10 Incredible Essential Oils For Arthritis

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Arthritis is a broad term that encompasses more than 100 different conditions affecting the joints, from inflammatory joint pain to joint disorders and disease. Using essential oils for arthritis is an easy approach, as many essential oils possess powerful anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, analgesic, anti-spasmodic, relaxant, and antioxidant components that can help address both the symptoms and the cause of arthritis.

Most commonly characterized by pain and swelling in the joints of the hands, arms, and legs, this group of conditions is the leading cause of disability in most parts of the world. In the United States alone, more than 50 million people are affected by some form of arthritis. The majority of arthritis comes in the form of osteoarthritis, although rheumatoid, infectious, inflammatory, and metabolic arthritis are also relatively common variants. Symptoms typically include pain and inflammation, reduced range of motion, difficulty walking or using your hands, stiffness and permanent changes to the physical appearance of the joints. To counter these symptoms, essential oil for arthritis is a popular treatment strategy.

Arthritis can be caused by the natural aging process, a gradual wearing away of the tissues surrounding the joints, environmental and genetic factors (rheumatoid arthritis), high levels of uric acid, nutrient deficiency, low bone mineral density, or various viral and bacterial infections. With such a large range of arthritis types and a diverse list of causes, arthritis treatment must be customized based on specific symptoms and underlying causes. [1]

List of Essential Oils For Arthritis

The most popular essential oils for arthritis include ginger, lavender, black pepper, orange, peppermint, lemongrass, eucalyptus, cayenne pepper, frankincense and turmeric oils.

Close-up of bottles of essential oil, citrus fruits, flowers, and a diffuser

Essential oils have many uses outside aromatherapy. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Black Pepper Oil

For a quick and effective remedy, black pepper oil can act as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic substance, which can increase blood flow to the joints, reduce stiffness and pain, and improve range of motion. [2]

How to Use – Due to how strong and potentially irritating black pepper oil can be, mix a few drops into a carrier oil, such as almond oil or jojoba oil, and then topically apply it to the affected area.

Orange Oil

Some elements of arthritis come from an overactive immune system that sends inflammatory molecules to the joints. Orange oil is not only a powerful antioxidant but has also been shown to disrupt certain inflammatory molecules, such as cytokines, which reduces painful inflammation, particularly in rheumatoid arthritis patients. [3]

How to Use – While topical applications do work for orange oil, many people prefer to mix this oil into warm water or tea (just a few drops) in order to benefit from the inside out, as this helps to regulate the immune system.

Peppermint Oil

Boasting soothing, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory compounds, peppermint oil is a great choice for people suffering from chronic arthritis pain. It is also relatively inexpensive and non-irritating, so people can use it frequently, if necessary. [4]

How to Use – One of the few essential oils that don’t irritate the skin in its pure form, you can rub a few drops of peppermint oil on the site of your arthritis pain for relief. Massage it gently over your joints and let it absorb fully.

Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptol is the notable active ingredient in this essential oil, and research has shown it to have potent anti-inflammatory properties, along with a number of other powerful components that can prevent infections and boost healing. [5]

How to Use – It is best to blend eucalyptus oil with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil or jojoba oil, before applying directly to the sites of pain and inflammation. Some people will apply the oil in an undiluted form, but it is known to cause skin irritation in those with sensitive skin.

Cayenne Pepper Oil

The active ingredient in cayenne pepper oil is capsaicin, and while hot peppers might cause your mouth to burn, the active ingredient is able to relieve inflammation in the joints, while also soothing pain. By blocking certain neurotransmitters for pain, capsaicin is a very popular option for people with chronic arthritis symptoms. [6]

How to Use – Regularly apply 3-5 drops of cayenne pepper oil, mixed with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil, directly onto the painful areas on your joints and skin. If you do this for a few weeks, you should be able to protect yourself against pain and inflammation for at least a month.

Ginger Oil

Ginger is packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, and the essential oil of ginger is an even more concentrated form. It can effectively lower inflammation and swelling, which can increase a range of motion, while also providing some pain relief to the affected areas. [7]

How to Use – It is best to dilute the ginger oil in a carrier oil, such as olive oil or almond oil, and then topically apply it to the site of your pain. You can then apply a warm compressor or towel to the area to promote healing and blood flow.

Lemongrass Oil

Rheumatoid arthritis is often exacerbated by excess fluid in the tissues and tendons around certain joints, which makes it difficult and painful to move. Lemongrass oil has astringent and diuretic properties, so when applied to these swollen joints, it can help eliminate that excess liquid and improve your range of motion. [8]

How to Use – Diluted forms of lemongrass oil can be applied directly to the joints, although in many traditional treatments, lemongrass oil was added to steaming water and the aching joint was held over the mixture, allowing the steam to soak directly into the skin.

Turmeric Oil

Boasting its powerful active ingredient, curcumin, turmeric oil is able to directly counter inflammation around the joints. Studies have linked lower pro-inflammatory cytokine levels to elevated amounts of curcumin in the bloodstream, making this one of the best essential oils for arthritis. [9]

How to Use – For internal use, simply mix a few drops of turmeric oil into your tea, or even sprinkle it on your food. This is one of the more powerful essential oils, so it should always be diluted in some way. Topical applications in a carrier oil are also effective at the site of pain.

Frankincense Oil

Research has shown that frankincense can have protective properties for the cartilage in our joints and around our bones, mainly due to the antioxidants and sesquiterpenes found in this oil. By preventing this breakdown of cartilage, it ensures that the bones won’t grind against one another – one of the main causes/symptoms of arthritis. [10]

How to Use – As with most of these arthritis remedies, frankincense oil can be applied topically to the affected area, but it is best to blend 5-6 drops with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil to prevent irritation of the skin.

Lavender Oil

This oil not only helps counter the symptoms of arthritis like pain and inflammation but can also help to relieve muscle aches and tension, helping people fall asleep without being interrupted by arthritic discomfort. [11]

How to Use – Apply a few drops to the hands and feet before you go to bed, or directly apply the oil to the inflamed areas or joints. In most cases, lavender oil can be used without being diluted, although people with sensitive skin may want to consider using a carrier oil.

Word of Caution

If you choose to use essential oils for arthritis symptoms, you will often see rapid results and improvement in your condition. However, many of these essential oils are potent and powerful substances, which can cause skin inflammation, gastrointestinal distress, allergic reactions, and a number of other unwanted side effects. Each essential oil has different active ingredients and may interact with your system in different ways. Speak to a doctor before using essential oils for arthritis, particularly if you are considering the use of oils that can be consumed for internal effects. If any negative side effects occur, discontinue the use of oil immediately.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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