Important Oils for Rheumatoid Arthritis

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Essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts in oil form. They’re rich in nutrients and minerals that can help relieve symptoms in people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic autoimmune disease that causes joint pain and inflammation.

When combined with traditional medical treatments, research suggests that compounds in certain essential oils can help relieve the pain, swelling, and stiffness associated with RA.

Although essential oils do not stop the progression of a disease like RA, their potential benefits can be experienced in three ways:

  • Inhaled (known as aromatherapy)
  • Applied topically to the skin
  • Ingested by the diet

For people with RA, topical application of essential oils can be particularly effective. This means that the oil is massaged onto the skin wherever joint pain occurs..For this purpose, experts recommend adding 10 to 15 drops of essential oil in 1 ounce (1 tablespoon) of something called a carrier oil, such as coconut, almond, olive, argan, or jojoba oil.

Diluting your essential oil in a carrier oil makes it easier to absorb and protects your skin from irritation. Undiluted essential oils are powerful and can cause skin irritation and sometimes sensitivity to the sun...

Certain essential oils can cause skin reactions in some people. Always test the diluted oil blend on a small patch of skin before applying it to larger areas.

lavender

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is one of the most widely used essential oils, touted for its ability to promote relaxation and restful sleep. But it has also shown anti-inflammatory effects that appear to help directly with chronic joint pain, making it a solid candidate for people with RA.

In a 2016 study of RA patients, pain and fatigue improved significantly after lavender essential oil (combined with some other oils) was massaged into the knee joints..The calming effects of this oil can also be beneficial for RA patients, who sometimes suffer from anxiety and chronic pain...

To try it out. Experts recommend mixing 20 drops of the essential oil for every 6 teaspoons of carrier oil...

ginger

Thanks to a compound called gingerol, ginger essential oil (Zingiber officinale) has powerful anti-inflammatory and pain relieving effects. In particular, according to recent research, ginger appears to reduce RA-related inflammation by regulating inflammatory gene expression...

Studies in animals and humans have shown that topical application of ginger essential oil reduces chronic joint inflammation and provides pain relief in people with RA and arthritis...

For this essential oil, add two to three drops to 1 tablespoon of carrier oil and apply to the affected areas a few times a week...

turmeric

A relative of ginger, turmeric (Curcuma longa) has been used in healing methods for thousands of years, known for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Modern research suggests that its active ingredient curcumin reduces inflammation and stimulates blood circulation. It has even been reported to relieve pain as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in people with RA.....

While you can apply turmeric essential oil topically to the affected areas, you may also want to try adding the spice into your diet or supplementation routine. The Arthritis Foundation recommends starting on 500 milligrams (mg) twice a day...

incense

References to frankincense essential oil (Boswellia serrata) date back to Biblical times, but it can be a potentially effective anti-inflammatory agent for symptoms of arthritis..Scientists are studying how frankincense – especially when combined with myrrh essential oil (Commiphora myrrha) – can be particularly useful for reducing joint inflammation...

While people with RA can try this essential oil topically on areas of skin around painful joints, the Arthritis Foundation also suggests ingesting frankincense via capsules and limiting the dose to 300-400 milligrams (mg) daily...

Frankincense essential oil can interact with some medications – including ibuprofen – and cause side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, and heartburn. It is not recommended for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding...

eucalyptus

You may recognize eucalyptus essential oil (Eucalyptus globulus) by its ability to help with respiratory symptoms. But it also contains compounds that are anti-inflammatory and reduce swelling and pain – great for people with RA. A 2013 study found that inhaling eucalyptus oil after knee replacement surgery helped reduce pain in arthritis sufferers...

While eucalyptus oil can be diluted and applied topically to the affected areas, you can also try adding several drops to a bowl of hot water and inhaling the steam for a calming effect.

Bergamot

Research on bergamot essential oils (Citrus bergamia) shows that it can reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and improve positive mood – all of which can be helpful for people with RA.

Studies suggest that compounds found in bergamot, in addition to their anti-inflammatory properties, when applied to the skin, have a positive effect on pain response in humans and animals...

Experts recommend mixing two to three drops of bergamot essential oil with 1 ounce of carrier oil for topical use.

basil

The basil essential oil (Ocimum basilicum) is most commonly considered to be used in food, but it actually contains compounds that can relieve muscle pain, reduce inflammation, and control the nervous system.

More research is needed, although a 2013 study found that a daily dose of 150 to 300 milligrams (mg) of basil essential oil extract resulted in decreased joint swelling and edema (fluid retention associated with inflammation)...

It seems that this essential oil works best when ingested. The Arthritis Foundation recommends adding it to the diet to improve mood and relieve pain...

orange

Chances are you’ve come across sweet orange essential oil (Citrus sinensis) in detergents or food flavors. However, preliminary studies also show its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and antidepressant properties after finding that patients’ bone pain decreased significantly after inhaling the oil...

For arthritic pain, massage one to two drops of diluted orange essential oil into the skin for every two teaspoons of carrier oil. Or add it to your bath for an overall uplifting effect.

Citrus essential oils like orange and bergamot can cause sensitivity to the sun. To avoid a possible reaction, try to avoid the sun for 72 hours after applying it to your skin...

A word from Verywell

Note that essential oils are not regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). So try to choose pure essential oils and avoid artificial smells. You may also want to use an essential oil diffuser, which is used to disperse essential oils into the surrounding air.

When used as directed, essential oils typically have few side effects and risks, but can be toxic if ingested or misused. It is a good idea to check with your doctor before adding essential oils to your routine, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.