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Essential oil for relaxing the back

Which essential oils are best for relaxing the muscles?

Poor posture, intensive exercise and stress can all result in overstretched muscles. Which are the best essential oils (topical and oral) for relaxing them?


What causes excessive muscle tension?

Let’s first remember that tight, rigid muscles can be caused by:

  • bad posture. This can force some parts of the body to work harder than they should;
  • excess stress and anxiety. Stress makes the body stiffen up;
  • physical overexertion. Over-training or allowing insufficient recovery time leads to an accumulation of muscle micro-trauma;
  • not warming-up properly. You need to prepare your muscles thoroughly before subjecting them to an intense workout;
  • dehydration. A lack of fluid in the body can cause muscle cramps, amongst others;
  • electrolyte imbalance. Certain minerals play in important role in muscle contraction. An imbalance can cause muscle spasms;
  • nutrient deficit. A lack of protein or vitamins can adversely affect the ability of muscles to function and repair themselves, etc.

How can we relax our muscles naturally?

If you’re prone to muscle tension (cramps, spasms…), it’s important, in general, to:

  • avoid stimulants which can exacerbate stress and therefore tension;
  • eat healthily to prevent any muscle-damaging nutritional deficiencies;
  • stay well-hydrated to maintain good fluid levels in the body;
  • stretch regularly (especially before and after exercise) to support your flexibility, improve your circulation and help release any built-up tension.

Essential oils and muscle relief: a long history

Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use (topical, oral, inhalation …) of essential oils extracted from plants.

Plant-based oils have been used for thousands of years in India, China, Egypt, and by Greek and Roman civilisations.

In ancient times then, fragrant plant oils were popular for helping to relax overstretched muscles thanks to their anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.

Historical use of therapeutic massage with essential oils for muscle relief is well-documented. The practice became popular again in the 20th century with the revival of aromatherapy.

A word of advice: it’s important to exercise caution when using essential oils, (topically and even more so, orally) as they are very highly concentrated. Most essential oils for topical use are therefore diluted in a carrier oil (sweet almond, jojoba, or coconut oil …) to prevent any irritation. Be sure to seek professional advice if you need to.

Which are the best topical-use essential oils for muscle relief?

Essential oil of lavender, perfect for tight, tense muscles

Essential oil of lavender(Lavandula angustifolia) is known for its calming, relaxing properties.

It is widely used diluted in topical applications, for relaxing tight muscles and relieving mild pain (1).

Essential oil of peppermint for relieving sore muscles?

The famous essential oil of peppermint (Mentha piperita) is popular for its refreshing and potentially analgesic effects.

It can be applied topically, always diluted, to ease muscle pain and tension(2).

The benefits of essential oil of eucalyptus

Essential oil of eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora and Eucalyptus globulus) is traditionally recognised for its anti-inflammatory properties.

It is widely used, diluted, in topical applications, for reducing muscle aches (3).

Are you familiar with essential oil of American wintergreen?

Essential oil of American wintergreen or checkerberry (Gaultheria procumbens) contains methyl salicylate, an aspirin-like chemical compound.

It is commonly used in topical applications for painful joints and muscles.

Essential oil of rosemary and muscle relaxation

The camphor rosemary essential oil (Rosmarinus officinalis camphoriferum) is thought to have powerful anti-inflammatory and stimulant properties.

Some people use it topically to reduce inflammation and muscle pain (4).

What are the best oral-use essential oils for promoting relaxation?

Certain essential oils can be taken orally to loosen the muscles and promote relaxation more generally.

Some supplements in capsule form thus contain specific, pro-relaxation essential oils in forms and amounts suitable for ingestion. Ideally, they contain:

  • essential oil of true lavender, known for promoting relaxation and sleep;
  • essential oil of caraway, which reduces muscle spasms (which is notably beneficial for digestion);
  • essential oils of aniseed and rosemary, which help to ease digestive discomfort, and so support relaxation;
  • essential oil of mandarin which many aromatherapy specialists believe has calming effects.

You can find these various essential oils in synergistic formulations for oral use (such as Organic Relaxing Oil Blend capsules).

Other natural compounds effective for muscle relaxation

There are other natural substances to be taken orally that are likely to help relieve muscle problems.

Vitamin D (which supports normal muscle function), ginger (a known anti-inflammatory) and MSM (a sulphur-containing compound naturally present in our joints and muscles) are all being studied for their potential muscle-relaxing effects.

Some synergistic muscle relaxation formulations also combine, for example, magnesium, which supports normal muscle function, with soothing plant extracts like valerian, lemon balm, passionflower and camomile (one such example is Muscle Relaxing Formula, made with organic ingredients).



  1. Cavanagh HM, Wilkinson JM. Biological activities of lavender essential oil. Phytother Res. 2002 Jun;16(4):301-8. doi: 10.1002/ptr.1103. PMID: 12112282.
  2. Meamarbashi A. Instant effects of peppermint essential oil on the physiological parameters and exercise performance. Avicenna J Phytomed. 2014 Jan;4(1):72-8. PMID: 25050303; PMCID: PMC4103722.
  3. Silva J, Abebe W, Sousa SM, Duarte VG, Machado MI, Matos FJ. Analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of essential oils of Eucalyptus. J Ethnopharmacol. 2003 Dec;89(2-3):277-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2003.09.007. PMID: 14611892.
  4. Borges RS, Ortiz BLS, Pereira ACM, Keita H, Carvalho JCT. Rosmarinus officinalis essential oil: A review of its phytochemistry, anti-inflammatory activity, and mechanisms of action involved. J Ethnopharmacol. 2019 Jan 30;229:29-45. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2018.09.038. Epub 2018 Oct 2. PMID: 30287195.


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