Useful Essential Oils
Which essential oils are effective in treating inflammations?
As explained in the video, the following essential oils have traditionally been used for skin inflammations, dermatitis and poison ivy:
- Moroccan Blue Chamomile Essential Oil (also known as Blue Tansy) – To use it for inflammation, add a few drops to a sink full of water and use this water to cleanse your skin. For dermatitis, dilute up to 3% in jojoba or hazelnut oil or with unscented natural skin lotion (15 drops per tablespoon) and apply to affected areas.
- Helichrysum Essential Oil (e.g. if the poison ivy is really bad) – Dilute to 2% in flax or rosehip seed oil or with unscented natural skin lotion (10 drops per tablespoon).
Note: Sometimes it is better to dilute these oils with a mild natural unscented natural skin lotion rather than with a base / carrier oil because oils tend to keep the heat in and may make you feel even hotter.
German Chamomile Essential Oil is also good for inflamed skin – To use it for inflammation, add a few drops to a sink full of water and use this water to cleanse your skin. For dermatitis, dilute up to 2% in jojoba or hazelnut oil or with unscented natural skin lotion (10 drops per tablespoon) and apply to affected areas.
This video is by the founder of Amrita Aromatherapy and master aromatherapist Christoph Streicher, Ph.D.
Note: Don't use German Chamomile if you are allergic to ragweed as it enhances the allergic effect of it - instead use Allergy Easer Roll-On Relief which doesn't contain German Chamomile.
To use Allergy Easer Roll-On Relief for skin irritations, roll it directly on the affected areas. Note: Avoid direct eye contact. Do not ingest. Avoid use if you have epilepsy, hypertension or are pregnant.
About the Condition
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is part of the body’s immune system’s response to stimulus.
The five signs of inflammation are:
- Swelling (e.g. the swelling of a wound)
- Loss of function (e.g. the inability to smell properly when you have a head cold).
Severe inflammation can cause you to feel sick, exhausted and even to have a fever. It also causes an increase in the number of defense cells in the body. Feeling chilled, very ill, and having a very high fever can also be signs of blood poisoning. In this case, seek urgent medical assistance.
A rare complication of an inflammation is called sepsis (e.g. if bacteria multiply and the body fails in fighting them locally and they enter the bloodstream in large quantities).
What’s the difference between inflammation and infection?
Infection is the invasion of the body by disease-causing agent (which sometimes multiply), and the reaction of the body to these organisms and the toxins they produce. An infection can cause inflammation. For example, infection is caused by a bacterium, virus or fungus, but inflammation is the body's response to it.
What causes inflammation?
Common causes of inflammation are:
- Pathogens like bacteria, viruses or fungi.
- External injuries like scrapes or foreign objects (e.g. a thorn).
- Exposure to chemicals or radiation.
Inflammation can also be caused by diseases or conditions (they often end in “-itis"):
- Cystitis - inflammation of the bladder
- Bronchitis - inflammation of the bronchi
- Otitis media – inflammation of the middle-ear
- Dermatitis – inflammation of the skin.
What does inflammation involve?
As part of the inflammation process, a variety of immune cells can be involved. They release tissue hormones “bradykinin” and “histamine”. These expand the tissue’s blood vessels so that more blood and defense cells can reach it. That’s why it can appear red and warm to the touch. These hormones can also have the side effect of irritating the nerves and thus cause pain signals to be sent to the brain.
The defense cells help with the healing process. They also carry more fluid into the inflamed tissue, which is what causes some of the swelling.
The mucus membranes can also release more fluid as a result of inflammation (e.g. when you have a head cold). The nasal secretions help to flush the viruses out of the body.
When is an inflammation not helpful?
Sometimes the immune system fights against its own cells by mistake when there isn’t an infection, causing harmful inflammatory responses. These diseases are called “chronic inflammatory diseases” and “autoimmune disorders,” and some of these include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis - where many joints are permanently inflamed (see Amrita's page Essential Oils For Arthritis for more details)
- Psoriasis – a chronic skin inflammation (see Amrita's page Essential Oils For Psoriasis for more details)
- Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis - inflammations of the bowel.
These diseases can last for years or even a lifetime in varying degrees of severity. They can also affect the internal organs and because some of these do not have pain-sensitive nerves, pain may not always be present.
What are conventional medical treatments for inflammation?
As inflammation is a natural response by the body, it is only necessary to treat it when it causes severe effects or if it is a chronic inflammatory disease / autoimmune disorder. The treatment depends somewhat on the area of the body that is inflamed.
For example, inflammatory joint diseases are treated via medications, rest, exercise, and surgery to correct joint damage. Medications are prescribed to decrease joint pain, swelling, and/or inflammation and hopefully prevent or minimize the progression of the inflammatory disease. Medications include anti-inflammatory pain reliever drugs (NSAIDs), Corticosteroids Chemotherapy drugs, disease modifying treatments, biologic therapy, and narcotic pain relievers. Of course, all of these medications have side effects.
What are alternative treatments for chronic inflammation?
The following may help with chronic inflammation:
- Olive oil - it contains oleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid which some believe helps minimize inflammation.
- Fresh herbs - basil, thyme, and oregano are a source of antioxidants.
- Garlic - some believe it helps reduce swollen joints.
- Omega 3 fatty acids - fish oil supplements or eating foods like fish, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, and hazelnuts can help, according to research.
- Cumin and chili pepper – research(1) has shown that have compounds that fight inflammation and reduce pain.
- White willow bark - shown(1) to be as effective as aspirin. However, it should not be used by children (to avoid the risk of Reye’s syndrome), or by people with peptic ulcer disease, poorly controlled diabetes, hepatic or renal disorders, or other conditions in which aspirin would be contraindicated.
- Turmeric - demonstrated by research(1) to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antineoplastic effects.
- Green tea - shown(1) to be both anti-inflammatory and to help arthritis.
- Pycnogenol (maritime pine bark) - shown(1) to be effective in reducing blood pressure and reducing the risk of venous thrombosis. But it should not be taken by people who are being treated with immune-suppressants or receiving corticosteroid drugs.
- Boswellia serrate resin (Frankincense) - shown(1) to improve arthritis of the knee after 8 weeks of treatment.
- Resveratrol (in the skins of red wine grapes) - found(1) to have significant anti-mutation, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and DNA protective actions.
- Uncaria tomentosa (cat’s claw) - shown(1) to reduce inflammation.
- Plant enzyme supplements such as bromelain (however, little research has been conducted on it).
- Probiotics - because of the cells of our immune system are found in the gastrointestinal system, so taking these on a daily basis can help to strengthen the way it functions.
- A diet low in Omega 6-rich foods like meat, dairy, baked goods, flour products, and grains.
- Drinking lots of clean, fresh water.
But always check with your doctor first before changing your diet, especially if you are taking medications.
Of course, essential oils traditionally have also been used for inflammation. For more information, see the Useful Essential Oils tab.