When people suffer from chronic joint and muscle pain, they are encouraged to take sedative medicines – from aspirin to the more complex chemical combinations. But these can have some unwelcome side-effects, too. Happily, using essential oils can also help relieve the pain and stiffness of joints and muscles. And the ones that help most are those that have ‘rubefacient’ properties.
According to Mosby’s Medical Dictionary, the word ‘rubefacient’ derives from two Latin words: ruber, red, and facere, to make. It is defined as:
- n, a substance or agent that increases the reddish coloration of the skin.
- adj, increasing the reddish coloration of the skin.
This redness is caused by dilation of capillaries and increased blood circulation; a property that is useful where pain or stiffness is present.
There are several essential oils that deliver the rubefacient property and which are more commonly used in application to increase circulation in the skin and muscle tissue. This creates relief from pain through an anti-inflammatory effect, as well as helping to clear the tissue of byproducts that collect due to prior inflammation and can interfere with movement. These essential oils provide a comforting feeling of warmth as they accelerate metabolism in the area.
Rubefacient essential oils are used to ease conditions such as rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, back pain, bunion, bursitis (gently applied to the area without massage), muscle cramps, sciatica, strain and sprain. Frequently, they are paired with essential oils that increase detoxification, such as juniper berry (Juniperus communis), carrot seed (Daucus carota) and lemon* (Citrus limon). This is especially helpful for joint pain and arthritis. They can also be blended with more relaxing anti-inflammatory analgesics like lavender (Lavandula angustifolia, Lavandula spica) or German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) where stress and tension is known to be a major cause of muscle pain.
The commonly used rubefacient essential oils are:
- Black Pepper (Piper nigrum)
- Clove Bud (Eugenia caryophyllata)
- Eucalyptus (especially Eucalyptus radiata)
- Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
- Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)
- Pine (Pinus sylvestris)
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
An example of a blend for chronic arthritis might be (in 1 oz of carrier oil):
- 4 drops Lavender
- 2 drops Rosemary
- 2 drops Pine
- 2 drops Lemon*
- 1 drop Juniper
*Expressed oil of lemon is phototoxic and sun exposure must be avoided for 18 hours after application. Steam distilled lemon is not phototoxic, which makes it best for skin applications of areas exposed to sunlight.
An example of a blend for neck and/or back pain due to tension (in 1 oz of carrier oil):
- 2 drops Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana)
- 2 drops Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)
- 2 drops Black Pepper
- 1 drop Roman Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
- 1 drop Nutmeg
Blending tip: Essential oils of higher aroma intensity require fewer drops.
Apply a blend to the affected area(s) in the morning and evening. Alternate some of the ingredients after using for 3 to 4 weeks. For example Lavender could replace marjoram in the blend for neck and back pain, or Ginger could replace Rosemary in the blend for arthritis listed above.
Using Tazeka’s blend Peaceful Slumber before bed helps the body relax and restore overnight. This is another important way to find relief from chronic joint and muscle pain.
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