Essential oils contain concentrated plant extracts. Aromatherapy with some essential oils can help relieve neuropathic pain. Neuropathy is a general term for conditions that develop as a result of nerve damage. One of the most common forms of neuropathy is diabetic peripheral neuropathy, which occurs in up to 50 percent of people with diabetes.
Peripheral neuropathy usually affects a person’s hands and feet. It can cause pain, tingling, and numbness. Other types of neuropathy can also develop in people with diabetes. Research suggests that some essential oils can help reduce pain resulting from inflammation and nerve damage. However, much of the available research comes from animal models and individual case studies.
One study compared the effectiveness of Swedish aromatic ginger oil massage with traditional Thai massage in 140 older adults who had chronic lower back pain. Although both treatments improved symptoms, Swedish aromatic ginger oil massage was more effective than Thai massage in reducing pain and disability.
Ginger oil contains a compound called zingibain, which has powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
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Zingibain, therefore, can help reduce neuropathic pain that results from inflammatory conditions. However, researchers have not yet investigated the use of ginger oil for the specific treatment of neuropathic pain. Many ginger essential oils are available to purchase online.
Borneol, a compound in chamomile and lavender essential oils, can help reduce pain and inflammation related to neuropathy. One study found that borneol reduced pain sensitivity in mice with neuropathic pain. However, confirmation of the effect in humans will require further study. Many chamomile essential oils are available to purchase online.
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St. John’s wort, or Hypericum perforatum, is a traditional remedy for depression and anxiety. People also use extracts to treat nerve pain, inflammation, and burns. According to a case report, a person with trigeminal neuralgia, a type of nerve pain that affects the face, discovered that a homeopathic preparation of St. John’s wort helped relieve symptoms. Aromatherapy products containing St. John’s wort essential oils are available to purchase online.
Inhaling lavender essential oil can help promote relaxation and reduce pain and anxiety. One study examined the effectiveness of aromatherapy during peripheral vein cannulation, which involves inserting a tube with a needle into a peripheral vein. After recruiting 106 people to undergo the procedure, the researchers randomly assigned the participants to receive aromatherapy with lavender essential oil or a placebo. After cannulation, those in the lavender group reported significantly less pain and anxiety than those in the placebo group. However, one study found that lavender oil aromatherapy had no effect on reducing pain in people undergoing open heart surgery. A range of lavender essential oils are available to purchase online.
Holy basil, also known as tulsi or tulasi, is an aromatic plant that grows throughout the Indian continent and Southeast Asia. Ayurvedic medicine practitioners have long used it to treat a variety of conditions, including nerve pain. Holy basil extract significantly reduced sciatic nerve pain in rats. However, confirmation of these findings in humans will require further investigation. People can buy holy basil essential oils online.
Peppermint oil has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. It can also help regulate the immune system and reduce muscle spasms. Findings from a 2019 systematic review suggest that peppermint oil may help relieve gastrointestinal pain from irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. However, researchers have yet to establish whether peppermint oil can help treat nerve pain.
A number of peppermint essential oils are available online.
How to use them
People inhale essential oils or use them as massage oil. A person can try adding a few drops of essential oil to a diffuser, bath water, or soft furniture, such as pillows. When using essential oils in a massage, always dilute them in a carrier oil, such as almond or olive oil. Gently massage the mixture into the affected area.
Risks and considerations.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies most essential oils as cosmetic products, which means it does not regulate their quality or safety. Therefore, it is advisable to buy essential oils from reputable manufacturers and read labels or instructions carefully. Aromatherapy involves the use of essential oils, either in a diffuser or in a massage. Pure essential oils are highly concentrated and some can be toxic, so people should not ingest them.
It is also important to dilute essential oils in a carrier oil before using them directly on the skin. Manufacturers often provide instructions on dilution and safe use. Essential oils can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in some people, so a patch test is recommended before using a new oil.
A patch test involves applying the diluted oil to a small area of the skin, such as the back of the hand or part of the forearm. Do not use the oil if your skin itches, turns red, or dry. Essential oils can interact with certain medications, such as antidepressants and stimulants. People taking prescription drugs should consult their doctor before using an essential oil.
Consider pets, children, and pregnant women before diffusing essential oils.
Other treatments for neuropathy Medical treatment for neuropathy generally depends on treating the underlying cause. For example, good control of blood glucose levels can help reduce symptoms in people with diabetic neuropathy.