Over the course of the past week I have seen this question a few times in separate aromatherapy Facebook groups, “Does inhaling essential oils help with chronic pain?” The simple answer is, “yes!” However, I want to discuss why inhalation of essential oils helps with pain.
There are studies showing that inhalation of essential oils assists with alleviating nausea post-surgery. The most recent study was published in the Journal of PeriAnesthesia Nursing, A Comparison of Aromatherapy to Standard Care for Relief of PONV and PDNV in Ambulatory Surgical Patients in April 2018. Studies also indicate the inhalation of essential oils has positive results on emotional conditions such as depression, and likewise for anxiety.
There are myriad anecdotal reports of essential oils being of assistance for all these conditions nausea, vomiting, depression, anxiety and headache or migraine; but only a few for pain, chronic or acute. However, more studies are begin conducted on the use of essential oil inhalation for pain. I find this quite encouraging.
When I consult with a client and aromatherapy application methods are discussed most clients ask for a topical blend. I get this request, I really do; however, I also make the case for inhalation. Let’s talk frankly, shall we? For example, why do cocaine users snort their precious powder? Why don’t cocaine users rub their white dust on their skin? When it comes to inhalation there is no quicker route for therapeutic constituents to enter the body. The same holds true for essential oils.
When we apply a topical solution do the therapeutic components of essential oils stay on the place we have applied it? No! In short, and foregoing the anatomy lesson, the chemical constituents are absorbed into the body and travel throughout. This fact applies to inhalation as well.
Then there is breath work. I remember learning from a well-seasoned surgical nurse the importance of breath when it comes to managing pain. She told me that controlling pain and anxiety came down to breathing. “Take a deep breath in through your nose, hold it for a slow count of three, and then slowly exhale through your mouth. Repeat this several times.” Are these not the steps we use to instruct our clients on the use of a personal inhaler? Hmmmm….
Let’s address the statement, “The effectiveness from inhalation of essential oils for pain is just in your head.” Well, if this were true wouldn’t that be positive? There is nothing wrong with a positive placebo effect. If we believe it works for us it does, no sense arguing the point. However, on a personal and professional level I have witnessed strong positive results from essential oil inhalation for pain.
Why would we want to use a personal inhaler over a topical application to address pain? Ease of use. There are times when I am out in public and do not want to offend others with the scent of the pain salve I slather on my body. There are times when just breathing hurts and the last thing I want to do is massage my body with a topical application. An inhaler is less messy, no need to wash my hands after use. A personal inhaler is easy, compact, discrete and user friendly.
What essential oils do I use in a personal inhaler to address pain? I use what provides me with emotional comfort as well as physical comfort. I like a blend of Kunzea (Kunzea ambigua), Black pepper (Piper nigrum), Sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) and Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus). There are so many amazing essential oils that are helpful for pain and inflammation that your aromatherapist can find a blend that works best for you.
✿´´¯`•.¸¸ Fragrant Blessings ¸¸.•´¯`´✿
Haly JensenHof, MA, RA