13 Essential Oils for Muscle Pain and Soreness

How to use essential oils to relieve sore muscles

Woman with sore muscles

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Essential oils are extracts of plants and are used for many aspects of physical and mental wellness, including muscle pain relief. The uses for essential oils are vast, and the historical practice of applying them as medicine goes back thousands of years. Learn more about which essential oils are best for sore muscles.

What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are primarily used for aromatherapy (by inhaling their scents). But other properties of oils can also potentially help relieve or reduce muscle soreness, making them useful for post-workout recovery.

You can use essential oils for sore muscles by adding them to a warm bath, massaging them into the skin, including them in a compress, or inhaling them through a diffuser.

Using Essential Oils for Muscle Pain

To use essential oils for massage, you typically need to dilute them with a carrier oil, as they are highly concentrated and can irritate the skin or lungs. This oil could be any type you have at home, such as olive oil, almond oil, grapeseed oil, or jojoba oil. You can then apply them with a partner or self-massage.

You can also add a few drops of oil to bath salts or baking soda, then add that mixture into a warm bath for additional pain-relieving effects. Alternatively, apply some drops of essential oil to either a hot or cold compress.

Essential Oils to Try

Essential oils for muscle soreness have varying effects. Some are thought to aid in relaxation and relieve tension, while others are thought to work directly on the sore areas to reduce inflammation. More research is necessary for many of the claims made about essential oil use, but the following oils are worth trying, even if just for their wonderful smell.

You can use a single oil, or blend some together to create a unique scent to help relieve muscle soreness and inflammation.


Lavender oil is thought to be anti-inflammatory, pain-reducing, and stress-relieving. It is one of the most popular essential oils, especially as it is associated with sleep and relaxation. Research indicates that inhaling lavender can help with the perception of pain as well as induce a relaxed state that might reduce muscle tension.


Chamomile is another essential oil renowned for its calming effects. It might help relieve muscle aches and soreness due to anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties. Roman chamomile may work best to relax muscles, while the German chamomile variety may fight inflammation.


Eucalyptus oil creates a unique cooling effect when applied to the skin (with a carrier oil). This cooling effect can help reduce the sensation of muscle soreness and pain. Eucalyptus oil may also reduce inflammation, which contributes to muscle soreness. Eucalyptus tea may also offer some anti-inflammatory effects.


Rosemary has a stimulating effect similar to eucalyptus. It is useful for treating sore muscles since it is considered to be pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory.

One study showed that rosemary oil specifically helped reduce markers of inflammation and muscle damage in women experiencing delayed-onset muscle soreness after a workout. Rosemary oil worked better in these study participants than a placebo version.

Additional Oils to Try

According to a meta-analysis on essential oils and pain, several other oils may provide relief for muscle plain:

  • Basil may alleviate tension and reduce inflammation.
  • Birch is used for muscle spasms and inflammation.
  • Black pepper oil is warming and has analgesic and antimicrobial properties.
  • Clary sage may relax muscle spasms, ease pain, and provide warming and soothing effects.
  • Clove is used for pain relief.
  • Cypress may reduce muscle spasms.
  • Ginger is warming and soothing.
  • Marjoram helps with relaxation and calming tense, sore muscles.
  • Peppermint offers pain, inflammation, and muscle spasm relief.

Safety Precautions

Speak to a healthcare provider if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or have a medical condition, as some essential oils are contraindicated during this time. Some oils, for instance, may induce labor, making them unsafe for pregnancy. Others can cross the placenta if the oils are ingested, and are able to reach fetal organs like the heart and brain.

Never use essential oils as a replacement for proper medical care. If you have consistent or intense pain beyond typical post-workout muscle soreness, see a healthcare professional.

It's important to dilute most essential oils in a carrier oil or other substance since they can irritate the skin. Never consume essential oils, as they can cause burning or other potentially dangerous side effects when ingested.

A Word From Verywell

Essential oils may be a useful addition to your post-workout recovery plan. Along with proper nutrition, rest and recovery, and other methods of relief, these oils provide potential muscle relaxing and anti-inflammatory properties. Remember to speak to a healthcare professional if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, on medications, or if your pain goes beyond what is normal for post-workout soreness.

6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.