Aromatherapy for Pain

This abstract first appeared in the Journal of Prolotherapy 2012.  As the author I give myself kind permission to reprint it here.  Use Aromatherapy wisely and enjoy good health.

Therapeutic Grade Aromatherapy Essential Oils in the treatment of Pain

By Wanona Wellspring, DNSinus HA Pillow

 

Abstract

Essential oils of Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Lavender and Myrrh contain neuro-depressive qualities for blocking pain as suggested by several studies in recent years.  Also unique in their pain-relieving properties are helichrysum, white fir, and Douglas fir.  There are several factors in pain sensation resulting from trauma (both physical and emotional), nerve damage, joint dysfunction, arthritis, and surgery,  Most of the research has been done in France and has not been translated into English.  However, there is substantial documentation to support the safe and effective use of therapeutic grade essential oils for many health related maladies, including pain.

Introduction

Of the many nerve fibers of the human body, the nociceptors comprise a large number and are located primarily within moving joints, and innervate various tissues within the body.  There is a protective nature of the sensation of pain to help prevent injury to ourselves, staying within our pain “threshold”, and to signal the brain to compensate for a previous injury.  Nature has supplied us with a natural plant aromatic oil that has the ability to suppress substance P, a neurotransmitter that signals pain within the brain.  Other essential oils from plants help muscles relax, heal bone, repair tendon, and calm the otherwise stressed sympathetic nervous system that keeps us in the pain-spasm-pain feedback loop with no relief.  Understanding the physiological affect of the essential oils has been the subject of research in recent years.  More recently individual subjects have used combinations of pure therapeutic grade essential oils for their pain relief before and after surgery with phenomenal results.  The essential oils were either ingested to applied topically, and there was absolutely no need to administer pharmaceutical pain medication.  The emotional apprehension of impending surgery, or its aftermath of pain and hemorrhage, or infection, has been completely eliminated by using therapeutic grade essential oils.

 

Objectives

To review of literature and personal testimonials for the effective use of therapeutic grade essential oils in the cessation of pain and relief from muscle spasm due to trauma or surgery and the formulas of single and blended oils that were used.

Methods

The use of therapeutic grade essential oils by individuals has been documented by testimonials on various yahoo groups, as well as personal interviews via phone or email and in person to verify what oils were used, how they were applied, how soon were the results felt and for how long, and when was the use of the oils discontinued.

Results

The primary pain formulas used varies from person to person although the same basic formula keeps repeating.

Prior to Prolotherapy (or surgery) Pain Control Formula

10 drops Vetiver
10 drops Valerian
5 drops Helichrysum
5 drops Clove

Post-Prolotherapy (or surgery) Pain Control Formula

20 drops Valerian
20 drops Vetiver
10 drops Helichrysum
5 drops Clove
5 drops Idaho Balsam Fir
5 drops Peppermint

Make the formula and place into 00 capsules.  Take as often as needed or 3-4 hours apart.

Pain Formula for Trauma

19 drops Valerian

2 to 3 drops Clove

2 to 3 drops Peppermint

Taken internally in an 00 capsule, two capsules at night are good for about 5 hours of pain relief.

Background

When plants are selected for essential oils they undergo a stringent process to verify their purity and potency.  They are grown in the best of conditions verifying their organic and wild-crafted nature.  Many are grown in areas where the soil is extremely rich and have never received chemicals of any kind.  They are harvested at their peak to insure that the quality of the oil in their leaves is the highest.  Then they are diffused at a temperature that will allow the oils to be extracted into the steam, but not so high a temperature that the healing components are degraded.  This is so often the case with casual perfume companies who adjust the oils with chemicals to make them appear to be pleasant to the nose, but have no true therapeutic properties.

 

Select few companies have taken it upon themselves to provide pure therapeutic grade essential oils that are potent, organic and contain the highest quality ingredients according to scientific standards set by professional aromatherapy laboratories.

“The chemistry of essential oils consists of simple hydrocarbons, oxygenated hydrocarbons, and their isomers.”

The oxygenated compounds of essential oils give them their most satisfying aroma and quality.  Monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes fall into the category of Terpenes and contain groups of hydrocarbons responsible for their therapeutic effect in cells.  There are an estimated 1,000 different monoterpenes and as many as 3,000 sesquiterpenes found in essential oils.

Both Valerian and Helichrysum contain sesquiterpenes.  gamma-Curcumene in Helichrysum  (helichrysum  italicum) and alpha-Farnescene in Valerian (Valeriana officinalis).  Sesquiterpenes are a fundamental class of plant compounds containing three isoprene units per molecule and are found in about 50% of all plant oils.  Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) contains 90% sesquiterpenes and is well known for its fixing property.

 

Ketones are composed of a carbonyl group with a hydrocarbon attached.  They emit a strong aroma and aid in nerve sedation, as well as promoting healing.  Valerian (vetiveria zizanioides) contains a ketone known as alpha-Vetivone.

 

Both Valerian and Vetiver contain small amounts of carboxylic acids.  The presence of acids in essential oils is so rare and unusual that many of them are named for their parent plant, valerinic acid and vetiveric acid are found in valerian and vetiver respectively.  The acid molecules carry a benzene ring giving them a higher resonance energy giving them electromagnetic frequencies.  Valerinic acid when combined with the aldehyde valerianal gives valerian its unpleasant smell.  The sedative properties of valerian however comes from the sesquiterpenes present in the oil.  It has been used as a tranquilizer in Germany and to treat insomnia.  The aldehydes in oils provide an antiviral and anti-inflammatory quality as well as calming effect to the nervous system.  Working on the parasympathetic system they reduce blood pressure by dilating blood vessels, relieve emotional stress and may reduce fevers.

 

Helichrysum (helichrysum italicum) is also known as Everlasting.  It contains less than 0.1% essential oil content and is costly to obtain.  It contains the sesquiterpene gamma-Curcumene.  Sesquiterpenes delete faulty information by correcting transcriptase function in DNA replication.  The largest element found in helichrysum is the ester Neryl Acetate up to 38%.  Esters are known for their relaxing effect, analgesic and strong affinity for acetylcholine receptor sites.  This may explain why muscle relaxation occurs as the ester occupies the space of the muscle receptor site and slows down the contraction of muscle fibers.  Other well known esters are found in Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Onycha, Cardamom, Jasmine and Spruce.

Peppermint  (mentha piperita) contains a high concentration of Menthol (34-44%) and is never mistaken for other oils of the mint family.  The flavor or peppermint will dominate the blend.  It will fight against invading microbes and fight off bacteria and viruses while offering pain relieving qualities.  Peppermint will suppress the production of substance-P neurotransmitter in response to pain.  It is a popular ingredient to freshen mouth, soothe digestive difficulties, relieve colic and indigestion.

 

In addition to its effectiveness in pain relief, clove (syzygium aromatica) has also demonstrated itself as an anti-inflammatory and a blood thinner.  It has a higher ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) value of over 10 million.  By comparison the ORAC score of blueberries is only 2,400, 1,260 for spinach, 750 for oranges, and 210 for carrots. Clove has been used as an oral anesthetic by dentists for more than 500 years.  The phenolic compounds found in clove clean receptor sites, eat up free radicals and protect us from viruses and harmful bacteria. Clove contains more eugenol (75-80%) than any other essential oil giving it the anesthetic quality when used topically. Jean Valnet, MD, a French physician reportedly found clove beneficial for many purposes including nausea, bronchitis, arthritis, acne, halitosis, headaches, insect bites, mouth sores, warts, lymphoma, and prevention of contagious disease.

Testimonials

Margarete D.
Location: Tucson, AZ, United States
Posted: 2005-07-31
My neighbor had to quit her job because of severe pain and inflammation of the nerves in the carpal tunnels. She had intense, painful throbbing in her wrists, especially at night. During a visit I offered her the use of my peppermint oil to see if it might help her. After application of a few drops, she had right away an easing up of the pain.

Next morning, it was not even 6AM yet, when she called me all excited because for the first time in 7 years, she had a good night’s sleep. She has since applied also Lavender, and the other 5 oils in the Essential 7 kit. She was and remained completely pain free after about 7 days.

JoAnn S.r
Location: Ukiah, CA, United States
Posted: 2006-01-31
I was having a problem with my foot aching. This had gone on for a year or so. I told my osteopath that when I moved my foot a certain way that it was really painful. He told, ‘Well, don’t do that.’ Then it dawned me to look in one of my oils books to see what might help. I tried peppermint, and the pain disappeared. It is months later, and the pain has not returned.

Raymond W.
Location: Pontiac, MI, United States
Posted: 2005-11-22
In 1998 I discovered the power of Young Living’s essential oils while seeking alternatives to the cortisone injections that I was receiving from the specialist that my employer sent me to. While the pain subsided for several days, I still suffered from what was called cortisone flares when the pain seemed worse than the original pain and one night the pain was so unbearable, yes, this man cried. Real men do cry you know! Even Jesus wept on several occasions!

Well…one day I noticed an advertisement in a magazine regarding the application of a few drops of a potent oil blend that had helped others find relief from various pains so I ordered a bottle of PanAway, which was known by PanAway at that time. Nevertheless, upon my first application of no more than 8 drops that oil blend had resolved my ailment.

Sondra G.
Location: Sterling Heights, MI, United States
Posted: 2007-08-26
OK, I got a cavity, in the last molar…so I had to get it fixed. I do not use the numbing stuff or gas so was thinking of the pain…but then remembered about clove! I brought it with me and put it on while I was in the waiting area. It numbed it right up. No pain. Aha! I put one drop on the tooth after he was half done drilling. My dentist was great about it and is a little curious. :)
Cindy C.
Location: Sag Harbor, NY, United States
Posted: 2009-03-04
My husband has had 3 back surgeries that have been considered failures. At night he suffers if he has done too much during the day. One night he was so miserable- I placed peppermint all over his back and instantly he felt better. He fell asleep peacefully without extreme pain.

Now when he is in the least bit of pain we use the oil to soothe his muscles and remove the pain. Works great!

 

Lori Y.
Location: Peoria, AZ, United States
Posted: 2008-07-17
I had to have a deep conization surgery and prepared in this way:

PRE OP on my brainstem I put Vetiver, Frankincense, Release. On my pelvic area (area of surgery) I put Clary Sage, Vetiver, Frankincense and Thieves. I also put Thieves on my feet.

POST OP I focused only on my area of surgery (over the pelvic area) and applied Geranium (to slow bleeding) Clary Sage (cramping) Frankincense and Thieves and RutaVaLa. I repeated this every 3 hours on the first day of surgery until bedtime. I ALSO drank loads of water post-op with NingXia Red in it (didn’t measure amount but it probably totaled 6oz that day)

I had NO PAIN, NO CRAMPS! NO NAUSEA which I guess is common post anesthesia. The day after surgery, I woke rested and as if I had never had a surgery. I continued to apply the oils to the pelvis every few hours for the next 3-4 days and still NEVER HAD A CRAMP OR PAIN !For the whole deal I never needed to take so much as an aspirin !

I had asked the anesthesiologist to give me the bare necessity of drugs, that I didn’t want any ‘for my comfort’ drugs. I had surgery on a Thursday and was in my exercise class the following Monday with my normal level of energy.

To me this is a miracle as I’ve had plenty of colposcopies and have been uncomfortable with cramping (which I’ve discovered Clary Sage and Geranium are great for by the way). This was a much bigger procedure and because I used oils prior to and regularly post op it really made the experience no big deal. I was amazed and delighted. My husband and relatives were shocked that I was up and moving so soon after the surgery.

 Casey P.
Location: Eugene, OR, United States
Posted: 2008-04-23
When I had abdominal day-surgery a few months ago, I made sure I had my favorite oils by my bedside for when I came home from the hospital. Whenever I woke in the night I found that just opening the bottles and smelling them, before I even applied them to the sore areas, calmed my anxiety and even made the pain seem less.

The prescription I was given for pain made me jittery and unable to sleep so I stopped taking it after the first night and relied primarily on the oils. I was fine, even getting around sooner than I expected. The best ones I found for pain were helichrysum, lavender, chamomile. I also added Peace & Calming, geranium, and 3 Wise Men for help staying calm and sleeping.

Rosalyn S.
Location: Fairbanks, AK, United States
Posted: 2004-10-14
I recently had major abdominal surgery. Anyone that has had this knows how you feel when you wake up. I will tell you what I did.

First, before surgery, I showered using Thieves cleanser, figuring I would help make sure I also didn’t have to fight a staph infection later if I could help it.

Second, my doctor allowed me anything that made me feel more comfortable, so I brought my own pillow in a plastic bag to hold in the Peace & Calming, Valor and Thieves I had saturated it with and the wonderful odors I woke up to.

Third, I placed 3 drops of Peace & Calming and 3 drops of Gentle Baby down my lower spine before going in the operating room.

Fourth, when I woke up and began to feel discomfort (read, it hurt like H—) I used a lavish hand with the Helichrysum, Sacred Mountain and Peppermint. That was the only time I used anything but the Peppermint for the discomfort. I found out later that no one had turned on the morphine pump, so these things really did the job for me. We found that I am allergic to almost all of the pain relievers and antibiotics, so I relied on Peppermint, neat, on the abdomen and 2 drops of Oregano, 2 drops of Mt. Savory and 10 drops of lemon in a capsule, twice a day.

My incision healed up extremely fast, the bruising was gone within 2 days, I rode my 4 wheeler to the house from the highway because of road conditions after being released from the hospital and have since helped construct a 3 story house in the Alaskan Bush. I hope this helps someone else.

Denise E.
Location: Binghamton, NY, United States
Posted: 2006-03-29
My mother-in-law had already had her knees replaced surgically years before I met her. She told me last summer about the horrible pain she was suffering in her knees, and that she had already been to her doctor. They told her that they didn’t want to operate again explaining that not only did they feel that they couldn’t fix the problem, but that the surgery could make the problem worse! I applied a few drops of Helichrysum to her knees and she had instant relief. Needless to say that Helichrysum quickly became her favorite oil.
 Teresa S.
Location: Knoxville, TN, United States
Skills: Massage Therapist
Posted: 2006-10-30
I had back surgery several years ago and periodically I have back pain with inflammation. Recently I went to my chiropractor and there was so much inflammation, he could not adjust me. He told me to ice my back, but I went home and put peppermint on it instead. The inflammation subsided immediately along with the pain.

 

RESULTS

Using therapeutic grade essential oils when there are symptoms of pain or as a protecting agent and to prevent pain from surgery has been successful and warrants investigation.  The scientific data justifies the use of specific oils which have been tested by health practitioners and patients with great success.  Whether you are contemplating oral surgery or simple dental cleaning, or knee replacement, the use of even a few essential oils will help reduce the pain and inflammation as well as protect against infection and emotional stress most patients experience from these procedures.

 

References:

  1. D. Gary Young, ND. Essential Oils Integrative Medical Guide. Essential Science Publishing, April 2003.  Second Edition. 608 Pages, ISBN 0-943685-34-6
  2. Delaveau P, et al. “Neuro-depressive properties of essential oil of lavender.” C R Seances Soc Biol Fil. 1989;183(4):342-8.
  3. Dolara P, et al. “Analgesic effects of myrrh.” Nature. 1996 Jan 4;379(6560):29.
  4. Gobel H, et al. “Effect of peppermint and eucalyptus oil preparations on neurophysiological and experimental algesimetric headache parameters.” Cephalalgia. 1994; 14(3):228-34.
  5. Higley, Connie, and Higley, Allan. (2001) Reference Guide for Essential Oils, 11th Edition.  Abundant Health, Oren Utah. 536 pages. ISBN 0-97-06583-6-2
  6. Manwaring, Brian, editor. Essential Oils Desk Reference. compiled by Essential Science Publishing , Orem, Utah. Third Edition 2006. 520 pages ISBN 0-943685-39-7
  7. Pharmacological and Toxicological Aspects of Essential Oils.  Integrated Aromatic Medicine 2001, proceedings from the International Symposium Grasse, France, March 2-5, 2001
  8. Stewart, David, PhD, DNM. Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple, God’s Love Manifest in Molecules. Care Publications, 2006 Second Edition 846 Pages.  ISBN 0-934426-99-6