ARC’s Physical Therapy Journal:

Natural Alternatives to Support a Healthy Inflammatory Response

By: Julie Deignan, MPT

As a bodyworker for the past 27 years (Licensed Massage Therapist since 1991 and Licensed Physical Therapist since 1996), I’ve had the unique opportunity to practice in both the spa and medical settings.  My training and experience in each setting inevitably influences the other, and I’d like to think benefits my clients and patients with a broader perspective.  One aspect of my spa training that I’m grateful to share with my Physical Therapy patients is natural alternatives to manage inflammation.

I’ve been studying and utilizing a wide variety of essential oils for about a decade now, and there are seven that I’ve found to be the most beneficial for relieving pain and inflammation: 

Frankincense comes from the Boswellia species of tree, native to Ethiopia, Somalia, India, and the Arabic Peninsula. The oil is distilled from the tree resin, and contains high levels of pinenes, which have been shown to inhibit proinflammatory responses.  It can be used topically, aromatically, or internally.

Lavender oil is distilled from lavender flowers and is widely used for its calming and relaxing qualities. Chemical constituents include linalool, which is both analgesic and anti-inflammatory.

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) leaves are distilled to create this oil, which has a cortisone-like action due to high content of methyl salicylate.

Peppermint oil is distilled from mint leaves, stems and flower buds. Chemical constituents include menthol and menthone, which have a soothing and cooling effect.  Apply topically to relieve feelings of tension.


Blue Tansy essential oil is obtained from the leaves, flowers, and stems of the plant Tanacetum annuum. The plant itself is a yellow-flowered Mediterranean herb native to Morocco, which forms a deep blue compound during steam distillation called chamazulene.  Blue Tansy belongs to the chamomile group, each of which contain this sesquiterpene with soothing qualities.

Turmeric is a perennial flowering plant from the ginger family. Both the oil and the root have been used for thousands of years in Asia in Ayurvedic health practices.  Besides anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric provides strong antioxidant support.

Copaiba oil is distilled from the resin of the Copaifera tree native to Brazil. It contains high levels of Beta-caryophyllene, which is known to have cannabinoid-like properties.  Thus, Copaiba essential oil has the ability to deliver major benefits without the psychoactive effects of THC.

This list is just the beginning.  My medicine cabinet is actually filled with about 30 different oils, of which I probably personally use at least 5 daily.  The soothing, topical oils are the ones I use most often with clients however.

If you’re gravitating toward natural remedies and would like more information about the healing properties of essential oils, feel free to email me at


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