Can Essential Oils Treat Neuropathy in People with Diabetes?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

The basics

Essential oils are meant to be inhaled. Essential oils may also be diluted with a carrier oil and applied to the skin. Essential oils should not be consumed

Neuropathy, or nerve damage, can cause pain and numbness in the affected areas. For people with diabetes, this primarily affects the legs and feet. Severe cases of neuropathy may cause issues with digestion and affect your heart rate..

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Although more research is needed, essential oils may help relieve some of these symptoms.

What are the benefits of essential oils?

Essential oils are often viewed as a natural “cure all.” Not only are certain oils thought to relieve illness and reduce recovery time, they may help:

  • treat cuts, scrapes, or infections
  • purify the air in your environment
  • balance your hormones
  • alleviate stress, tension, or anxiety
  • help you fall asleep easier

For people with neuropathy, benefits may include pain relief and improved digestion.

What the research says

Limited research has suggested that peppermint, Roman chamomile, and lavender essential oils may assist with nerve pain. More research is needed to fully assess the potential benefits, risks, and efficacy.

Peppermint
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Peppermint essential oil is known to relax muscles, control muscle spasms, and act as pain reliever. Researchers in a 2002 study found that topical peppermint oil helped a 76-year-old woman treat neuralgia.

This woman had been resistant to other standard therapies, but saw almost immediate pain relief after applying topical peppermint oil. This relief lasted four to six hours after application.

There’s also evidence to suggest that peppermint oil may help improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and relieve indigestion.

Roman chamomile

Roman chamomile may also help soothe painful muscles. A 2014 study concluded that Roman chamomile to be beneficial in inflammation disorders. The chamomile also decreased oxidative stress.

Lavender
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Lavender is known to improve sleep and act as a pain reliever.

In a 2014 study, lavender was found to have a calming and relaxing effect on lab animals. Researchers confirmed that lavender plant extract produces an anticonvulsant and antispasm effect.

Mixture of essential oils

You may also find relief by mixing essential oils together to create a more powerful solution.

In a 2010 study, researchers gave a homeopathic topical oil to 60 participants with foot pain resulting from peripheral neuropathy. This oil included a blend of geranium, lavender, bergamot, tea tree, and eucalyptus oils. Fifty six participants receiving this treatment reported a decrease in pain within 30 minutes. Only 26 of the 60 participants in the control group reported a similar decrease in pain.

How to use essential oils for diabetic neuropathy

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Essential oils can be administered in a number of ways. For pain relief, you can use a topical approach. You should always add 1 ounce of carrier oil, such as coconut or olive oil, to every 12 or so drops of essential oil. This can prevent the essential oil from causing any skin irritation or inflammation.

If you wish to massage the affected area, you can mix the essential oil of your choosing with a massage oil. The massage oil will dilute the essential oil, making it safe to use on your skin. You can also add a small amount to your bathwater, allowing it to absorb into your skin while you bathe.

Diffusing essential oils into the air may help with some of the symptoms associated with nerve pain, such as lack of sleep, stress, and anxiety.

Other treatments for diabetic neuropathy

There isn’t a cure for neuropathy. Instead, treatment focuses on slowing the progression of the disease and managing any complications that arise.

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This typically involves a mix of traditional and complementary therapies, including:

  • acupuncture
  • low-impact exercise
  • physical therapy
  • massage therapy
  • nerve stimulation

Your doctor may also recommend over-the-counter pain relievers or numbing creams. If these medications fail, they may recommend prescription-strength opioids.

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