How Essential Oils Can Help Inflammation
How Essential Oils Can Help Inflammation

How Essential Oils Can Help Inflammation

By Nyssa Hanger, MA, LMT, RYT
April 1, 2019

How Essential Oils Can Help Inflammation

By Nyssa Hanger, MA, LMT, RYT
April 1, 2019

Inflammation has become a buzzword in the health and wellness industry, and for good reason. So many health conditions include inflammation as either a symptom or cause. Of course, many of our clients are finding through experience that inflammation makes their already painful musculoskeletal issues worse, and they’re looking for ways to better deal with the issue.

A number my clients have indicated adopting an anti-inflammatory diet has helped. Still, whether or not clients are addressing inflammation in their bodies outside of the treatment room, there are things we can do in our sessions to help.

What Is Inflammation?

Inflammation occurs for a few different reasons. If the body is injured, as in the case of a muscle strain or sprain, the body will increase inflammation to address the issue. Inflammation means there is an increase in lymph and white blood cells to the affected area—it’s our body’s way of repairing broken tissue.

Of course, in some instances, this response is appropriate. But, the body also has a tendency to overprotect, which means in some cases inflammation can be the cause of discomfort in muscle tissues and can limit range of motion, or put pressure on a nerve that, resulting in pain.

Helping Inflammation with Essential Oils

The easiest way to incorporate essential oils with clients looking for help with inflammation is to use them topically in a massage blend. A typical dilution percentage for this is 2.5 percent or 15 drops of essential oil per ounce of oil, lotion or cream. Some massage lubricants are already scented, but I like to blend mine myself because then I know exactly what's in it. What’s more, I can change and adjust the blend to meet the needs and preferences of the client.

In general, including anti-inflammatory essential oils in your massage blend is simple and easy, and it’s something that can be used with practically every client (unless they are sensitive to scent; always remember to keep unscented oil on-hand to use with these clients).

Here are some of my favorite anti-inflammatories for massage blends.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): This calming and universally appealing essential oil is good for many things, including inflammation. It can be used on its own, but it’s also nice when combined with oils.

Frankincense (Boswellia carterii): Frankincense has become more widely used and requested in recent years, but the resin of this plant has been burned in religious ceremonies and used in herbal medicine for thousands of years. The essential oil is calming to the mind and is great for inflamed joints.

Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha): This oil pairs so nicely with frankincense and lavender (see recipe). I’m surprised it’s not talked about more! Myrrh, like frankincense, comes from the resin—called “gum resin”—of trees from the Middle East. Some people believe the resin was the first chewing gum, as it can also help inflamed gum tissue. For us, we can enjoy the essential oil in a grounding massage oil.

Blue Tansy (Tanacetum annuum): Not to be confused with tansy (tanacetum vulgare), which is toxic, blue tansy is a deep blue essential oil. Our blue oils tend to counteract the redness of inflammation and can be particularly helpful with bruising. Blue tansy has strong floral notes with a hint of vanilla. Adding a small amount can enhance your therapeutic sessions by calming the tissues and creating a delightful aroma.

Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus): For those with clogged sinuses or who are prone to allergies, eucalyptus can bring some welcome relief to the respiratory passages. Additionally, this oil can also be wonderful for the muscles. Eucalyptus can be combined with any of the other oils listed here. Just add it slowly, as its aroma may overpower the others.

Of course, these are just a few of many oils that can be used. The best approach is to use two or three that you know well, as well as talking with your client about the goals they have for the massage session and what they like best!

For many years, I used the blend below with almost every massage. It was calming, soothing, and helped relieve pain and inflammation.

Add the following to one ounce of carrier oil, lotion or cream:

7 drops of lavender

4 drops of myrrh

4 drops of frankincense

Of course, the wonderful thing about essential oils is that you can experiment to find out what works best for your clients. You might try adding blue tansy or eucalyptus and making your own recipe!

Remember to write down what you do so you can make it again, and don’t forget to ask your clients what they think and feel. Regular clients tend to appreciate when you try new scents, and new clients will be delighted by a massage that has a unique aroma and also gives them the relief they are looking for.