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7 Soothing Essential Oils to Try for Arthritis

Arthritis can really put a damper on your day, as activities you normally enjoy can be painful when arthritis acts up. If taking meds isn't your thing, reach for these essential oils when painful joints cramp your style.

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“Researchers discovered that ginger affects the pain pathways directly and rather rapidly in most cases, relieving the inflammation, which in itself causes pain,” says Josh Axe, DNM, CNS, DC, founder of, and author of Eat Dirt. Ginger essential oil contains chemicals with analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects and has been shown to help reduce the pain associated with arthritis. “It provides this relief by acting on vanilloid receptors, which are located on sensory nerve endings,” says Dr. Axe. You’ll also want to know these 23 natural remedies for arthritis.

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We know turmeric as a spice is used in curry, but the active ingredient, curcumin, is an effective anti-inflammatory. “Turmeric is highly effective at helping people manage rheumatoid arthritis,” says Dr. Axe. “A recent study out of Japan evaluated its relationship with interleukin (IL)-6, the inflammatory cytokine known to be involved in the rheumatoid arthritis (RA) process, and discovered that curcumin significantly reduced inflammation. This evidence suggests that regular turmeric use could be a powerful way to combat the development of RA,” says Dr. Axe. In addition, turmeric can help with these belly issues.

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You may know of Frankincense oil from the old Christmas carol, “We Three Kings.” Maybe the kings knew more about the benefits of frankincense and myrrh than we thought. We’ll get to myrrh next, but frankincense actually hampers the production of key inflammatory molecules associated with conditions like arthritis and can be helpful in preventing cartilage tissue breakdown. “Frankincense has been shown to significantly reduce levels of inflammation, making it a natural treatment option for pain-related conditions that affect the muscles, joints, and tendons,” says Dr. Axe.

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Myrrh oil also had anti-inflammatory properties, and when it teams up with frankincense, the duo becomes a highly effective treatment for inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis. “A study published in Scientific Reports revealed that frankincense and myrrh, especially when used together, help suppress inflammation and the intensity of joint inflammation,” says Dr. Axe. “Results showed that the individual extract of frankincense or myrrh and combined extracts used to treat groups showed significant differences when compared with the arthritis control group.”

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Who doesn’t love the delightful, citrus scent of an orange? Oranges have a long list of benefits, including being an anti-inflammatory. In addition, a study also showed oranges contained the most antioxidant potential of various essential oils. Dr. Axe says this makes it a great essential oil for arthritis treatment and the delightful citrus scent can give you a happiness boost.

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Create your own blend

Essential oils are very potent. One whiff of your favorite may be pleasant to you but another person may try the same essential oil and plug their nose. It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before using any essential oils. Once you decide to use them, do a skin patch test to see if you have any adverse reactions to it. To create your own blend, you need a carrier oil, which is used to dilute essential oils. Oils such as coconut, almond, olive and jojoba oil are good choices. “The best way to use these oils for arthritis is to apply them topically to the areas of concern. Mix two to three drops of one essential oil (or a combination of 2 oils) with about a teaspoon of coconut oil (or carrier oil of your choice). Then rub the mixture into your skin. You can do this twice a day—in the morning and evening,” says Dr. Axe. If you’re fond of long soaks in the tub, drop four to five drops of oil in your bath water. Create your own therapeutic body wash by adding five to ten drops of essential oil to your body wash and use it in the shower. Whatever application you choose, Dr. Axe recommends you try it twice a day. If you’re new to essential oils, be sure to read this guide first.

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Ready-made blends

Sally Morgan, PT, CST uses Young Living Essentials Oils PanAway, made with wintergreen, clove, gelichrysum, and peppermint essential oils, on her patients and her own joint aches. “It is tremendously effective. I have used it after a hot bath or shower and found it to be even more effective when the pores are open from the heat,” says Morgan. dōTERRA also has a blend called Deep Blue,” a cooling blend of wintergreen, camphor, peppermint, ylang ylang, helichrysum, blue tansy, blue chamomile, and osmanthus. “Deep Blue is a soothing blend that invigorates nerves and helps to reduce inflammation,” says Kari Allen, a Wellness Advocate with dōTERRA.

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According to Advances in Pharmacological Sciences, a review of scientific evidence, one study suggests rosemary extract to reduce inflammation related to pain in a four-week treatment plan for those with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia.

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While essential oils are a natural way to treat arthritis pain, that does not mean they’re safe for everyone to use. “If you have an existing heart condition or you are on blood pressure medications, it’s wise to talk to your doctor before using essential oils at all, even topically,” suggests Dr. Axe. “When the oil seeps into your skin, it sends messages to your brain and causes a bodily response, so the oil is also really powerful when it’s used topically.” Never take essential oils orally without talking to your doctor first. Here’s everything you need to know about using essential oils safely.

Lisa Marie Conklin
Lisa Marie Conklin is a Baltimore-based writer who writes regularly about pets and home improvement for Reader's Digest. Her work has also been published in The Healthy, HealthiNation, The Family Handyman, Taste of Home, and, among other outlets. She's also a certified personal trainer and walking coach for a local senior center. Follow her on Instagram @lisamariewrites4food and Twitter @cornish_conklin.