16 Essential Oils for Pain Relief

After a long weekend of yard work, or overdoing it at the gym, you may find yourself with a few more aches and pains than usual.   Rather than reaching into your medicine cabinet for a pain killer or aspirin, you may consider giving an essential oil compress a try. Essential oils are a healthy safe alternative to manage common aches and pains.

Essential oils are becoming more common place and based on their versatility of use. Many products incorporate essential oils such as pain relief lotions, creams, bath oils, salts and massage oils. Essential oils can be used in numerous applications such as dilution with a carrier oil and applied to pressure points, massaged into areas of pain or added to water and used as a compress.


16 essential oils for pain

This list is not meant to be all inclusive, but rather to provide highlights of commonly used essential oils for pain.

Chamomile is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties. This is wonderful for muscle pain, lower back pain, headaches and neuralgia.

Clary Sage is a great option for menstrual cramps and PMS.

Clove is commonly used for dental pain, and is a common ingredient in many dental mouthwashes.

Eucalyptus has both analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, so it’s used for sprains, strains or general muscle aches and pains. This is very potent and should only be used in small quantities.

Everlasting contains a high quantity of sesquiterpene hydrocarbons, which makes it a strong anti-inflammatory, as well as offering pain reducing and analgesic properties.

Fennel has a relaxing effect on stiff, sore muscles and muscle spasms.

Ginger is beneficial for back pain, arthritic and rheumatic pain, muscle pain and sprains.

Juniper has anti-spasmodic and anti-rheumatic properties. This can help with muscle spasms, as well as muscle aches and pains.

Lavender is probably the best known essential oil for its pain relieving and muscle relaxing properties as well as being antimicrobial.

Marjoram is great for muscle stiffness, spasms and arthritis pain.

Peppermint works great for headaches and migraines as well as muscle and joint pain.

Rosemary is used for headaches and general muscle aches and pains.

Sandalwood is great for muscle spasms.

Spruce is a wonderful option for arthritis, rheumatism and low back pain.

Thyme is good for muscle and joint pain and backaches.

Yarrow is used for tendinitis and neuralgia.

NOTE: While essential oils can be used to relieve pain symptoms, it is always important to get to the root cause of the problem.


CAUTION: Never use a pure essential oil on your skin. Most essential oils are very strong and must be diluted with a “carrier oil” before use or they will cause burns.



Making a compress can enhance the effect of your essential oils. A warm compress combines the heat of warm water and the essential oils for a deeper penetration into the skin, muscles and joints. Using this technique can help to soothe sore muscles and provide relaxation to the area of application.


How to make and use a compress

1)  Mix 4-6 drops of essential oil in a bowl with warm-hot water.

2) Soak a piece of sterile cotton cloth, wring it out and cover the affected area, until it reaches body temperature.

3.) Repeat this process for 5 to 15 minutes, as needed.

In preparing a cold compress, simply use cold water and follow the above steps.


What to look for in essential oils

Always look for 100% pure essential oils. Some brands use a petroleum base solvent which can be neuro toxic, while other brands use synthetic products. These types of oils can have long lasting negative impacts in the environment, and are a source of volatile organic chemicals that can also negatively impact your indoor air quality and your health.

So how can you tell if your oil is pure? Look for these signs when testing your oils:

  • Essential oils should not feel greasy on your skin
  • Will not smell like alcohol
  • Disappears on blotting paper (Put a few drops of oil on blotting paper. Pure essential oils will not leave any residue when it evaporates, while petroleum and synthetic oils will).
  • Will not dissolve in water
  • Won’t smell rancid

Be sure to buy essential oils from a reputable source such as Mountain Rose Herbs, Aura Cacia, Young Living, doTerra or Essential Vitality.

Want to learn more about essential oils ? Check out these articles:



The Way of Herbs. By Michael Tierra, L. Ac., O.M.D.

Advanced Aromatherapy, The Science of Essential Oil Therapy. By Kurt Schnaubelt, Ph.D.

Analgesic-like Activity of Essential Oils Constituents


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My Health Maven offers information on a wholistic approach to healthy lifestyle choices.