a man with arthritic knees, topical pain relievers, arthritis pain

Many people have a very difficult time managing their arthritis pain. Perhaps they take NSAID drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Although these medicines can help temporarily with pain relief, they also can have significant side effects. Other people search for alternative approaches such as foods with anti-inflammatory properties. Sometimes sufferers try herbs such as boswellia or turmeric.

Essential Oils for Arthritis Pain:

Q. I have osteoarthritis in my knee. By accident, I found that applying a product with essential oils of lavender, mint, chamomile, rosemary, eucalyptus and birch bark really eases the pain. It goes by the name Two Old Goats.

What Does the Science Say?

A. Thanks for sharing your discovery. There’s not much research in this area, but spearmint oil seems to help ease arthritis pain (Mahboubi, Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, Feb. 2017).

Lavender Oil:

Lavender oil massage of painful joints appears useful as well (Nasiri et al, Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, Nov. 2016).

Rosemary Oil:

In addition, rosemary oil also helps to ease arthritis pain. Research in rats suggests that it works by influencing serotonin and opioid receptors (Martinez et al, Planta Medica, April 2009).

Chamomile Oil:

A relatively recent study of chamomile oil showed that some of its components block cyclooxygenase (COX). This is the same enzyme that diclofenac and other NSAIDs inhibit (Ortiz et al, Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy, March 2016). Unlike diclofenac, chamomile extract does not appear to damage the digestive tract. In fact, a trial of topical chamomile oil demonstrated that this product reduced arthritis pain in knees better than diclofenac did (Shoara et al, Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, Aug. 2015).

Eucalyptus Oil:

On the other hand, we haven’t seen any studies of eucalyptus oil to ease sore joints. Despite this, Vicks VapoRub, which contains eucalyptol as well as menthol and other essential oils, has long been used to alleviate muscle pain.

Those who would like to know more about managing their joint pain may find our online Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis useful. Those who purchase a link to access this online resource will find a wealth of information about medications and nondrug approaches. The Guide is too long to print.

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. Carolinda
    Frostproof, FL

    The pain and mobility in my osteoarthritic knee has been helped remarkably with a combination of essential oil salve (homemade), diet to reduce general inflammation, and, what may be germane here, with massage of my knee with the salve. The salve may be doing the trick, but I credit massage as well. When first I began with the salve massage, the knee cap was rigid, painful to the touch, and immobile; with massage and gentle, careful manipulation the knee cap moves easily and it is not ouchy to the touch any longer.

    The debilitating patellar tendinosis must have been helped as I can now, since I started a couple of months ago with the salve and massage, lift and straighten my lower leg from 90 degrees to 180 degree–there is strength there and much less pain. My homemade salve is a variant of Tiger Balm, with added arnica and cajuput oil.

    The blasted knee no longer hampers my movement and I’m briskly walking a mile most mornings. I’m 69, so improvement with arthritis can be achieved even in age.

  2. Nova

    A number of people try DMSO creams, usually 70%. Good for chronic joint/ muscle inflammation, too. If applied regularly and diligently, highly effective in my experience.

  3. nita
    san antonio, texas

    It is not an oil but I am getting a lot of relief from Biofreeze. It is available OTC and is at nearly all drug stores and WalMart.

  4. Brit' Bunny

    I have arthritis in thumb joints and rub Lavender Essential oil on the joints before going to sleep, the pain vanishes plus I reap the benefits of relaxation to help me sleep. Plus my husband loves the scent – we’re in our 80’s!!!!

  5. Klara

    17 years ago, at age 59, I developed knee pain so severe, I could hardly walk. Then I read an article by a sports doctor who said that some people develop knee pain from walking crooked. I have walked crooked all my life. My feet roll to the outside (supination). His solution was to avoid surgery and get orthotics. They are simple heel inserts that you pop into your shoes, and somehow they straighten out your feet while you walk. I went down to the drugstore and bought myself a pair of Dr. Scholls orthotics for $15 and popped them into my shoes. The knee pain vanished immediately. I wear orthotics all the time now, and they have solved my problem.

  6. Cathy

    I use essential oil lavender drops in coconut oil for my skin. I’ve noticed it also helps my arthritis in my hand. It’s great to use natural products!

  7. Katherine
    Greensboro NC

    I have arthritis in both big toes and could not walk easily without Jason’s Minerals and Tea Tree Muscle Pain Therapy. Rub it in twice daily. No pain if I’m consistent in using it.

    I’ve also given it to two friends who had chronic itching. One had a long time itching after breaking a bone in her hand. Stopped it in seconds. The same response when I offered my “traveling jar” of Jason’s to a friend I was visiting who was constantly itching from a mild case of Shingles. Several weeks later she told me she is still using the salve (or gel) several times a day and it still stops the itching for hours at a time.

  8. laura
    santa rosa, CA

    I make infused oils for my salves and have given some to people to try for their back pain. The yarrow and St. John’s Wort infused oil seem to have been extremely effective for a few people when applied to their back, and am wondering if they might help with knees and other areas. Worth a try! Yarrow is an incredible anti-inflammatory and St. John’s Wort is as well. So infused oils with some essential oils might be the best of both worlds.

  9. Nancy
    Tuscaloosa, AL

    Yes it helps. I tried not using it for a couple of days and my knees were hurting so bad I could hardly walk. It does help, better than the pricey ones.

  10. Dudley Stamps

    I would have to take a Bath in these Oils for I have arthritis in almost every joint in my body! In some places the Bone has been deformed and has knots on them! This might work ok for someone with very mild Arthritis but most of us have it in multiple places so this would be of very little use!
    Keep trying and maybe one day you might just stumble across a real cure!

    • Judy

      If you get oils from a reputable source, they can be ingested. Since you have arthritis that is so widespread taking oils in a capsule might work for you.

  11. Lish

    Lemongrass oil has worked wonders for my husband and I. I made a 3:1 olive oil as carrier oil to lemongrass essential oil. Shake well. We use this oil on painful, inflamed knees, shoulders and hands and it provides instant relief and improved range of motion. Lemongrass has some amazing curative properties and this is one of them.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.