6 Essential Oils Scientifically Proven to Help Arthritis

The joint pain, the swelling, and the stiffness that come with rheumatoid arthritis make living with the condition a painful struggle. And because rheumatoid arthritis is, sadly, a chronic and incurable disease, at least for now, sufferers are forced to live with the condition for years and decades, and experience many life limitations brought about by the condition. Learn more about the basics of rheumatoid arthritis in our previous article titled Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Basic Facts.
If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, you are most likely already taking medications prescribed by your doctor that help with the pain and inflammation. But there are also several effective and safe complementary treatments that can further help improve the symptoms of the condition, and one of the most widely accepted and effective ones is the use of essential oils. Not all essential oils can help with arthritis, as each of these oils is made of a different herb, bark, or root, and you need to seek out the ones with the most powerful anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and swelling-reducing properties to experience any potential benefits.
Below, we have listed 6 essential oils that have all of the above-mentioned properties for your convenience. These oils have been used to treat arthritis for a long time and they also have scientific evidence to back up their effectiveness.

1. Eucalyptus Oil

Essential Oils for Rheumatoid Arthritis Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus oil is derived from the leaves of Australian eucalyptus trees, the very same trees koalas munch on. The essential oil has a strong herbal smell that's known to cut through a clogged-up nose and ease a cough. More importantly for our purposes, though, the oil also has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and a pain-relieving effect, which is why eucalyptus oil is also used to disinfect wounds and improve joint pain. It is also believed that the oil may help improve blood circulation.

A study from 2013 that involved patients who recently had knee replacement surgery found that inhaling eucalyptus oil for half an hour for just 3 days in a row yielded a marked reduction in pain, inflammation, and blood pressure.

How to use eucalyptus oil for arthritis:

There are several ways you can use eucalyptus oil, the simplest one probably being just to add in a few drops of the oil before taking a warm bath. You can also try inhaling or rubbing diluted eucalyptus oil in a carrier oil (e.g. almond oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil) directly onto the skin.

2. Evening Primrose Oil

Essential Oils for Rheumatoid Arthritis Evening Primrose Oil

Evening primrose oil has several health benefits, most of which are linked to the oil's anti-inflammatory properties. The oil is made from the common evening-primrose flower (Oenothera biennis) and has a bright yellow hue, as well as a distinctly oily smell. Researchers have found that the essential oil contains a type of fat called gamma-linoleic acid (GLA), which the human body converts into anti-inflammatory agents. In addition, evening primrose oil contains another anti-inflammatory compound called beta-amyrin. 

When it comes to arthritis symptoms specifically, evening primrose oil aids in reducing the joint pain, stiffness, and tenderness associated with the condition.

How to use evening primrose oil for arthritis:

Evening primrose oil is one of the rare essential oils you can ingest, and it's commonly sold in 500mg capsules. According to the Arthritis Foundation, rheumatoid arthritis sufferers can take between 540 mg to 2.8 g of the oil daily in divided doses. They also add that it usually takes about 6 months of treatment for you to see an improvement.

3. Ginger Oil

Essential Oils for Rheumatoid Arthritis Ginger Oil

The anti-inflammatory properties of ginger are widely known, and so it's little surprise that patients with chronic inflammatory conditions like arthritis are advised to take ginger. Another way you can get a concentrated dose of ginger is through ginger oil, which has shown to have pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.

A study from 2001 looked at the effect of ginger extract on arthritis-related knee pain, and participants reported a reduction in pain and ended up using painkillers less than the placebo group over time.

How to use ginger oil for arthritis:
As is the case with most essential oils, ginger oil is very strong, so a few drops of it should be used diluted in a carrier oil before applying it onto the skin. Simply massage your knees or other painful areas with the oil until it is absorbed, and you're done. You can also use a hot compress on the area for an extra boost.


4. Orange Oil

Essential Oils for Rheumatoid Arthritis Orange Oil

Oranges are packed with beneficial nutrients that have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and mood-bosting properties that are known to help patients with all sorts of joint issues and pain. One study from 2017, for example, looked at the effect of orange essential oil aromatherapy for patients with painful fractured limbs, with patients experiencing less pain as a result. The authors of the study concluded that aromatherapy is a good complementary treatment for joint pain.

One of the best perks of orange essential oil is its pleasant smell, too, so you can mix in a few drops of it to mask other, less pleasant-smelling essential oils. Speaking of mixing up oils, it's absolutely safe and recommended, too, so you can definitely mix in several kinds of essential oils into your own customs blends to reap all of their benefits.

How to use orange oil for arthritis:
Adding a few drops of orange oil into a warm bath is a great way of experiencing its benefits. You can also dilute it with a carrier oil and apply directly onto the skin to reduce pain or use it in aromatherapy as they did in the study we mentioned above. If you intend to use any citrus oils topically, however, you must avoid the sunlight and use proper sun protection afterward. Otherwise, it could cause skin burns.

5. Frankincense Oil

Essential Oils for Rheumatoid Arthritis Frankincense Oil

Frankincense oil is made of the dried sap of the frankincense trees (Boswellia serrata Linn). The oil is a favorite among practitioners of traditional medicine, who have been using it for generations to aid all kinds of ailment, including inflammatory conditions and chronic pain. The Arthritis Foundation states that the acids naturally present in frankincense called Boswellic acids can lower inflammation and reduce pain, as well as prevent cartilage damage that occurs in rheumatoid arthritis.

How to use frankincense oil for arthritis:
The best way to take frankincense oil is in the form of capsules. Make sure that the capsules contain at least 60% of Boswellic acid. The recommended daily dose by the Arthritis Foundation is between 300 and 400 mg a day.

6. Turmeric Oil

Essential Oils for Rheumatoid Arthritis Turmeric Oil
Ginger's cousin, turmeric, is also widely considered to be one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatories, period. These properties are attributed to the compound called curcumin. Of course, there are many ways you can take turmeric, and simply adding it into foods as a spice may as well provide some benefits. Turmeric supplements are also common, but it is also sold in the form of essential oil, which can be used topically or inhaled to stimulate blood circulation and reduce inflammation.
How to use turmeric oil for arthritis:
Using turmeric in aromatherapy is the way to go for most arthritis sufferers, as the oil has a bright orange color and may stain skin or clothing. That said, turmeric is also known for its youth-boosting skin benefits, so using it topically may be a great way, too, if you're not particularly scared of the staining. Like most essential oils, though, turmeric oil must be diluted to be tolerated on the skin without any irritation, so make sure to just mix a few drops of it into a carrier oil before applying directly on the skin.
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