Over 100 forms of arthritis have been identified, and one in five (22%) of all adults in the United States report having doctor-diagnosed arthritis. 50% of people over age 65 are currently being treated for arthritis–a staggering statistic.
At the core of any natural treatment for arthritis is reduction of inflammation and effective control of chronic and often widespread pain. One simple and effective means of treating arthritis is with phytotherapy–the use of healing herbs and plants to address arthritic symptoms. When used correctly, essential oils–the concentrated steam-distilled extracts of specific plants–are the most potent weapon against the debilitating advances of arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an extremely common condition affecting the connective tissue of the body. Believed to be an auto-immune disease, rheumatoid arthritis is the result of the body’s immune system attacking its own cells. Osteoarthritis (known as ‘wear and tear’ arthritis because it is viewed as an inevitable result of the aging of joints) causes considerable pain due to the loss of joint cushioning cartilage. The constant grating of bone on bone, often with the added pain of growing bone spurs, makes it a constant, every day issue. Psoriatic arthritis, which is currently grabbing much of the spotlight in arthritic treatment, is related to the skin condition psoriasis, and can include painful and often debilitating swelling of the joints in the spine, knees, hands and fingers.
Essential oils can be used in many ways to alleviate the symptoms of arthritis. Massage, baths and compresses are especially recommended. Analgesic oils such as eucalyptus (eucalyptus globulus), rosemary (rosmarinus officinalis) and clove bud (eugenia caryophyllata) are the ingredients of choice for chronic arthritis sufferers.
Anti-inflammatory oils such as juniper berry (juniperus communis), cypress (cupressus sempervirens), grapefruit (citrus paradisi) and lemon (citrus limon) relieve swelling and fluid retention.
Muscle relaxant oils such as lavender (lavandula officinalis) and Roman chamomile (anthemis nobilis) are extremely helpful for reducing pain and assisting in sleep and relaxation.
Finally, exciting research is unfolding that reveals that certain essential oils have even more potent anti-arthritis benefits. These oils include ginger (zingiber officinalis), cinnamon (cinnamomum verum), turmeric (curcuma longa) and certain varieties of frankincense (boswellia carterii and boswellia serrata.)
New, naturally soothing products for the treatment of arthritis are showing up on drugstore and natural product store shelves. Explain your symptoms exactly as identified by your natural health professional and engage the assistance of a knowledgeable staff member when making your selections. Resources exist to help you deal with–and often overcome–the challenges of arthritis. Incorporating therapeutic-grade essential oils into your holistic arthritis treatment program is a major step toward realizing longlasting health and wellness.
Julia Meadows of La Quinta is a European-trained phytotherapist and natural product formulator. Since 1986, using her Therapeutic Index, she has created therapeutic medical aromatherapy products for the treatment of many conditions.