Using essential oils for pain relief
I recently came across some disturbing statistics showing that approximately 1 in 4 Americans suffer from or experience chronic pain. The figures for Australia are about 1 in 5 who suffer from chronic pain.  When I speak of chronic pain (also referred to as persistent pain), I’m talking about pain that is being experienced on a day by day basis for at least 3 months.  The economic costs have been estimated as high as $225 billion a year for the U.S. and for Australia I’ve seen figures of $35 billion a year.
If we add to this the problems that come with the typical medical response to pain – painkillers – we have a truly tragic health and social crisis. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1999, more than 16,500 people died as a result of prescription NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs), while 107,000 were hospitalized as a result of these drugs. NSAIDs are also available in non-prescription forms. Some of these may be familiar to you: Aspirin, Advil, Ibuprofen, Motrin, Tylenol. Ultimately what is needed is pain relief from the pain created by these pain-killers. The last resort are narcotics such as codeine, morphine, oxycodone and meperidine in order to deal with what has been created by NSAIDs.
Essential oils can provide pain relief without the side-effects associated with pain-killing medications.
The following 10 essential oils have emerged consistently in research and traditional use. Many of these have both constituents that induce a calming effect as well as biochemicals that stimulate; and interestingly all of these oils have an anti-inflammatory component which suggests a link between pain and inflammation.
Balsam Fir. Since biblical times this oil, which has anti-inflammatory qualities, has been used for muscular and rheumatic pain. It has been found to be effective in soothing tired muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints.
Safety Data: Can irritate sensitive skin. Avoid direct sunlight for 3 to 6 hours after use.
Blend Classification: Equalizer.
Blends With: German chamomile, cedarwood, cypress, frankincense, juniper, lavender, lemon, myrtle, pine, sandalwood, and rosewood.
Odor: Type:: Middle Note (50-80% of the blend); Scent: Fresh, clean, green, balsamic, coniferous, sweet.
Clove. Clove is one of the highest anti-oxidants known to Man. It is claimed that Clove was used as part of the “Four Thieves Vinegar” by bandits during the plagues of the 15th century. It has been used to minimize pain in teeth and gums, and in fact is approved as a dental anesthetic by the American Dental Association. Upon application it produces an immediate numbing effect on sensitive areas. The key constituent in Clove is Eugenol.
Blend classification: Personifier
Blends well with: Bergamot, cedarwood, citrus oils, cypress, geranium, juniper, and sandalwood
Odor: Type: Middle to Base Notes (5-60% of the blend); scent: Herbaceous, spicy, hay-like sharp, fixative;
Safety Data: Use with caution during pregnancy. Not for babies. Avoid during and after consumption of alcohol. Its anticoagulant properties can be enhanced when used with medications such as Warfarin and Aspirin.
Copaiba (Copal). I first wrote about Copaiba in my post Essential oils of the Amazon. It’s an oil that is produced from the resin of a tree, that only grows in Central and South America. The ancient Mesoamerican cultures considered it a spiritual oil burning it in a similar fashion to incense; but also used it for toothaches, rheumatism and infections. It’s very high in a compound called Beta-caryophyllene which has anesthetic properties.
Helichrysum. Helichrysum supports nerve regeneration and in addition to being anti-viral and detoxifying it has anti-spasmodic and anesthetic qualities. World production of this oil is fairly small and as a consequence it is quite expensive. However a good pain blend should include this oil.
Blend Classification: Personifier,
Blends With: Geranium, clary sage, rose, lavender, spice oils, and citrus oils.
Odor: Type: Middle Note (50-80% of the blend);Scent: Rich, sweet, fruity, with tea and honey undertones.
Lavender. Lavender is excellent for skin tissue regeneration when healing a wound, particularly one caused by burns. Whilst it has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, it also increases mental acuity. See my post 20 Ways to use Lavender oil, for more information on this essential oil.
Blend Classification: Enhancer, Modifier, and Equalizer
Blends With: Most oils, especially citrus oils, chamomile clary sage and geranium
Odor: Type: Middle Note (50-80% of the blend) Scent: Floral, sweet herbaceous, balsamic, woody undertones.
Marjoram. Records of Marjoram’s use go back over 2000 years. It was known as the “herb of happiness” to the ancient Romans. It has properties that make it soothing to both muscles and the digestive tract. It also has sedative properties (which might explain why it was the “herb of happiness” to the Romans).
Safety Data: Use with caution during pregnancy.
Blend Classification: Enhancer and Equalizer.
Blends With: Bergamot, cedarwood, chamomile, cypress, lavender, orange, nutmeg’ rosemary, rosewood and ylang ylang.
Odor: Type: Middle Note (50-80% of the blend); Scent: Herbaceous, green, spicy
Nutmeg. Nutmeg is also a potent anti-inflammatory oil. It also has analgesic, muscle-relaxing and stomach protectant (ulcers) properties. It is commonly used for rheumatism/arthritis, hypertension, digestive disorders, nerve pain and fatigue. It stimulates the adrenal glands providing the body with increased energy.
Safety Data: Not for use by people with epilepsy. Use with caution during pregnancy. If over-used (several undiluted drops at once), it may cause mental discomfort or delirium and convulsions and could
overstimulate the heart. Dilute well or use a single undiluted drop then wait for a period of time.
Blend Classification: Personifier.
Blends With: Cinnamon bark, clove, cypress, frankincense, lemon, orange, patchouli, rosemary, melaleuca and melissa.
Odor: Type: Middle Note (50-80% of the blend); Scent: Sweet, musky, spicy
Peppermint. Having a high menthol content gives peppermint a cool, soothing effect on inflammation and it works well on bruises and other external wounds. It also works very well for headaches by rubbing 2-3 drops on the temples (be mindful you don’t get it in your eyes – if you do apply some olive oil or almond oil, NOT water) or on the back of the neck. Peppermint is also potent when you are suffering nausea or stomach discomfort. Just apply a few drops to some water and drink or even apply it directly to the abdomen area.
Safety data: Use with caution if dealing with high blood pressure and during pregnancy.
Blend Classification: Personifier
Odor: Type: Middle Note (50-80% of the blend); Scent: Minty, sharp and intense
Rosemary. Like Clove, Rosemary is reputed to be one of the oils used to make “Four Thieves Vinegar” that bandits used to protect themselves from the plague in 15th century France. Rosemary has compounds that give it analgesic and anesthetic properties and inhaling rosemary will boost one’s alertness and ease anxiety.
Safety Data: Avoid using during pregnancy. Not for use by people with epilepsy and avoid if dealing with high blood pressure.
Blend Classification: Enhancer.
Blends With: Basil, cedarwood, frankincense, lavender, peppermint, rosewood, eucalyptus, marjoram, pine.
Odor: Type: Middle Note (50-80% of the blend); Scent: Herbaceous, strong camphorous, with woody-balsamic and evergreen undertones.
Wintergreen. Wintergreen is frequently used in liniments and ointments for muscular aches and pains and is considered one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory essential oils. One of its compounds, Methyl Salicylate is now widely synthesized and used in products like toothpaste. So if making use of wintergreen, ensure you’re using a therapeutic grade essential oil and not a synthetic one.
Safety Data: Avoid during pregnancy. Not for use by people with epilepsy. Also some people are very allergic to methyl salicylate. Test a small area of skin first for allergies.
Blend Classification: Personifier and Enhancer
Blends with: Basil, bergamot, chamomile, cypress, geranium, juniper lavender, lemongrass, marjoram, peppermint and rosewood.
Till next time,
Disclaimer: Please remember that anything discussed here does not
constitute medical advice and cannot substitute for appropriate medical care. Where essential oils are mentioned, it’s recommended you use only pure, unadulterated therapeutic grade essential oils and follow the safety directions of the manufacturer.
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Australian General Practice Statistics and Classification Centre. SAND abstract 82 from the BEACH program 2005–06: prevalence and management of chronic pain. Sydney: AGPSCC University of Sydney, 2006.
 Britt H, Miller G, Knox S, et al. General practice activity in Australia 2004–05, 2005.
 The high price of pain: the economic impact of persistent pain in Australia. MBF Foundation in collaboration with University of Sydney Pain Management Research Institute. 2007
 Wolfe, M, M.D. et al, The New England Journal of Medicine, “US Mortality Data for Seven Selected Disorders in 1997”, June 17 1999, Vol 340, No.24, pp.1888-1889
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