Essential Oils For Gout
Gout is also sometimes referred to as ‘gouty arthritis’. This is a form of arthritis triggered by the build-up of uric acid, a by-product of protein that can be very painful. It is most often experienced in the feet, along the inside near the big toe (though it may occur in other areas).
Gout is most common in men and in post-menopausal women. It is generally caused by a combination of diet and genetics and is particularly common in men who eat a lot of meat, drink a lot of beer and/or are overweight – all of which can increase the amount of uric acid in the blood. Because of this, it was historically known as the ‘disease of kings’ or ‘rich man’s disease’. This is a relatively common condition that affects around 1-2% of the Western population. It is also associated with diabetes and insulin resistance.
Uric acid causes pain due to the formation of small ‘urate’ crystals. These then deposit around the synovial fluid, which is the main lubricating fluid that surrounds joints and allows them to move smoothly and without pain. This can trigger inflammation, redness and pain. In severe cases, gout can end up deforming the joints and damaging the bones. Complications can also include kidney stones and chronic kidney dysfunction.
Unlike most other forms of arthritis (there are actually over 100 different kinds), gout tends to come in waves and cause ‘attacks’. These acute attacks can last for 5-7 days and may occur a few times a year. In extreme cases, gout can become chronic and occur much more regularly.
Treatment generally involves techniques to address the pain and swelling. Lifestyle changes and medication may also be used to try and prevent future attacks. Unlike many other forms of arthritis, effective treatment of gout can prevent any and all future attacks.
Essential oils can be used to help with this first aim. That is to say that they won’t help to prevent future attacks but can be very useful in providing immediate relief for the pain and discomfort that gout may cause during an attack.
How to Use Essential Oils for Gout
The best essential oils for treating gout are those that provide analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. This can help to reduce the swelling and any discomfort that might be caused by the breakout.
Fortunately, there are a wide number of different essential oils that provide these benefits. Including…
Eucalyptus oil is an antiseptic, anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory oil. What we’re interested here is that last property, which makes it very effective for reducing swelling during gout and thereby helping to make outbreaks less painful. At the same time, the cooling sensation that eucalyptus oil offers can be immediately therapeutic and help to distract from the discomfort.
This is a ‘hot’ oil though that needs to be diluted. Normally this means using a carrier oil with a ratio of around 1:1. Coconut oil makes a particularly good carrier oil.
Peppermint oil is similar in many ways to eucalyptus oil. This contain l-menthol which makes it cooling and creates a ‘tingling’ sensation. This makes the oil refreshing and therapeutic when applied directly to the skin. As an added benefit, it also has natural pain relieving properties and is an anti-inflammatory. Again, this oil should be used in conjunction with a carrier oil.
Bergamot oil can be applied to the skin or inhaled. This is an essential oil that helps to increase levels of serotonin in the brain. In turn, this leads to improved mood as serotonin is the brain’s ‘happiness hormone’. At the same time though, this also leads to reduced pain perception, as serotonin is additionally a natural form of painkiller.
While this won’t actually treat the gout then, you can use bergamot oil as a good way to unwind and relax and to simultaneously gain some pain relief.
Lavender oil is one of the more popular essential oils for gout. This is well known for being a very relaxing and therapeutic oil and is also once again mood boosting. One of the benefits of lavender oil is that it is effective at increasing circulation and helping to encourage better blood flow around the joints. This can help to reduce swelling and works very well when added to bath water.
Rosemary oil once again is very effective at improving circulation. What’s also beneficial about rosemary oil is that it can help to relax the muscles and reduce muscle pain. The big benefit of this is that it can help you to relax the area around the gout, which in turn can help to ease some of the perception of pain. This is another one that goes well with your bath water!
Marjoram oil is popular for treating bruises and joint conditions. It is a great relaxant that eases muscle tension and helps with sleep. This is a good one to apply to the affected area prior to sleep and it will also have the added bonus of encouraging you to get more rest (which is always therapeutic). Be careful while using this oil however not to apply directly to broken skin.
Chamomile oil comes from the chamomile flower and is anti-rheumatic and anti-phlogistic. It may also help to improve circulation.
Popular in Ayurvedic treatments, sandalwood oil is often used to treat sciatica and muscle spasms. It is relaxing and anti-inflammatory and is particularly good for treating pain in the feet. This is good news, seeing as gout most often affects this area!
Other popular choices to consider include: clary sage oil (mood boosting and relaxing), ginger oil (an effective vasodilator), yarrow oil, frankincense oil and wintergreen oil.
Now you know which essential oils are most effective for treating gout, the next question is how you actually utilize them.
To this end, you have a few different options.
The first and most obvious way to use essential oils for treating gout is to apply them directly to the swollen area. You can also massage the oils over the rest of the body for overall therapeutic and relaxing benefits. This is a great way to relax and unwind and the massage itself can also be beneficial for the affected area by helping to relax the muscle and encourage more circulation. The sensation of gentle rubbing can also be an effective way to distract from the pain and discomfort that might come from the gout.
The best way to do this is to find a partner or friend even who is willing to provide the massage. However, if you can’t do this then it can also be useful to apply the oil carefully yourself to your affected area – just rub very gently with two fingers using a circular motion.
Another option is to add the essential oils to a warm bath. The bath itself will be useful to help soothe the area and provide warmth, while the oil will provide topical analgesic properties for the painful area. Add about 10-20 drops as instructed by the packaging to your bath to enjoy the full benefits.
Finally, you can also enjoy essential oils by inhaling them. This means burning them using an oil burner or similar and then allowing the therapeutic effects to take place. Several of the oils on the list above can provide calming and pain killing effects simply through inhalation this way.
As well as using essential oils to address pain and swelling, it’s very important that you also look into addressing the root causes of the pain and discomfort. You can do this by changing your diet to incorporate more water and more fiber to try and reduce the amount of uric acid in the blood. Likewise, consuming less protein, beer and hydrogenated fats can also help. Foods high in potassium may also help, as can foods high in omega 3 fatty acid. Losing weight is advisable.
If the pain and discomfort is very hard to bear, then your GP may use NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) in order to reduce the swelling and pain. If you find that you are in a lot of pain, or you are unsure what is causing your gout, then you should always consult with your GP. While essential oils can be effective at reducing discomfort, they should not be thought of as a replacement for medical intervention.