Peripheral neuropathy comes with a number of different symptoms, each one seemingly more troublesome than the last. A little bit of relief can go a long way, especially when that relief comes in a natural and soothing form. An effective way to seek relief from peripheral neuropathy is with essential oils for nerve pain.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” — Thomas Bertram Lance
It’s a pretty bulletproof bit of wisdom, right? When something works, for a long time, we trust it. This sentiment can be applied to just about anything, from architecture to personal fashion, and it fits nicely alongside certain types of traditional medicine, as well.
Particularly, essential oils. They’ve been used in traditional and natural forms of healing for hundreds of years (fun fact: the first recorded production of essential oils goes all the way back to Muslim physician Ibn al-Baitar, in 12th-Century Spain!), and have a bouquet of benefits as widely varied as the multitude of plants that produce them.
While they’re by no means a panacea, the right essential oils can be helpful when it comes to making the nerve pain of peripheral neuropathy more manageable.
Let’s talk about what studies are showing to be the most effective essential oils for nerve pain and how your symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may feel better.
The Very Best Parts of the Very Best Plants
First, a bit of clarity: The word “essential,” in this context, does not mean “important.” While many certainly attest to the efficacy and helpfulness of these prized little compounds, the “essential” here refers to the fact that they contain the “essence” of the plants from which they’re concocted.
Let’s zoom out just a little bit. Many plants contain healing properties: Naturally-occurring flora like aloe vera, eucalyptus, and countless others, contain compounds that are beneficial to the human body.
After these plants go through an extraction process, an “essential oil” remains — basically the oil of that plant, which bears the aromatic essence of its derivative. This can then be used, most typically, in one of two ways.
Aromatherapy refers to the inhalation of essential oils. Breathing in these aromas helps to positively offset physical and psychological well-being. The right aromatic compounds have shown to have healing effects. Experts think aromatherapy activates areas in your nose called small receptors which send messages through your nervous system to your brain. The oils are then thought to activate specific areas of your brain which play a role in your your limbic system and hypothalamus.
Some essential oils function well with topical application. Sometimes these need to be used with a diluted form of the oil. Some essential oils contain highly-concentrated compounds found in plants that can actually be irritating if they’re applied to the skin without having been diluted, first.
It’s usually advisable to test out essential oils on a small part of your skin and observe the effects. If a rash or irritation develops, you might not want to use it more widely.
Benefits of Essential Oils
Essential oils alone are not a cure for peripheral neuropathy. They may, however, help improve the aggravating symptoms and nerve pain associated with nerve damage and lessen the underlying factors that provoke neuropathy, like inflammation and impaired circulation.
Research shows that essential oils can have health benefits that may:
- Calm stress, anxiety and depression
- Ease pain
- Fight bacteria on skin
- Improve sleep
- Boost feelings of relaxation
- Lessen inflammation
- Stimulate circulation
Peppermint: Not Just for Tea Anymore
We love peppermint for its fresh, bracing taste, but in essential oil form, it has a few benefits that can be really helpful for those dealing with peripheral neuropathy. (1)
Pain can become a big part of life when peripheral neuropathy is afoot. Some of the first and most common symptoms can involve painful sensations that just won’t quit. Sometimes they’re easy to ignore throughout the day but become relentlessly attention-getting at night, as your brain tries to quiet down and go to sleep. Other times, they can be so bad that they make everyday activities all but unbearable.
While it should be noted that peppermint oil is not going to function in the same way that more heavy pain medications might, it can be used to calm some of the nerve pain that can come along with nerve decay and reduce your reliance on medication.
According to the National Institutes of Health, some studies have shown that topically-applied peppermint oil can be more effective at treating neuropathy pain than some more conventional methods like ibuprofen. (2)
Peppermint essential oil benefits include include:
- relieve muscle aches (2)
- help joint pain (3)
- lessen itching (4)
- avoid headaches (5)
- reduce nerve pain (6)
Peppermint for Autonomic Symptoms
Another benefit that comes from peppermint oil helps to address the less-common (yet often more troublesome) autonomic symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.
Your autonomic nerves are in charge of many of the body’s automatic functions — the things you don’t have to think about doing. Involuntary things like your heartbeat, your blood pressure, and your bladder and bowel function are regulated by the autonomic nerves.
Certain types of autonomic neuropathy can impact the bowel, and create conditions that are similar in nature to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Peppermint has been shown to help with gastric issues like IBS, and can also help calm overactive bowels in the face of autonomic neuropathy symptoms. (7)
Roman Chamomile to Fight Inflammation
Chronic inflammation and nerve damage go hand-in-hand. Not only can chronic inflammation lead to nerve damage, but nerve damage can lead to chronic inflammation as well. So anything that you can use to fight the damaging impacts of chronic inflammation will go a long way towards helping you soothe your damaged nervous system.
The essential oil, roman chamomile, has been found to have some powerful anti-inflammatory capabilities (8), especially due to its ability to penetrate down into the lower layers of your skin, allowing it to be highly effective in its function as an anti-inflammatory agent. (9)
Anti-oxidative properties help to cut down on inflammation caused by oxidative stress and the resulting drop in inflammation often helps to relieve muscle tension, soreness, and other aches and pains that can come with the earlier stages of nerve damage.
Lavender for Much-Needed Sleep Relief
In addition to simply smelling wonderful, lavender oil can act as an effective source of pain relief, even going a long way towards helping you find the sleep that can become so elusive when dealing with nerve damage.
A 2016 study looked at the effectiveness of aromatherapy on peripheral nerve pain and found that the participants in the lavender group reported significantly less pain and anxiety than those in the placebo group. (10)
Anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine capabilities of lavender essential oil make it a useful and natural pain reliever. (11) And its relaxing qualities make it helpful for getting to sleep more quickly and to improve sleep quality. (12)
Essential Oils: A Natural Alternative for Nerve Pain
Natural, gentle alternatives to traditional pharmaceuticals and conventional medications are a smart way to eliminate some of the health risks that can come along with over-the-counter and prescription drugs alike.
Essential oils can help you find relief the natural way — they’re aromatic, pleasant, and soothing, and they have a long history of beneficial health use, to boot. Whether they’re helping you cut down on inflammation, calm nerve pain, improve sleep, or just obtain a more relaxed state of mind, essential oils can be an effective tool in the fight against the effects of nerve damage.
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