Arthritis is a common inflammatory condition that causes pain and swelling in the joints.  I am often asked about essential oils that may help ease the pain.  Following is a case study of a client I saw recently.  


 A woman, aged 51 years came seeking an alternative to painkillers to help reduce the pain from arthritis in her right shoulder and neck, which also seemed to move to the left on occasion. She is in good general health. Her M.D. had diagnosed her with the beginning of Osteoarthritis and wanted to prescribe her something for the pain, she isn’t keen on this being her first route so she is seeking the aid of some other Practitioners. She is a petite framed woman and possesses a very positive and outgoing character. She attempts to remain active.

Most of the pain is experienced in bed at night when finding a comfortable position is challenging. In the morning, stiffness and pain are experienced in both rising and walking.


The client seemed open to adding massage therapy to her plan, I gave her several referrals to therapists who are trained in using Clinical aromatherapy and incorporate it into their massage practice.

We smelled many oils that I felt would be beneficial and together we narrowed the selection to the following:

Plai (Zingiber cassumunar): The anti-inflammatory potential of Plai is most significant, the Thai Institute have demonstrated that components of Plai are twice as potent as Diclofenac (Voltarol), a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).

Black Pepper (Piper nigrum): It has wonderful analgesic and warming properties. Cantele (2014) cites it as one of the most important oils for treating muscular problems due to its ability to dilate blood vessels and produces localized redness and warmth.

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus): It has an effect on the muscles indicating it tones and energizes tired muscles. It also has an analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect due to its high aldehyde content; this could also lead to some sedative effects. Schnaubelt (1998) notes that the sedative and anti-inflammatory effects of the citral and citronellal are strong in low concentrations.

Lavender (Lavendula Angustifolia): This is one of the client’s favorites and as always lifts the blend. The properties are calming, relaxing and soothing. Used in massage for aches and pains the linalool and Linalyl acetate exhibit anesthetic activity.

Carrier Oils

I choose Jojoba and Hemp Seed blended in a 50:50 ratio. I have found that by mixing these two carrier oils together it creates a carrier that will sit on the skin long enough to work into an area for a prolonged time. This blend was created for her massage therapist, using a 2% dilution in equal parts.

A blend for home use was in a lotion base, using a 1.5% dilution rate. I choose a lotion as they are less messy than carrier oil and absorb easier into the skin.

Blend for home use

Plai 10 drops

Pepper black 7 drops

Lemongrass 7 drops

Lavender 5 drops

Unscented lotion 80ml

Jojoba 20ml

Shake well before each use. Apply each morning after a shower and at night before bed. You can use during the day as needed.

Client Response

Client found a good fit in a massage therapist, having weekly 30 minute sessions to start and using about 10-15ml of massage blend per treatment session. Within 6-8 weeks client cited there was much less pain and aching. Her MD was also happy with the result and commented that even her posture was better. After 6 weeks of weekly massage, they moved to every 2-3 weeks while still using the home use blend.

The client still sees a massage therapist every 3-6 weeks for 30-minute sessions and uses her home blend. We do change the essentials oil every four months for a few weeks, we find this helps in reducing built up a tolerance.

Kimberly Seymour is a Clinical Aromatherapist and Herbalist, practicing in Greensboro, NC.  Please contact her at [email protected] or visit the website at

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