The best essential oils for use in massage | Nikura

5 min read / 23 February 2022 / Caitlin Devlin

The best essential oils for use in massage

Discover which essential oils can soothe, relax and relieve pain through massage.

Massage is one of the best techniques for relieving muscle pain.

Essential oils have been used in massage for many years, and a huge number of them have some benefits in this area, whether they are able to soothe inflammation, reduce pain, or even just relieve stress and tension.

It would be impractical to list every essential oil that can be used effectively in massage, but a few of them stand out as top choices.

Here are our favourite soothing, calming and pain-relieving oils for use in massage.

Bergamot oil

A 2017 review found that bergamot oil is anti-inflammatory and anti-convulsant. This means that it can both reduce swelling and relax constricted muscles, reducing tension and cramping and relieving pain.

Bergamot oil also contains the component linalool, which can block the effects on pain receptors and inhibit the release of substance P, a compound involved in the transition of pain and other nerve impulses.

Whilst bergamot’s soothing, pain-relieving properties can make it an incredibly useful massage oil, it is important to only use furocoumarin-free bergamot oil on skin, as bergamot oil that is cold-pressed may have phototoxic effects.

Learn more about the benefits of bergamot essential oil.

Black pepper oil

Warming black pepper is anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic, relieving painful swelling around muscles and joints and preventing spasming muscles from causing cramps and knots.

A study in 2014 found that black pepper oil can be particularly useful for those with neck pain, so you may want to use black pepper essential oil when massaging that area.

Learn more about the benefits of black pepper essential oil.

Camphor oil

Anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic camphor can help to calm and soothe tense and swollen muscles, and its warming and cooling effects can relieve stiffness in joints.

A study in 2016 found that it can be particularly useful in alleviating back pain, an area often focused on in massage.

Learn more about the benefits of camphor essential oil.

Cassia oil

Cassia oil is known to enhance blood circulation, warming the body. Muscle aches are often caused by weak circulation which prevents affected areas from getting enough oxygen and nutrients.

The circulation-boosting effects of cassia oil coupled with its anti-inflammatory properties can help to ease pain and tension in sore muscles.

Learn more about the benefits of cassia essential oil.

Eucalyptus oil

An anti-inflammatory oil, eucalyptus oil is good at soothing swollen muscles and tissues and relieving accompanying pain.

A 2013 study found that eucalyptus oil’s anti-inflammatory properties are even strong enough to reduce pain and inflammation after total knee replacement surgery.

Learn more about the benefits of eucalyptus essential oil.

Geranium oil

Geranium oil’s anti-inflammatory properties are impressive - a study in 2013 found that geranium oil was even more effective at combatting inflammation than some joint pain medications.

Geranium oil is also known to have pain-relieving properties that help to ease discomfort. Massages are a source of relaxation, and geranium oil helps to encourage this with its stress-relieving abilities.

A study in 2015 found that these abilities are so powerful that they can help pregnant women decrease their anxiety during labour.

Learn more about the benefits of geranium essential oil.

Ginger oil

Ginger oil contains the component zingiberene, which has powerful pain-relieving properties. It is believed to reduce the amount of prostaglandins in the body, compounds often associated with the sensation of pain.

A study in 2001 found that ginger oil is particularly good at reducing inflammation-induced pain, and a further study in 2010 found that ginger oil could reduce muscle pain after exercising by 25%.

Learn more about the benefits of ginger essential oil.

Two essential oil bottles next to two lit candles.

Lighting aromatic candles or diffusing relaxing oils can elevate a massage.

Lavender oil

Lavender oil has powerful anti-inflammatory effects thanks to the activity of the component beta-caryophyllene.

It is also an anticonvulsant, able to relax constricted muscles. A soothing oil, it is famous for its ability to relieve stress and anxiety, completing the massage experience.

Learn more about the benefits of lavender essential oil.

Lemongrass oil

A study in 2011 found that lemongrass had a significant positive effect on muscle pain. This is due to the oil’s powerful anti-inflammatory abilities, further shown in a later study in 2014.

Learn more about the benefits of lemongrass essential oil.

Maritime pine oil

Maritime pine oil was used by Hippocrates in Ancient Greece to soothe inflammation. It’s pretty incredible that this use has carried forward into the modern day – research from as recent as 2018 found that maritime pine essential oil was able to reduce muscle pain and inflammation.

Learn more about the benefits of maritime pine essential oil.

Myrrh oil

Myrrh oil is another popular anti-inflammatory. It can also relieve pain, as was noted in a study in 2011.

This study found that myrrh oil was actually able to interact with opioid receptors in the brain to convince it that the pain didn’t exist.

Learn more about the benefits of myrrh essential oil.

Nutmeg oil

A study in 2016 tested nutmeg’s effectiveness against inflammatory joint pain and accompanying swelling.

They found that the oil was very effective at relieving swelling and pain and showed significant anti-inflammatory activity. These findings supported nutmeg’s ongoing use as a home remedy for muscle pain.

Learn more about the benefits of nutmeg essential oil.

Turmeric oil

Turmeric oil has soothing components which are able to block inflammatory cytokines and enzymes.

A study in 2010 also found that turmeric essential oil had an anti-inflammatory effect on joints. Whilst turmeric can make a valuable addition to massage oil, it is important to use it sparingly, as turmeric oil can stain skin yellow.

Learn more about the benefits of turmeric essential oil.

Wintergreen oil

Wintergreen essential oil has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is often used in the treatment of sports injuries.

A study in 2014 found that wintergreen oil was able to reduce inflammation and pain in damaged tissue.

These properties are often put down to the presence of methyl salicylate, an anti-inflammatory component of which wintergreen oil contains roughly 85-99%.

Learn more about the benefits of wintergreen essential oil.

No matter which essential oil you choose to use in your massage oil, it is important to only use a few drops and dilute well with a carrier oil, as essential oils are potent natural products.

When properly used, however, this potency can enhance massages and muscle treatments with remarkable effect.

Shop our complete essential oil range here.

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Medical Disclaimer

The content in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of medical advice. Please consult your personal physician for any advice or treatment regarding specific health questions. Neither the article editor, writer, nor the organisation of Nikura takes any responsibility for possible health consequences following the information given in any article. All readers should consult their physician before taking any advice given within these articles.

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