Effective Pain Treatment with Massage and Herb Infused Oils
Everyone has experienced pain at one time in their lives as a result of injury, stress, or a pre-existing condition. When in pain, the body sends electrical signals to the brain which in turn releases a substance called endorphins that help to alleviate pain. Pain is a mixture of emotions, experience, and sensation which varies from person to person.
Acute pain – when experienced and left untreated – can turn into chronic pain which is challenging physically and mentally and prevents the sufferer from functioning normally. The common medical treatment for pain involves pain-killing medication and other adjunctive therapies. Over-the-counter painkillers, when taken for a longer term, can cause drug dependency and lead to fatal consequences.
What is the best treatment option?
Evidence suggests that those suffering from pain can benefit greatly from holistic approaches with an emphasis on massage therapy.
Massage therapy is one of the safest, most effective, and best natural methods for relieving various types of pain. Experts also say that it reduces local inflammation and diminishes the level of depression through relaxation.
How massage therapy works for pain?
There are different types of massage techniques performed depending on the area and extent of pain. These techniques relax the muscles and wash out the toxins and waste material in the form of lactic acid. They also promote increased blood supply and oxygen to the area.
According to the American Massage Therapy association, studies have proven that massage has several health benefits which include:
- Increased blood circulation
- Improved range of motion
- Increased endorphin levels in the body (this is considered the greatest benefit as these substances are responsible for making us feel good and relaxed)
Besides the basic muscular benefits, massage also helps the entire body recover. By improving circulation it encourages nutrients, oxygen, and arterial blood components to visit the area being manipulated.
How does infused oil with herbs work?
To achieve the maximum benefits of massage, herbal oils used during massage are useful in relieving aches and pains caused by inflammation. Herbal oils are made with raw and dried herbs mixed in a carrier oil. By doing this, the infused oil formed has doubled the effects from the carrier oil as well as the herb infused.
This works in two ways:
1) The aroma of herbs and carrier oil causes an emotional and physical response via the brain.
2) The oil penetrates the skin to underlying tissue and blood to distribute its therapeutic properties.
There are over 60 essential herbs with amazing properties which are used to make infused oils for relieving pain. Most of them can be found in the kitchen, but not all measure up. Knowing some of the differences can help you choose the appropriate herb which is best for the situation.
Here is the list of recommended herbs found locally in your kitchen which you can use for your infused oil:
Curcuma longa (also known as turmeric) can often be found right in our own kitchens. It is well-known from ancient times for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It has been used for thousands of years as a spice and medicinal herb. This plant and its byproducts have an eventful history in alleviating various medical conditions.
Curcumin, the active component of turmeric, has strong anti-inflammatory properties which work at a molecular level to inhibit inflammation. Also, it increases the antioxidant capacity of the body. Oxidative damage is one of the mechanisms behind many diseases which involve free radicals. Curcumin neutralizes free radicals and boosts activity of antioxidant enzymes. Fresh or dried and ground turmeric root can be infused in oil and applied to joint or muscle pain affected by tenderness, stiffness or swelling.
This plant (Brassica nigra) has been used as a traditional remedy to alleviate various ailments for centuries. Mustard seeds are rich in sinigrin which possess anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties. Because of its topical irritant effects, when infused in oil it relieves congestion and increases blood circulation which relieves spasm and neuralgia.
It has a strong anti-inflammatory compound known as allyl-isothiocyanate which helps to inhibit inflammation. Also, the heating property of mustard seeds causes an increase in temperature when applied to affected areas and helps loosen up the stiffness present in joints and muscles.
This spice has been valued for thousands of years for its medicinal properties. Both raw and heat-treated ginger reduces pain associated with muscle injury by about 24%. It has antioxidant content which includes gingerols, shogals and zingerones. These compounds have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties similar to NSAIDs.
When applied topically, ginger-infused oil helps reduce prostaglandins which have analgesic, anti-arthritic, antispasmodic, and peripheral stimulant effects.
This is a terpene commonly used in creams, ointments, and lotions extracted from the bark of camphor trees. It is a counter irritant. When infused in oil and applied to a painful area, it numbs the nerve endings. The nerve endings thereafter no longer transmit the sensation of pain.
When used in massage, camphor produces a cool sensation and acts as a mild local anesthetic. It is approved by the US FDA for topical use as a pain reliever and anesthetic.
This is a sterile hybrid of spearmint and watermint. Besides its use in food and beverages as a flavoring agent, it is widely used for its health benefits also. Peppermint’s antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties reduce muscle spasm induced by any injury or exercise. The main components of peppermint are menthol and menthone.
When infused in massage oil and applied to the body, the concentration of menthol acts as an antispasmodic and excites the anti-pain channel which causes the pain-sensing fibers to become less sensitive.
Interesting Facts about herbal infused oil
To make infused oil, you can blend 2 to 3 herbs or you can use it individually with any of the carrier oils. When mixed together with their diverse properties, it gives good results.
– Good blends for bone and joint pain: Ginger, Curcumin, or Mustard
– Good blends for muscle pain: Peppermint, Camphor, Curcumin, or Ginger
– For soothing and calming effects rosemary and lavender extracts can also be mixed with these herbs.
Selection of carrier oil
There are many carrier oils available and most are suitable to use with all kinds of herbs. But you need to consider a few things before choosing one.
- Odor – Some oils have a distinct odor and when herbs are added, it may alter the aroma
- Skin type
- Shelf life
The best oils to select for making infused herb oil is Olive oil and sweet almond oil.
Precautions while using herb infused oils
- Some herbs are not suitable for sensitive skin (like ginger).
- Do not use herbs like curcumin during pregnancy or nursing as it can cause some hormonal stress.
- Avoid herbal oils if you have any history of epilepsy or other conditions.
- Herbal oils can cause local irritation, and people with spice allergies should avoid it.
- Prior to using herbal oils, a skin test is recommended for allergic reactions.
- Adelmann, P. (2020, October 16). How to make herb-infused oils. Retrieved March 04, 2021, from https://theherbalacademy.com/herb-infused-oils/
- Article information. (n.d.). Retrieved March 04, 2021, from https://ijpsr.com/bft-article/ethnopharmacological-properties-of-curcuma-longa-a-review/?view=fulltext#:~:text=Turmeric’s%20active%20constituents%20are%20yellowish,%2C%20cardiovascular%20protective%2C%20hepatoprotective%2C%20and
- Chen, W., Vermaak, I., & Viljoen, A. (2013, May 10). Camphor–a fumigant during the Black death and a COVETED fragrant wood in ancient Egypt and Babylon–a review. Retrieved March 04, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6270224/#:~:text=Camphor%20exhibits%20a%20number%20of,as%20a%20skin%20penetration%20enhancer.
- Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Pain, Disability, & Behavior, A. (1987, January 01). The anatomy and physiology of pain. Retrieved March 04, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK219252/#:~:text=At%20least%20four%20physiological%20mechanisms,primarily%20central%20nervous%20system%20mechanisms.
- JB;, M. (n.d.). A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea (mentha piperita l.). Retrieved March 04, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16767798/
- Mustard seed. (n.d.). Retrieved March 04, 2021, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/mustard-seed#:~:text=Mustard%20seeds%20emerged%20from%20our,arthritis%2C%20and%20help%20prevent%20cancer.
- Oils that help with knee and joint pain. (n.d.). Retrieved March 04, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/arthritis/essential-oils-for-knee-and-joint-pain
- S;, S. (n.d.). The effectiveness of Swedish massage with aromatic ginger oil in treating chronic low back pain in OLDER adults: A randomized controlled trial. Retrieved March 04, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24559813/
- Tsao, J. (2007, June). Effectiveness of massage therapy for chronic, non-malignant pain: A review. Retrieved March 04, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1876616/
I have been dealing with chronic pain for at least 25 years. Been to orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, neurologist, and 3 pain management doctors. I’ve been told I have a little scoliosis, arthritis all over my body, Degenerative Disc Disease and have 1 disc that is gone. I’ve been told that my lower back did its own fusion by itself. My pain is severe. I hate being on the strong medication I am on. It doesn’t really work anymore. My stress & anxiety levels are through the roof. I cry daily out of pure frustration. I rarely leave my house. I can’t stand or sit for very long. Can you help me?
Hello Janis, You may want to look at this article which is full of good ideas for pain relief: https://vitalitymagazine.com/article/top-20-favourite-cures-pain-effective-non-drug-strategies/