Essential Oils for Soothing Muscle Pain and Soreness

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After a tough workout, you can use essential oils for muscle pain. Aromatherapy—inhaling the scents of the oils, which are extracts from flowers and other plant parts—may ease tired, sore muscles. Add a drop or two of these fragrant oils to a bath soak, massage oil, or compress to soothe achy, sore muscles at home.

Popular Essential Oils for Muscle Pain

These oils can be used individually or blended together. They may help reduce soreness and inflammation.  

  • Basil is used to alleviate feelings of tension. Basil can release spasms and reduce inflammation.
  • Birch has a long history of use for releasing muscle spasms and fighting inflammation to treat sore and tired muscles.
  • Black pepper oil is known for its warming properties as well as analgesic and antimicrobial effects.
  • Chamomile (manzanilla) is calming and may relieve muscle discomfort and aches through its anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties. There are different types of chamomile essential oil. Roman chamomile is believed to relax muscles, while German chamomile is thought to be better for inflammation.
  • Clary sage is said to be useful for relaxing muscle spasms, easing pain, warming and soothing. It is a nerve tonic and is anti-spasmodic.
  • Clove has pain-relieving and immune-stimulating properties. It is also antimicrobial and antiviral.
  • Cypress helps with muscle spasms and is antibacterial.
  • Eucalyptus has antibacterial and lung-protective properties.
  • Ginger oil has warming, digestive, and antiseptic properties; ginger root has other health benefits.
  • Lavender has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Marjoram is relaxing and calming for tight muscles.
  • Peppermint can relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and release spasms.
  • Rosemary is stimulating and can be used for all muscular conditions, including sprains and sore muscles. Rosemary is also anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial.

How to Use Essential Oils for Muscle Pain

When you're using these powerful oils, it's important to know how to do so safely. It also helps to know what to look for when buying essential oils. For sore muscles, essential oils are typically integrated into a topical method for soothing muscle tissue.

  • Add a few drops into a bath. Hot water can help ease sore muscles, and adding some fragrant oils may help to further relax aches. 
  • Put it in a compress. Cold compresses may help with sprains and localized swelling. After adding a few drops of essential oils to cold water, place a clean piece of muslin or cloth into the water, wetting it completely and then wringing it out. 
  • Use it in massage oil. Mix a few drops of essential oils into a carrier oil, like sweet almond oil. When massaging it onto muscles, the heat of your body will warm the oil and release the scent into the air.

Essential oils are highly concentrated, so you only need a few drops with any of these methods.

Essential Oil Recipes

While pre-blended oils for muscles are available, they can also be combined at home. Here is a sample blend for muscle soreness and pain. Essential oils should always be diluted before being applied to the skin. To make a massage oil, you will need a bottle that holds between 4 fluid ounces (1/2 cup or 125 mL) and 8 fluid ounces (1 cup or 250 mL), depending on how much you would like to make.

Ingredients

To make this sample essential oil blend, you will need:

  • An appropriate-sized dark glass bottle with cap
  • Clary sage essential oil (1 drop)
  • Lavender essential oil (4 drops)
  • Massage oil (4 ounces)
  • Peppermint essential oil (3 drops)
  • Roman chamomile essential oil (4 drops)

Add the essential oils to a bottle. Then add the massage oil and cover tightly. Be sure to label the bottle and list the ingredients. Clearly mark that the contents of the bottle are for external use only.

To convert measurements:

  • 1/8 teaspoon = 12.5 drops = 1/48 oz. = approximately 5/8 mL
  • 1/4 teaspoon = 25 drops = 1/24 oz. = approximately 1 1/4 mL
  • 3/4 teaspoon = 75 drops = 1/8 oz. = approximately 3.7 mL
  • 1 teaspoon = 100 drops = 1/6 oz. = approximately 5 mL

Essential Oil Safety

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a health condition, check with your healthcare provider before using essential oils. They shouldn't be used as a substitute for standard care. And even though they are natural, they're quite potent and should be used with care.

While essential oils in baths, massage oil, or compresses may provide some pain relief, it's important to know when to see your healthcare provider. Consult your doctor if you experience any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Bleeding, bruising, or tenderness following an injury
  • Pain that lasts more than several days (without getting better)
  • Redness or swelling
  • Sudden or severe pain
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  2. Ali B, Al-Wabel NA, Shams S, Ahamad A, Khan SA, Anwar F. Essential oils used in aromatherapy: A systemic review. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2015;5(8):601-611. doi:10.1016/j.apjtb.2015.05.007