an oil that resonates with you. One benefit to essential oils is that they bypass the blood brain barrier, which serves as a filter that only allows molecules of a certain size to pass through. Essential oils are made out of small molecules, so they are able to easily pass through straight to the brain.

Oil analgesics have the rare ability to directly enter the blood tissue of the brain because they are fat soluble. From there, by affecting brain function, they provide relief from pain. Medications cannot penetrate the blood brain barrier. Essential oils can also enter the body through the skin and pass through the cell walls to heal at a cellular level. Listed below are some essential oils that have been proven effective in treating arthritis. Included are immune boosting oils for those cases of treating an autoimmune condition like rheumatoid arthritis.

Image by Feliciano Guimarães
  1. Helichrysum is a potent and effective oil that has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. This oil is deeply healing on the nervous system and relieves the pain of arthritis. The flowers of Helichrysum produce chemicals that are antispasmodic (to relax tight muscles and connective tissue), anti-inflammatory, nervine (to benefit the nervous system), and stimulating to cellular regeneration. Helichrysum works by suppressing inflammatory enzymes, salvaging and cleaning up free-radicals, and having corticoid-like effects. As a natural antibiotic and antiviral, it helps to safeguard immunity. It also heals the gut, where a large portion of the immune system exists. It will lower swelling, soothe inflammation, and improve circulation, thereby relieving pain.


  1. Turmeric oil is made from the rhizome or root of the turmeric plant. This panacea has a long history of treating many illnesses, including arthritis, cancer, infectious diseases, musculoskeletal pain, liver disease, and indigestion. Turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It contains so many rich phytochemicals like sesquiterpenes, eucalyptol (a monoterpene, helps to reprogram DNA), alpha-phellandrene, zingiberene. borneol, valeric acid, and curcumenol. The main anti-inflammatory substance in turmeric is alpah-curcumene. It is present in high concentrations. Curcumin is an antioxidant, antimicrobial, antidiabetic, anticancer, and provides protection against nervous system diseases like Alzheimer’s. In at least three studies on osteoarthritis, curcumin was shown to reduce pain, improve function, and minimize reliance on pain medications in two to three months. In two studies of knee osteoarthritis, curcumin kept up with Advil and Motrin. Rheumatoid arthritis also improved with curcumin treatments. One study compared curcumin with the drug diclofenac (Voltaren) and found that curcumin was more effective. Turmeric is also antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiparasitic so it is very beneficial for the immune system.


  1. Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, which adds heat to the pepper but is also a powerful pain reliever. A study on knee osteoarthritis found capsaicin to be effective at reducing pain and improving stiffness and joint function. Capsaicin works by diminishing a neuropeptide found throughout the body called substance P. Substance P acts as a neurotransmitter and neuromodulator, and it sends pain signals to the brain. The skin is first irritated by the application of the warm cayenne oil, and pain signals are released. The substance P slows down as the pain signals are depleted. By first stimulating then decreasing the nerve’s supply of substance P, the body experiences relief from the pain response. Cayenne also contains antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and flavonoids. It is a natural anti-inflammatory (while healing the stomach!) and anti-irritant.


  1. Lavender has been known to instantly relieve pain, sometimes just by inhaling the calming, penetrating scent. There are a myriad of uses for lavender, it being a very versatile oil. Lavender is made famous by its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, perfect for treating arthritis symptoms. Lavender provides oxygenation and circulation for inflamed joints. It inhibits the body’s production of nitric oxide, which are inflammatory causing compounds. In clinical trials, lavender kept up with some pharmaceuticals by being just as effective at healing pain. Lavender also has a sedating effect that treats nervous tension. The antimicrobial and antioxidant properties in lavender make it excellent for cleansing skin and treating wounds, and to strengthen and protect the immune system.


  1. Tea tree oil treats many ailments including coughs and colds, sore throats, asthma, allergies, athlete’s foot, dandruff, cold sores, acne, other skin conditions, infections, and wounds. Its properties include antifungal, antiseptic, anti-infectious, antiviral, bactericidal, balsamic, cicatrizant, diaphoretic, expectorant, fungicidal, anti-inflammatory, immunostimulant, parasiticide, and vulnerary. Tea tree works for arthritis by penetrating and desensitizing irritated nerve endings. The anti-inflammatory properties in tea tree oil come from the component terpinene-4-ol, a terpene that helps to reduce swelling. Terpinen-4-ol is also a stimulant, increasing circulation and the rate of tissue and cell regeneration. Tea tree oil decreases nitric oxide in the body, helping to reduce inflammation. It’s is an immunostimulant, meaning that it can stimulate the immune system by inducing activation, or increasing activity of any of its elements.


  1. Lemongrass oil tones body muscles, relieves depression, soothes tired and achy legs, and eliminates lactic acid. Lemongrass is a nitric oxide inhibitor, tonic, diuretic, carminative, sedative, an insect repellent, antiseptic, astringent, antifungal, antibacterial, antidepressant, antipyretic, and anti-inflammatory. The analgesic properties of lemongrass make it successful at treating joint pain. Phytonutrients from the plant aid in circulation and relieving muscle spasms, cramps, and aches. Cytokines, which are proteins secreted by certain cells, regulate the inflammatory response by interacting with cells of the immune system. Lemongrass contains a compound, Citral, a mixture of terpenoids, that can inhibit cytokine production, thus reducing the immune system’s inflammatory response. The aroma of lemongrass invokes concentration and an uplifted mood. It will keep the air and body clear of unwanted microorganisms and pests.


  1. Myrrh is an antirheumatic substance, meaning it suppresses the manifestation of the rheumatic disease, like rheumatoid arthritis. It’s antispasmodic, so it can soothe muscle spasms. Myrhh is also a cox2 inhibitor, similar to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen. Cox2 is an enzyme responsible for inflammation and pain, and myrrh inhibits its production. Its diaphoretic properties increase sweating and help to expel toxins, salt, and excess water from the body. Eliminating toxins and reducing inflammation are two ways that myrrh treats arthritis. Myrrh also has antiseptic, antitumor, antiparasitic, antioxidant, anesthetic, and wound healing properties. It enhances the immune system by increasing the body’s nutrient absorption capacity. Myrrh has been proven to fight against free radical damage.


  1. Cypress is another antirheumatic, a fighter of rheumatism, and it’s anti-arthritic. It’s also an antispasmodic and natural muscle relaxer, effective at curing all spasms including muscular spasms in the limbs. Cypress is excellent at improving circulation by enlivening blood flow, thereby easing the pain. Combined with its analgesic properties, cypress is a good choice for treating arthritis. A closer look at the constituents of cypress reveals alpha pinene, which is an anti-inflammatory terpene, a decongestant, and nootropic (improves memory function). Myrcene is a monoterpene contained in cypress that is strongly anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and sedative. Cypress also contains astringent, antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial, deodorant, diuretic, hemostatic, styptic, hepatic, sudorific, tonic, vasoconstricting, antioxidant, and sedating properties.


  1. Rosemary soothes pain because of its antinociceptive, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antirheumatic attributes. Anti-nociception is the process of blocking the detection of the painful stimulus by sensory neurons. This reduces the sensitivity to pain traveling through nerves to the brain. The compounds present in rosemary are alpha pinene, a powerful anti-inflammatory, and anti-pathogen nutrient. Camphor is sharp and cool and provides relief from pain. Myrcene is also included in rosemary oil and is anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and sedative. Rosemary oil has nervine properties, which have beneficial effects on the nervous system. Rosemary is also an anti-epileptic (calms seizures), and an expectorant (removes phlegm). It improves blood circulation, lowers blood pressure, and relieves anxiety and nervousness. The anti-edema properties of rosemary reduce swelling. The smell of rosemary is awakening, yet relaxing.


  1. Peppermint essential oil has a unique quality. It is a refrigerant. When applied topically, it produces a deep, cooling sensation. This cold sensation can minimize swelling, like an ice pack. Peppermint contains menthol and eucalyptol, which are anti-inflammatory. Menthone is another component of peppermint that is an analgesic. It also has anti-spasmodic (for muscle spasms) and other pain killing properties. Peppermint oil is also a powerful antiseptic and antibacterial and can help the immune system by warding off harmful microorganisms. It is known as a cephalic oil, for its ability to clear the head and promote sharp thinking. The stimulating effect of peppermint oil increases blood circulation. Known as a tonic, peppermint increases blood flow and releases built up toxins in the body.

Emily Bowles is a Yoga Alliance certified Hatha yoga instructor—currently living and teaching in Northern California. She is a Reiki level II practitioner and essential oil wellness advocate, engaged in daily healing and self-liberation. She is about to release her first children’s book, and currently studying pre-med sciences to become a naturopathic physician. Emily maintains a personal piyo, core power, and yin yoga practice, believing that all things are possible—yoga being the dance, the lifestyle, and the vehicle that bridges us closer together, to our higher selves, and to home. She wants to remind you that you must never give up. Your dreams are alive within, waiting on you to manifest the courage and make them real. Her website link: ॐ

2 thoughts on “Treating Arthritis with Essential Oils

  • September 4, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    Thank you for the excellent descriptions of the properties of essential oils and how they work. I learned some new things and will be trying some new remedies to treat my rheumatoid arthritis, thanks to your fine article.

    • September 5, 2017 at 7:17 pm

      You are most welcome.
      Stay in touch..!! Blessings


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