If you're like me, you're always looking for ways to help ease your fibromyalgia symptoms. Unfortunately, while several medications and treatments can help, they can sometimes be expensive or have unwanted side effects.
That's why I was excited to learn about aromatherapy – a natural treatment that uses essential oils to target various health concerns. Read on to learn more about this gentle and affordable treatment option.
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Fibromyalgia syndrome is a complex, chronic condition, more common in women than in men, which causes widespread pain and fatigue, and a variety of other symptoms.
Those living with fibromyalgia try countless remedies and treatments to treat and lessen the widespread pain and associated symptoms.
Of all the natural and holistic health practices for fibromyalgia, aromatherapy is definitely at the top of the list for accessibility. Aromatherapy is an easy-to-do, relaxing treatment you can use every day.
Aromatherapy with essential oils offers you the opportunity to naturally relieve stress from your body and mind, supporting healing and experiencing benefits in managing fibromyalgia symptoms.
In the following post, we’ll cover the following:
What is aromatherapy
Benefits of aromatherapy
How does aromatherapy work
Essential oils for fibromyalgia
Choosing carrier oils
Tips for beginners
Keep reading to learn all about aromatherapy with essential oils.
1. WHAT IS AROMATHERAPY
Herbs and plant oils have been used for centuries, and Rene-Maurice Gattefossé first used “aromatherapy” in 1928.
Gattefossé was a French chemist who accidentally burnt his hand and then plunged it into a vat of lavender oil without giving it much thought. The result of his quick thinking was that the burn healed very quickly with no scar. This result prompted him to investigate the healing potential of essential oils more thoroughly.
Today, aromatherapy is one of the most widely known and popular complementary therapies.
Aromatherapy refers to using scents to treat various psychological and physiological problems. It involves inhaling or applying essential oils derived from plants, seeds, bark, and flowers.
Aromatherapy works by stimulating our sense of smell. Humans can detect over 10,000 scents, and every scent causes our body to respond slightly differently. 15% of this inhaled air goes straight to our brain when we inhale scents.
It specifically affects the limbic system in our brain, which is responsible for controlling mood and emotions. Once activated by the scent, the limbic system releases hormones, causing us to experience a certain mood or feeling.
2. BENEFITS OF AROMATHERAPY
Although aromatherapy is widely used to help people with various conditions and symptoms, you should note that evidence of its effectiveness differs from condition to condition, symptom to symptom, and person to person.
It is thought that essential oils can encourage positivity, boost energy, uplift, and soothe troublesome moods. When it comes to treating pain, aromatherapy is helpful because it may help relieve anxiety and stress caused by the pain and vice versa.
When pain is muscular, it's commonly observed that essential oils used topically in massages can also be an effective treatment.
The top health benefits:
Reduce pain from headaches and migraines
Reduce other types of pain, including neck, back, and joint pain
Relieve stress and anxiety
Reduce symptoms of depression
Get more energy when the correct oils are used
Help you get a better sleep when using them before bed
Boost memory and brain function
Get a healthy boost to your immune system
Aromatherapy is becoming popular amongst people with fibromyalgia because of its positive effects on pain and mood.
Aromatherapy also seems to offer people with fibromyalgia:
increased pain tolerance
Improved fibro fog
3. HOW DOES AROMATHERAPY WORK
Whether you are brand new to using essential oils or a seasoned vet, it helps to understand precisely how aromatherapy works and the different methods.
Aromatherapy works predominantly through essential oils via your sense of smell. The brain has strong links to our sense of smell, which is why you react in different ways to different scents. When your brain analyzes a smell, it sets off reactions in other parts of the body.
With aromatherapy, you will use the healing benefits and scents together with pure essential oils either directly on your skin or by inhaling it with the help of a few different methods.
If you have used oils before, you know there are many different ways to use them, from making “green” cleaning products for the home to deodorizing rooms, which are all fantastic. But for aromatherapy, these are the two main methods you will use.
You can use essential oils in diffusers, personal inhalers, and massage oils. Additionally, you can use essential oil-infused bath products and use them in warm water baths, which may be the best choice for chronic pain conditions.
4. AROMATHERAPY METHODS
Now for the fun part – learning the different aromatherapy methods with essential oils. The two main aromatherapy methods include inhaling the oils or applying them to your skin for topical treatment. However, you have even more options to choose from within each of these two primary methods.
Here is a rundown of the many ways you can use pure essential oils for aromatherapy:
First of all, there is inhalation. We will talk more in-depth about these methods and how to do them, but here is a brief rundown of how this works. When you inhale the oils, they evaporate into the air (through methods discussed in a later section), so you are not inhaling oils directly but through the vaporized oil in the air.
This is where the benefits come from with the oils and why you need to use pure, authentic essential oils. Make sure they say 100% pure essential oils, never fragrance oils. Fragrance oils are scented and have no health benefits.
With aromatherapy, the oils stimulate the part of your brain connected to your smell, plus the molecules can enter your lungs and get into your body, which is where you get many of the health benefits from using them.
There are also a few different ways to use the inhalation method, which might be what you thought of when you heard the term aromatherapy. It makes sense since it has to do with the aroma of the oils you are using. Here are some of the main inhalation methods for aromatherapy with essential oils:
Steam inhalation is the primary way to inhale essential oils and get the most from them. You will use the steam inhalation method, similar to any other type you use steam. The only difference is that oils are added to the pot of boiling water.
►For steam inhalation, you want to boil a pot of water, then add between 3 and 6 drops of your oils or blends. If using more than one oil, use just 1 or 2 drops of each one.
►Remove the pot from the stove and set it on a potholder on your table. Then sit with your face over the pot (carefully!) and a damp towel over your neck and head. Inhale deeply for several minutes.
ON YOUR PILLOW
A more straightforward method is to add oils to a spray bottle with distilled water and carrier oil, then spray it onto your pillow. Then, every night when you go to bed, you have the spritzed oils that you will be inhaling as you sleep soundly. This is great when you have insomnia, where you can use scents like lavender and rose.
USING A DIFFUSER
Lastly, you can do inhalation aromatherapy with an essential oil diffuser. They are very convenient, easy to use, and don’t require carrier oils.
With a diffuser, you place a few drops of your oils or blends on top of the diffuser bowl, turn it on, and inhale deeply. You can sit as close to it as you want, or use it for regular use, turn it on in any room of your house and go about your business.
Another method we will go further into is topical application. This is when a pure essential oil is applied directly to your skin for even more health benefits. But, again, the method you choose often comes down to preference and what is available to you.
When applied to your skin, they help in a few different ways. First of all, topical application of specific oils helps with skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, acne, burns, cuts, scrapes, and other skin wounds. This is more of a direct benefit.
It can also help when the oils are absorbed into your skin and enter your bloodstream. They can help with different things, from improving your memory to helping with organ systems. This is why using a wide variety of oils for various benefits is the way to go.
Topical application is the preferred option for many people since it is convenient and only requires mixing your oils with a carrier oil to dilute it.
Why dilute it? Because pure essential oils are much too potent for direct skin contact. They can cause burning and irritation, depending on how sensitive your skin is. It isn’t worth the risk since you use it to help, not hurt. For that reason, you should dilute all oils with a carrier oil – which will be discussed in a later section.
WHERE TO PUT THE OILS
After properly diluting your essential oils, you need to decide where to put them. You might have one area of your skin you prefer or one area with ailments like skin conditions or joint pain, so naturally, you know the location. However, for daily and overall wellness, use them in the following areas:
On your temples
Behind your ears
On your upper and lower back
On top of your head or forehead
On your abdomen
At your neck
On your collarbone
Underneath your nose
These locations have important pulse points on your body so you will benefit the most from these areas.
WARM AROMATHERAPY BATHS
Using essential oils in a warm bath, you can have your daily soak while also benefiting from aromatherapy. This is a great way to allow the healing properties of essential oils to help relax sore pain points seen in fibromyalgia.
Not only will you absorb the oils into your skin, but you are also inhaling the oils into your nose from the steam rising from your bath. The warm water in itself has been proven to help with soothing chronic pain, and the addition of appropriately chosen essential oils increases its effectiveness.
►WHY YOU SHOULD TRY IT
Now moving on to why you should try aromatherapy with essential oils. You know the basics of using them to help your physical, mental, and emotional health. Before going into the specific ways, aromatherapy can help you heal on the inside and out, let’s take a moment to discuss some of the other benefits.
THEY ARE EASY TO USE
What’s the first benefit of aromatherapy with essential oils? First, it is easy to use! This is something everyone can do with minimal effort.
With so many different aromatherapy methods, both topical and inhalation, you will find a way that works best for you.
Perhaps you want to do steam inhalation, use a diffuser, or find the best direct application. Try some different methods until you figure out the easiest and most convenient way to reap the benefits of aromatherapy.
YOU CAN USE AROMATHERAPY ANYWHERE
Aromatherapy can also do just about anywhere, with multiple methods to use and pre-made essential oil blends to purchase. Here are some different places you can do aromatherapy:
Steam inhalation in your kitchen
Taking a relaxing aromatherapy bath while on vacation or traveling
Bringing a pre-mixed diluted oil blend to apply to your skin at any time, including in the office
Turning on a diffuser with oils in any room, including when you are at work
►AROMATHERAPIST OR DO IT YOURSELF?
An aromatherapist considers your medical history, mental health, well-being, and emotional condition to achieve the best results.
Essential oils are used as treatments for both pain and to enhance mood. Take stress, for example. If stress is ignored, it only gets worse, increases the flare-up of pain and its severity, and affects your overall health.
An aromatherapist working with someone suffering from stress will create a plan that includes suitable essential oils to reduce stress, promote relaxation, and improve health and mental outlook.
Of course, you do not necessarily need a specialist, as you can easily buy a diffuser and essential oils for yourself and experiment with an array of oils.
The key to success is researching and learning about essential oils' various properties to find the specific oils to meet your needs.
For fibromyalgia, you may want to start with oils such as lavender or vetiver for relaxation and induce sleep, peppermint for reducing pain and nausea, frankincense for mental clarity, and lemon for reducing stress and increasing focus.
In the next section, we'll look deeper into the best essential oils for fibromyalgia.
5. ESSENTIAL OILS FOR FIBROMYALGIA
There are over 150 different essential oils, which you can use alone or in combination to help treat fibromyalgia symptoms.
Finding the oils you want to use or aromatherapy will depend on a few different things, including:
What you are trying to use them for
Why you are doing aromatherapy
What you have on hand
Your personal preferences
Whether you have a blend or not
There are many healing essential oils you can use; the ones listed below are amazing to start for fibromyalgia:
The first essential oil to consider for aromatherapy is clove oil. Clove has been used in many natural health practices, from aromatherapy to homeopathy.
Use clove oil to treat muscle and joint pain. It has a warming sensation when topically applied to sore muscles.
Geranium essential oil is a big favorite. Geranium oil smells pretty and sweet, with a very subtle scent. You can use it on its own or combine it with other scents, like rose or chamomile.
This is good for inhalation and topical methods, providing antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
If you enjoy the citrus scents, you should get your hands on some lemon essential oil for aromatherapy. Thanks to the sweet smell of lemon essential oil, this is amazing for inhalation methods.
You get a lot of benefits from lemon oil. It not only helps with stress and anxiety, but it can help boost your energy, so it can be great for waking you up in the morning and helping with fatigue.
Rose oil belongs to the floral essential oils that have a subtle yet pretty smell and some exceptional healing benefits. Rose is suitable for many things, especially if you have emotional or mental health issues, particularly stress.
A little rose essential oil for aromatherapy can help de-stress you, offer gentle relaxation, and help you sleep if anxiety or stress keeps you up at night.
With just two more oils on the list, you don’t want to miss out on sandalwood. It is one of the more woodsy scents, so it is terrific for inhaling through a diffuser. It not only works for its many healing properties, but it can provide a great scent inside your home.
Sandalwood helps with a sore throat, which is one of the reasons people use it for inhaling. It also helps with memory, melanin production, and improving your nervous system.
Lavender is a floral essential oil. Lavender is very calming, soothing, and relaxing, improving your sleep and reducing anxiety and brain fatigue.
You can use it for aromatherapy by placing it in your bath or diffuser to inhale it and relax or using it on your pillow at night to help you sleep.
Lavender oil is an excellent starter scent for aromatherapy since it is easy to find and has a mild scent most people are familiar with. In addition, the lavender aroma has a stress relief effect; you might want to use it every day or multiple times a day.
Frankincense, like all essential oils, has many health benefits. It can be good for reducing inflammation in the body, relieving chronic pain, and, yes, helping with stress. As a result, it has been used in many essential oil blends aiming at helping with stress and anxiety.
When you look at different essential oils and blends that are recommended for stress and anxiety, you will probably see ylang-ylang every time. This essential oil helps calm and relax your nervous system, which can help with the heightened levels of stress you are experiencing.
This one is likely not surprising since chamomile tea is often recommended for relaxation and promotes better sleep. Try a little chamomile essential oil or go the traditional route and have the tea to reduce your stress levels.
The last scent on this list may surprise you – grapefruit essential oil. Again, it is good to mix and match when you can, instead of just sticking to one group, like florals.
Grapefruit is a citrus oil with a fresh, fruity scent. It is refreshing and invigorating, allowing for many benefits. Grapefruit is great for fatigue and gives you energy in the morning, can help relieve headaches and stress, and mental fatigue.
► Try these essential oil blends for fibromyalgia:
lavender, chamomile, or jasmine (to help relax)
lemon, grapefruit, or geranium (to help increase the energy)
black pepper, eucalyptus, peppermint, or juniper (to ease sore joints and muscles)
6. CHOOSING YOUR CARRIER OILS
Unless you are brand new to the world of essential oils, you are probably aware of what carrier oils are. However, if you are new, this is very important to know.
When applying essential oils to your skin, you must dilute it first with a carrier oil, whether directly or in the bath.
WHY CARRIER OILS?
Pure essential oils are potent, intense, and often too concentrated for direct skin contact. They affect different people differently, but you don’t know until you see how your skin reacts. To be safe, everyone should dilute them with carrier oil, not just water.
WHAT CARRIER OILS ARE USED?
The carrier oil is a vegetarian oil that will positively affect diluting the essential oil without affecting its smell or potency. These are natural derivatives, so they will still ensure you use the oils naturally for aromatherapy purposes.
TYPES OF CARRIER OILS
Here is a list of the most common carrier oils used with essential oils:
Sweet almond oil
Others like cocoa butter or shea butter if you make your own skincare or beauty products. Here is more information about 3 of my favorites – Sweet almond, grapeseed, and jojoba oil:
Grapeseed oil is a favorite because of its versatility as a carrier oil. It has a light consistency, making it better when diluting your oils to water like in the bath.
Also, it will leave a glossy sheen on your skin, so again, it is excellent for bath aromatherapy sessions. Grapeseed is also a moisturizing oil, but it has a shorter shelf life, so it's best to use it up pretty fast.
SWEET ALMOND OIL
Another carrier oil you will enjoy for your aromatherapy oils is sweet almond oil. This oil has a medium consistency and vitamin E, so it is excellent for the skin. Since it is from almonds, do not use this if you have a nut allergy.
Sweet almond oil absorbs quickly into the skin and has a slightly nutty smell. You can use it for just about every purpose of diluting your essential oils.
Last but certainly not least is jojoba oil. It's another carrier oil with a medium consistency that smells a bit nuttier than the other options.
The benefit of jojoba oil is that it is highly moisturizing for your skin and hair and absorbs into the skin without being greasy. It also has a long shelf life in comparison to other carrier oils.
7. TIPS FOR ESSENTIAL OIL BEGINNERS
By now, you have all the essential information you need about using essential oils for aromatherapy and getting both mental and physical health benefits. However, you might need a few more tips if you are new to using essential oils.
ALWAYS USE CARRIER OILS
We just went over carrier oils – but it bears repeating. Never, under any circumstances, use pure essential oils directly on your skin. There is no telling what the reaction will be with something this concentrated. Even if you don’t have sensitive skin, it could burn, irritate, inflame, or swell your skin.
Make sure you are diluting your essential oils properly with the carrier oils, though you can mix and match with different combinations when it comes to what carrier oil you use.
One thing to note: if you are getting essential oil blends, they are sometimes diluted with carrier oils, but not always. Don’t assume it will have its carrier oils just because it is a blend. Look at the label carefully so you know how to handle it best.
PRACTICE SAFETY WITH THE OILS
There are more safety precautions to keep in mind. For example, since the oils are not safe for your skin, you should avoid getting drops on your fingertips or hands when working with them.
Even if you add a few drops to a pot of water for steam inhalation, try not to touch the oils too much with your hands.
It is good to use a lower amount of drops until you know what concentration you prefer with your inhalation method of aromatherapy.
Start with just 2-3 drops of your oil, then only add more drops as needed. You can’t take away drops of oils, but you can always add more.
DON'T CONFUSE THEM WITH FRAGRANCE OILS
Another important tip for people who are new to using essential oils is not to confuse them with fragrance oils. Fragrance oils are used for perfume or cologne – these are NOT pure essential oils.
While you can use them for DIY products in your home that smells good, they won’t have any healing benefits for topical or inhalation aromatherapy.
This is another case where reading labels will help you a lot. Look for “pure essential oil” and never “fragrance oil”.
AVOID DIRECT SUNLIGHT WITH THE OILS
Lastly, you don’t want to keep the oils out in the direct sunlight or use them on your patio with the sun beating down on your skin. They might lose their potency, and the smell will be slightly off.
They work best when kept in a cool, dark place, such as in your kitchen or bathroom cabinet.
Get started with aromatherapy: