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Research Shows Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Essential Oils

For much of mankind’s history, people have used herbal treatments to reduce pain and inflammation in joints and muscles. The bark of the Willow tree has given us ‘the wonder drug’ for pain reduction, which actually occurs due to a reduction of inflammation. Now, many professional therapists lay-practitioners are turning to essential oils for inflammation [...]

For much of mankind’s history, people have used herbal treatments to reduce pain and inflammation in joints and muscles. The bark of the Willow tree has given us ‘the wonder drug’ for pain reduction, which actually occurs due to a reduction of inflammation. Now, many professional therapists lay-practitioners are turning to essential oils for inflammation reduction and pain relief. Essential oils provide a very simple means of reaping the anti-inflammatory, analgesic potential of natural medicine, as all one need do is put a few drops of essential oil into a base oil and massage in for quick, sometimes long-lasting relief.

A look at the most recent research gives a long list of abstracts where scientists have validated the inflammation reducing potential of essential oils. The oils used in today’s therapies have been carefully distilled to retain their medicinal potency. This means that they can have very complex natural chemical structures, and depending on the plant, a powerful inflammation-reducing action. Some obvious oils are distilled from plants that they themselves have long been used for this purpose — particularly Ginger and Turmeric. Carbon-dioxide distillations (a new, cold-process method of making essential oils) of both these plants have been included in patented inflammation-reducing formulas. These CO2 distillations are readily available for any practitioner to employ in their formulas.

Just published in the Journal of Lipid Research are the results of an investigation in Japan confirming the anti-inflammation activity in several essential oils.This supports the selection of many essential oils used in pain relief and anti-inflammation formulas. The oils shown to reduce inflammation through suppression of the COX-2 pro-inflammatory enzyme included herbs, like thyme, clove and fennel; rose; eucalyptus; and even the citrus bergamot. The oils considered to have the strongest anti-inflammation activity used in aromatherapy were not even examined, which can mean that there are naturally a great many compounds found in essential oils that have an anti-inflammatory effect.

The most pronounced inflammation reduction in the study came from the essential oil from Thyme herb. Further, some of the individual natural constituents of the essential oil were examined, and it was discovered that carvacrol had the strongest activity. Carvacrol is found in many essential oils, and is most often considered aromatherapy’s most potent anti-bacterial, and has been directly implicated in boosting immune system function in other scientific studies. There seems to be a link between inflammation reduction, immune system function and longevity (the inflammation reducing power of the essential oils studied was compared to red-wine extract, implicated in potentially extending lifespan). The study did not go so far as to elucidate the actual mechanism of reducing inflammation, but it would not be surprising if this activity were a factor — carvacrol, as well as thymol — the other major component of Thyme essential oil — are well-known antioxidants.

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