If you suffer from nerve pain, you may feel like you’ve exhausted all the options to relieve it, and yet you are still left in discomfort. If you’ve never tried using essential oils to quell your pain, this is the article for you. Here’s a rundown on twelve essential oils that work on nerve pain, so you can get relief and potentially even reverse some nerve damage without costly drugs that have unwanted side effects.
Table of Contents
- Nerve Pain FAQ
- 12 Essential Oils for Nerve Pain
- 8 DIY Essential Oils Based Recipes that Treat Nerve Pain
- Closing Tips for Using Essential Oils for Nerve Pain
Nerve Pain FAQ
Your body is a giant web of nerves from head to toe, and if all your neurons (nerve cells) were lined up end to end, they would stretch for about 600 miles. There are more than 13 million neurons in the spinal cord alone. Your nerves function at extremely fast rates, transmitting signals at 180 miles per hour–as fast as the high-speed Chunnel train between London and Paris! It’s no wonder that when nerve pain strikes, it can be devastating.
All pain technically comes from your nerves, but the medical definition of nerve pain is discomfort stemming from the nerve itself, not secondary to another problem like a bone or joint injury. There are multiple causes of nerve pain:
- medical conditions like diabetes and multiple sclerosis
- vitamin deficiency (especially the B vitamins)
- pesticide and toxic chemical exposure
- injury directly to the nerves
How do doctors diagnose nerve pain? If you have no obvious injury, no wounds on the skin, and other causes can be ruled out, you likely have nerve pain. In some cases, the cause of the pain cannot be determined, and the condition is called “idiopathic” pain, or pain of unknown origin.
No matter what the cause, nerve pain is typically described as different from other pain; in fact, more that 80 percent of diabetics (of whom about half suffer from nerve pain) say this type of discomfort is unique and distinguishable from other pain, like arthritis or normal overuse.
What is the mechanism of nerve pain? Nerve pain results when the nerves of the body send abnormal signals to the brain, as opposed to the normal messages sent when you cut your finger or stub your toe. These signals can be interpreted in several ways by the brain, resulting in varying descriptions of nerve pain and associated medical terminology:
- neuropathy: damage to the peripheral nerves, a common symptom of diabetes, which results in tingling sensations that can deteriorate to numbness and complete loss of feeling in the hands and feet
- neuralgia: pain along the length of a nerve without any actual damage to it, often described as a burning sensation
- neuritis: inflammation of a nerve or group of nerves, causing pain and sometimes loss of function
If the cause of nerve pain cannot be addressed, treatment is usually pharmaceutical. However, these medications often come with undesirable consequences, like sleepiness, physical dependence, addiction, excessive cost, and even high barrier to access, given today’s overuse of pain medications resulting in doctors denying relief to legitimate pain sufferers. Whether you have not found sufficient alleviation of pain from your existing medications or simply want to try a more natural approach to pain relief, here are twelve essential oils proven to help with nerve pain.
12 Essential Oils for Nerve Pain
Peppermint essential oil gives you a triple whammy with its use, as it is simultaneously an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antispasmodic. Its relaxing and cooling qualities make it both mentally and physically helpful in treating nerve pain, and it is a popular ingredient in natural preparations for neuralgia, especially sciatica–pain from the sciatic nerve that runs from the lower back/hip area all the way to the feet and ankles. Peppermint essential oil also increases circulation, thereby bringing healing to damaged nerves after injury.
Geranium is an anti-inflammatory essential oil that also boosts circulation. It is known to decrease neuropathic pain on contact while speeding healing cells to areas of nerve damage. Geranium essential oil has been proven in scientific studies to provide relief from the pain of shingles, an unpleasant condition that results from the reactivation of the varicella (chicken pox) virus lying dormant in the nerves.
Lavender essential oil is another triple threat to nerve pain, acting as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antispasmodic. It is helpful for all kinds of nerve pain and a common remedy for neuralgia, including sciatica. Lavender essential oil has also been studied and shown to relieve postoperative pain. Its calming aroma can help alleviate stress that exacerbates pain and can assist with sleep. If you use lavender topically for nerve pain, try adding it to a diffuser or linen spray for added aromatherapy benefits.
Helichrysum essential oil has antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and mild sedative properties. In addition to helping with nerve pain, this essential oil helps rebuild cells, so it may be beneficial in nerve regeneration following injury. Because helichrysum is also an excellent essential oil for skin renewal, it may be a good choice for nerve pain related to burns.
With its anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antispasmodic properties, eucalyptus essential oil is a popular choice for treating sciatica and temporary nerve paralysis. Since it improves circulation, eucalyptus essential oil is also helpful in treating neuralgia, as it can increase the flow of therapeutic cells to the area of pain. This essential oil is a workhorse for overall pain, including muscle and joint pain, so it is particularly useful after injury. Its warming sensation makes it ideal for inclusion in massage oil blends.
Some fans say German chamomile is the greatest inflammatory of all the essential oils, due to its high quantities of chamaluzene and alpha-bisabolol. Its antiphlogistic nature means it helps reduce swelling, making it perfect for post-traumatic injury or the swelling that often accompanies diabetic neuropathy. It accomplishes this by constricting blood vessels around the nerves, thereby relieving pressure that causes pain. Roman chamomile essential oil is also an anti-inflammatory and antiphlogistic, and it has analgesic and antispasmodic properties as well.
Another all-around healer, marjoram essential oil is an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antispasmodic. You can use this essential oil for all types of nerve pain in multiple delivery routes (see “Tips,” below). To enhance the effectiveness of marjoram essential oil, try combining it with sage and rosemary essential oils.
Used for centuries to combat a variety of health conditions, clove essential oil is another three-in-one agent, offering analgesia, anti-inflammation, and relief from spasms. Clove essential oil has antioxidants that help protect the cells of the body, and its warming effect provides numbing pain relief on par with benzocaine, which blocks nerve signals going to the brain.
Balsam fir essential oil affords analgesic effects on nerve pain through its intense warming sensation. This essential oil greatly improves blood flow, alleviating spasms and speeding healing. Because poor circulation is the root cause of diabetic neuropathy, balsam fir essential oil may be a good choice for early manifestations of this condition.
The sesquiterpene compounds in ginger essential oil lend it its anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antispasmodic properties. Also a warming essential oil, ginger works best when combined with other essential oils for a synergistic effect.
Mildly sedative and anti-inflammatory, frankincense essential oil improves the communication between nerves and the brain, which can help eliminate improper messages that result in nerve pain. Because frankincense essential oil also boosts the immune system, it’s ideal for nerve pain related to illness (see cautions related to chemotherapy and radiation in “Tips,” below).
Yet another triple-action essential oil, wintergreen also functions as an anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and analgesic. Like clove essential oil, wintergreen offers numbing relief similar to topical medications. Additionally, wintergreen essential oil contains methyl salicylate, which the body converts to salicylic acid–a common ingredient in NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen).
8 DIY Essential Oils Based Recipes that Treat Nerve Pain
General Nerve Pain Blend
- 4 drops Roman chamomile EO
- 3 drops marjoram EO
- 3 drops helichrysum EO
- 2 drops lavender EO
- 15 ml carrier oil (argan, avocado, coconut, sesame, sweet almond, jojoba, grapeseed, macadamia)
- Combine all the ingredients above in a small glass bottle.
- Cap and gently roll between the palms to mix.
- Apply to areas of the body where nerve pain is experienced.
- Recipe can be multiplied for large-scale or daily use.
- (Hint: St. John’s wort herbal tincture can be substituted for the carrier oil when treating sciatica, shooting nerve pain, or shingles.)
Neuropathy Blend #1
- Combine all the ingredients above in a small glass jar or beaker.
- Apply to 2-4 drops to areas of neuropathy and gently massage into the skin.
- Use 3 to 5 times per day.
- (Hint: this is a good combination to use where total loss of feeling accompanies neuropathy, and a warming essential oil could irritate the skin see “Tips,” below.)
Neuropathy Blend #2
- Mix all the ingredients above in a small glass bottle or beaker by rolling gently between the palms or stirring with a tongue depressor.
- Apply to neuropathic areas first thing in the morning and at night before bed (ideally, without socks, see “Tips,” below).
Carpal Tunnel Blend
- 5 drops helichrysum EO
- 3 drops Roman chamomile EO
- 2 drops marjoram EO
- 2 drops lavender EO
- 2 tablespoons carrier oil of your choice (argan, avocado, coconut, sesame, sweet almond, jojoba, grapeseed, macadamia)
- Combine all the ingredients above in a small glass bottle.
- Cap and roll gently between the palms to blend.
- Apply daily to hands and wrists, working into the skin like hand lotion.
- (Hint: for large-scale use, multiply the recipe as needed and store in a larger container.)
- 15 drops geranium EO
- 10 drops helichrysum EO
- 5 drops peppermint EO
- 10 juniper berry EO
- 6 cypress EO
- 1 oz. sweet almond oil
- Combine all the ingredients above in a glass bottle with a spill-proof top.
- Roll between the palms to blend the mixture.
- Apply to areas of nerve pain or entire body during massage.
- (Hint: keep away from eyes and mucous membranes.)
- 2 drops peppermint EO
- 2 drops marjoram EO
- 2 drops wintergreen EO
- 2 drops copaiba EO
- 1 cup raw cocoa butter
- ½ cup coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon sweet almond oil
- In a double boiler over low heat, melt the cocoa butter, coconut oil, and sweet almond oil together, stirring to mix.
- Pour the melted mixture into silicone baking molds (or muffin tins, in a pinch) to allow to cool.
- Allow to sit about 5 minutes before adding the essential oils (waiting keeps the essential oils from oxidizing in the hot liquid and losing their effectiveness).
- Stir the essential oils to mix, and place the molds in the freezer, so the mixture can solidify.
- Wait until the blend is solid and remove from the molds.
- Store in the freezer in zippered plastic bags until ready to use.
- Rub on areas of nerve pain during massage–tidier and more portable than regular massage oil and great for seniors for whom small oil bottles present fine motor difficulty.
- Combine the ingredients above in a small glass bottle.
- Cap and roll between the palms to blend.
- Apply a dab or two to the base of the neck to relieve headache pain.
- (Hint: use a bottle with a rollerball top for ease of portability.)
- Mix the ingredients above in a small glass bottle.
- Cap and roll between the palms to blend.
- Apply to the length of the sciatic nerve, from the lower back, along the hamstring muscles on the back of the thigh, and down the calf to the outer ankle if necessary (follow the route of the pain).
Closing Tips for Using Essential Oils for Nerve Pain
You can enhance the use of essential oils to treat nerve pain not just by selecting the right oils but also by choosing delivery routes that offer the most relief. While topical rubs and massage oils are popular and practical, don’t forget about inhalation, diffusion, body lotions, and hot compresses. You can also get significant relief simply by adding essential oils to your bath water or by applying them to reflexology points corresponding to various areas of the body.
Where you apply your essential oils can greatly affect their efficacy. Sometimes using essential oil treatments on just the arms and legs isn’t sufficient; you can enhance their effects by applying them to the roots of the nerve at the spine on the back and the neck. Remember, some nerves are very long. You may feel sciatic nerve pain at the ankle, but the cause of the problem is much higher up in the lower back and hip area.
Nerve pain can result in secondary problems, like muscle tension, stress and anxiety. Don’t forget that you can use essential oils to treat these conditions as well. Taking a whole-body approach to treating nerve pain is often your best tack.
Essential oils work best to treat nerve pain when they can be left on the body for a long while to take effect. Try using your essential oil combinations at night right before bed for the greatest efficacy (and improved sleep!). If you have any swelling in your lower limbs, resist the urge to wear socks over essential oils applied there; you want the greatest blood flow possible to that area, and the elastic in your socks may impede that.
If you have had chemotherapy or radiation therapy, avoid using essential oils containing phenol compounds. These oils include:
- Roman chamomile
When it doubt, consult your healthcare provider about using essential oils. Never discontinue a prescribed medication in lieu of essential oils without talking to your doctor first.
Occasionally, people experience sensitivity to certain essential oils. Before using a new essential oil on a large area of the body, try a patch test first on a small spot to check it.
Since many of the essential oils above can give a warming sensation, be sure to dilute them first before applying them to the skin. In fact, this is a good rule of thumb when working with all essential oils. Use a carrier oil like coconut, sweet almond, olive, or jojoba, which have their own benefits to your skin. If you have complete numbness in any area of the body, such as with diabetic neuropathy or multiple sclerosis, consult your doctor first before using essential oils that generate “heat,” so you don’t overdo it without noticing–a bit like burning yourself from lack of feeling, which can leave your skin red and irritated.
Most essential oils are for external use only. Use essential oils internally only under the care of a healthcare provider experienced with essential oils. Never use essential oils directly on an unhealed surgical incision site or on open skin without a doctor’s recommendation.
If you are using essential oils on injured or damaged nerves, you may experience odd sensations or even pain if the nerves begin to regenerate. Consult your healthcare provider if this continues for more than a few days.
While the essential oils listed above are the top oils for treating nerve pain, there are many others that work on nerves as well:
- black pepper
- black spruce
- ylang ylang
- clary sage
- blue tansy
Enjoy experimenting with different essential oil combinations for the relief they can bring your nerve pain, as well as for their wonderful aromatic effects on your mood and mental well being!