Can Essential Oils Help Treat Fibromyalgia?

Essential oils are concentrated aromatic liquids that are distilled from plants. They are believed to provide a number of health benefits and ease the symptoms of several medical conditions, including fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic musculoskeletal disorder and a class of rheumatic disease, which is believed to affect the way the body processes pain signals. It is marked by pain throughout the body, fatigue, mental fog, depression, cramps, and sleep disturbances.

According to the American College of Rheumatology, fibromyalgia affects between 2 and 4 percent of people. Up to 90 percent of people with the condition are women. At present, there is no cure for fibromyalgia. Treatment is based on managing the symptoms.

Essential oils and fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia causes chronic pain, fatigue, depression, and other symptoms.

People with fibromyalgia may experience relief from both physical and mental symptoms through the use of essential oils.

In general, research suggests that essential oils offer therapeutic potential in pain relief.

Studies specifically on essential oils for fibromyalgia, other rheumatic conditions, and pain management are limited. However, the following essential oils may help with symptoms of fibromyalgia:

Basil

In one study, basil oil was found to produce painkilling effects on mice with chronic muscle pain. This finding led the researchers to suggest basil oil as a potential method of pain relief for those with fibromyalgia.

Capsicum

This essential oil is extracted from red chilies. It contains capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers, which is well-documented as a pain reliever.

In one study, people with severe fibromyalgia applied topical capsaicin three times per day for 6 weeks. The treatment led to significant improvements in terms of pain relief and overall well-being.

It has also been suggested that concentrated capsaicin patches can reduce neuropathic pain for up to 12 weeks.

Cedarwood

Research from 2015 suggests that inhaling cedarwood essential oil alleviates post-surgery pain in mice by influencing the way the body experiences pain.

Clove

A review of research on clove essential oil suggests that it may be a possible method to relieve pain.

The researchers suggest that clove oil may be so effective because it contains eugenol in high concentrations (88.58 percent). Eugenol is commonly used as a local antiseptic and anesthetic.

Ginger and orange

A blend of both ginger and orange oil was tested on older adults with moderate-to-severe knee pain.

Those treated experienced an improvement in physical function and a reduction in pain when compared with those that received a placebo, or no treatment at all. These benefits were still observable at the 1-week follow-up, but not at the 4-week review.

This study indicates an aromatherapy massage using these essential oils can effectively reduce pain in the short term. Be careful when using citrus oils if going out in the sun, as some research has suggested that they may cause sunburn.

Lavender

Recent research found that an aromatherapy massage using lavender oil effectively reduced pain in people with osteoarthritis of the knee.

Pain levels were reduced immediately after the treatment and remained lowered at 1-week post-treatment. However, the pain relief did not last long-term. At the 4 week follow-up, the pain had returned.

Lavender oil was also found to reduce stress and anxiety, and so may be beneficial for those who experience these common fibromyalgia symptoms. It may also aid sleep.

Multiple oil blend

Research that looked at the effects of a commercially available essential oil blend on people with fibromyalgia found that, following 4 weeks of treatment, improvements were experienced in night pain, strength, and tender point pain thresholds.

The oil blend tested comprised white camphor oil, aloe vera oil, eucalyptus oil, lemon oil, orange oil, peppermint oil, and rosemary oil.

How to use essential oils for fibromyalgia

[lavender essential oil]
The essential oil should not be applied directly to the skin without diluting it first. Alternately, it can be inhaled using a diffuser or oil burner.

Essential oils can be used in the following ways:

  • Topically. Do not apply undiluted essential oils directly to the skin. Essential oils must be mixed with a carrier oil. Mix a few drops of an essential oil with 1 ounce of carrier oil (such as coconut oil, sweet almond oil, or olive oil) before applying to the skin. It can also be used as a massage oil. Mixed oils can also be added to bathwater.
  • Inhaled. The oils can be inhaled directly, or placed in an essential oil diffuser or burner.

To ease fibromyalgia and other pain conditions, it is best to use essential oils on a regular basis. Some of the above studies suggest that the beneficial effects of the oils do not endure beyond a few days, so the regular application may help to keep the pain at bay.

Risks and considerations

Although essential oils are considered a natural remedy, they carry some risks. It is important for people to keep the following in mind:

  • Essential oils should not be ingested. Although some people may recommend taking essential oils by mouth, these products are highly concentrated. They can have serious side effects if taken incorrectly in this manner.
  • It is possible to be allergic to essential oils. People should test their chosen essential oil by mixing it with a carrier oil and putting a small amount, about the size of a dime, on their forearm. If there is no reaction, it should be safe to use. Test each new essential oil in the same manner.
  • Look out for unwanted side effects. While these oils have been shown in studies to have beneficial effects, they may have negative effects too. If any undesirable side effects are experienced, people should stop using them and consult a doctor. Risk varies depending on age, health status, and medications.
  • Check for drug interactions. Essential oils can interact with common prescription drugs. Those on medication should consult a doctor before using essential oils, especially if intending to use them on the skin.
  • Always use a carrier oil. Undiluted oils can cause skin irritation, blisters, or rash. Some oils can also increase sensitivity to light, especially citrus oils. People should dilute essential oils with a carrier oil such as almond oil, coconut oil, or jojoba oil.
  • Choose a reputable brand. There is considerable variation between essential oils in terms of potency and quality.

Other natural remedies and lifestyle changes

There are several other natural treatments for fibromyalgia that vary in effectiveness from person to person. A combination of treatments tends to work best.

Some natural remedies and lifestyle changes include:

[young woman getting a massage]
Massage therapy can help people with fibromyalgia manage their symptoms.
  • Acupuncture. There is some research to suggest that certain acupuncture therapies can ease symptoms for some people with fibromyalgia.
  • Exercise. Regular gentle exercises such as yoga, walking, swimming, and Pilates may help to decrease pain symptoms and fatigue and improve mood and sleep.
  • Massage. According to the National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association, regular massage therapy can improve chronic pain and fibromyalgia symptoms. Massage with the essential oils listed above may be particularly beneficial.
  • Sleep. Setting a regular sleep schedule – with the same bedtime and wake time – helps ease fatigue.
  • Stress management. Managing fibromyalgia means reducing both physical and emotional symptoms of stress. Several techniques can help with this, including meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and breathing exercises.
  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). Working with a therapist who practices CBT can help people to develop new coping strategies. It can help people to change thoughts, behaviors, and emotions to better manage pain and other symptoms.

A review of research found that 12 weeks of CBT led to a slight reduction in pain, negative mood, and disability in people of all ages with fibromyalgia. These changes were still experienced 6 months after treatment ended.

When to see a doctor

People should see a doctor if any of the symptoms of fibromyalgia persist, or if symptoms get worse.

Common fibromyalgia symptoms include:

  • depression
  • the difficulty with focus and concentration
  • tiredness
  • headaches
  • muscle spasms
  • nausea
  • widespread pain

Complications associated with fibromyalgia include an impaired ability to function and increased anxiety.

Causes and risk factors

While researchers are not sure of the exact cause of fibromyalgia, the following factors are thought to play a role:

  • Genetics. A family history of fibromyalgia is a risk factor.
  • Inflammation. Inflammation around groups of blood vessels and nerves can cause an over-reactive nervous system.
  • Infection. Certain infections trigger onset.
  • Other disorders. People with other rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or lupus, are at increased risk of fibromyalgia.
  • Psychological distress. Some research suggests that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a potential risk factor for fibromyalgia. Trauma and PTSD ignite inflammatory responses in the body that can lead to pain and disease.
  • Physical trauma. A physical injury, such as a car accident or through surgery, can bring on symptoms.
  • Sex. Women are more likely than men to develop fibromyalgia.

Those who are considering using essential oils for fibromyalgia, particularly if taking multiple medications, may wish to speak with their doctor before beginning treatment.

Chronic Pain

A person affected by any kind of chronic pain can feel a lot of discomfort throughout his or her life. It does not matter whether the form of chronic pain is an aching sensation, a tingling feeling, stabbing pains, shooting pains, or burning sensations. Any prolonged and uncontrollable chronic pain can and will affect the individual’s entire life and the kind of lifestyle he or she might enjoy. Psychological issues are another important factor that added to the complication of suffering over prolonged periods of chronic pain. Added o the physical discomfort, is a persistent psychological suffering which can induce long-term anxiety and anger, and lead to a deep depression, all of which can again result in intensifying the pain and prolonging it in the memory of the sufferer.

The human body reports painful sensations when one of the nerve endings in the body senses a source of distress or physical stress from the body and conveys this as a neural signal to the brain. Such impulses usually last for very short periods of time and disappear with the abatement of the stimulus. If the impulses continue long after the stimulus has gone, then the painful sensation can be said to have become chronic-such sensations are persistent over long periods of time and cause a great deal of discomfort to the individual so affected. There are many different causes of chronic pain in people and some of the most prominent among the numerous factors include a poor ability to heal from physical injury (this can be due to genetic or immune system factors), the presence of arthritis, the result of a pinched or irritated and impaired nerve anywhere in the body, and chronic pains can also signal the presence of an underlying disorder such as cancer and other disorders. The actual cause remains an unfortunate mystery, in some cases, particularly for those chronic pain cases that involve the muscles and the bones of an individual.

Supplements and Herbs:

The use of natural pain relievers can be made if carried out under proper supervision from a qualified medical doctor. These analgesic medications may be used singly or in a combination dose, and most of them can be used in the long-term treatment of recurring chronic pain in the body. The use of most of these natural analgesics can be done alongside the use of the conventional prescription painkillers given by the doctor. The use of these natural supplements is generally considered to be safer for the overall health and well-being of the individual, and most are regarded to be safer than the medications prescribed by the doctor-furthermore, the use of these medications may reduce the requirement for prescription medications. There are exceptions to this rule; aspirin cannot be used along with the natural analgesic derived from the herbal white willow bark. The chemical composition of these two compounds is very similar; using a combination dose of these two compounds may increase the risk of aspirin-related side effects in the body. The action of both of these compounds is very similar; they block or actively reduce the levels of the natural pain inducing compounds in the body known as the prostaglandins.

At the same time, the herbal remedy made from the bark of the white willow can be safely combined with the other pain relieving herbs and many of the medications. Inflammation related chronic pain can be alleviated according to some practitioners by the use of the compound known as bromelain, this is an anti-inflammatory plant-based protein which is synthesized from pineapple, another arena in which bromelain can be used in treatment is in alleviating the sports injuries and other complications arising from physical activity. Many other herbs have a potentially helpful property in dealing with chronic pain in the human body, these include common herbs such as the ginger, this garden herb, is similar in action to the white willow bark, and acts by blocking the action of the prostaglandins within the body, herbs such as the commonly found meadowsweet, the feverfew herb, the cat’s claw, the devil’s claw, the pau d’arco, and the common turmeric can also be used as potential pain relievers in an individual suffering from chronic pain.

chronic-pain-clinicThe use of many kinds of topical herbal preparations can also be very beneficial in the treatment of chronic pain. The use of the cream made from the cayenne pepper is particularly effective in the treatment of arthritic joints, in the treatment of individual recovering from the pain left behind after an attack of the shingles, in treating nerve damage induced by type 2 diabetes or arising as a result of surgery including major procedures such as a mastectomy or an amputation. The use of this cream which causes an intense burning sensation may be much less effective on large areas of the body it is best suited to the treatment of small localized pains in different corners of the body. The cayenne cream can be alternatively substituted by a mixed herbal treatment. The herbal essences can be combined for an effective topical remedy, mixing a few drops of ginger juice or tincture, some drops of lavender oil, and some birch oils with about half an ounce of a neutral oil – almond oil is a good example. The affected area of the body can be massaged using this herbal blend; the herbal essences must be applied directly to the painful areas of the body. The nerve endings that transmit pain signals can be directly quieted down using other topical options such as peppermint oil, the oil of the wintergreen, or some eucalyptus oil-this topical treatment can directly treat the chronic pain in the affected individual.

The use of these herbal supplements and topical remedies will generally bring some relief from the pain within three to four hours after use. If anxiety or depression accompanies the pain, then the first treatment must include the St. John’s wort herb, followed by the kava herb. While it is not proven, these herbs may pose some direct pain-relieving abilities besides quieting down the nervous tension. The use of the valerian herb must be considered if the painful sensations start interfering with the ability of the individual to get a good night’s sleep this herb will induce sleepiness and ensure that the person is relaxed at night.

chronic-pain-2Additional Things You May Do:

The use of alternative techniques such as acupuncture must be contemplated if the pain persists following the use of other treatment medications. Some alternative treatments and mind-body techniques like biofeedback, induced hypnosis, and relaxation training along with behavioral counseling can all potentially help the individual in handling the painful sensations in the body. Your doctor can give you suggestions on good pain clinics, these places offer a wide range of treatments and techniques to beat back chronic pain.

Recommended Dosage:

  • Ginger, 100 mg three times daily. Essential oil of ginger can be used as a part of massage blend.
  • Cayenne cream, apply cayenne cream thinly to painful areas several times daily. Should contain 0.025%-0.075% capsaicin.
  • St. John’s wort, 300 mg three times daily.
  • Peppermint oil, add a few drops of peppermint oil to 15 g of neutral oil. Apply to painful areas up to four times a day.
  • Kava, 250 mg three times daily.
  • White willow bark, one or two pills thrice daily when needed for pain. Attention: white willow bark may irritate the stomach.
  • Valerian, 400 mg daily. Do not use valerian if you are a pregnant or nursing mother.
  • Bromelain, 500 mg thrice daily on an empty stomach. If ineffective, eliminate bromelain after 14 days.

For Children:

Children affected by chronic pain can be helped by making them drink an herbal brew of pain relieving teas. Herbal teas for the treatment of chronic pain in children can be prepared by simmering a tablespoon of the bark of white willow in one quart of water and allowing the bark to steep in the water for 15 minutes. After this, the tea can be fortified by mixing a tablespoon of the root extract of the valerian herb, along with a tablespoon of the skullcap herb, and a single tablespoon of the herbal extracts of the chamomile, at last half a tablespoon of the licorice root can be added to the tea. Let the mixed herbs simmer in the water for another ten minutes, allow the solution to cool and then strain it. The dosage of this herbal teas for the affected child can be a single dose of the herbal tea, given once every hour, this can be repeated for four consecutive hours, and will greatly aid in relieving the generalized painful sensations felt by the child all over the body. Similar in action to the medication aspirin, the white willow bark has a strong anti-inflammatory action and is also an analgesic. The sedative and anti-spasmodic properties of the valerian and skullcap herbs add an extra punch to the herbal tea. The effective relaxing properties of the chamomile calm the child. The anti-inflammatory action of licorice is another useful property and this herb also boosts the action of the other herbs in the tea. Licorice is also the main agent that adds sweetness to the herbal tea which would otherwise taste quite bitter.

For you, attention: the herbal extracts of the skullcap must not be given to a child who is under six years of age even if she or he suffers from extreme body aches-alternatives must be found in such a case. At the same time, the licorice must also not be given to a child suffering from a high blood pressure as it can cause side effects in the body of such a child.

Other Beneficial Herbs

  • American Aspen
  • Andiroba
  • Chia
  • Espinheira Santa
  • Gold Coin Grass
  • Iporuru
  • Kombucha Tea
  • Pellitory Of The Wall
  • Red Alder
  • Tamanu Nut Oil