Most of us experience muscle or joint pain or discomfort from time to time. Whether we sustain an injury, overdo exercise or yard work, or have a chronic condition, we are looking for ways to experience relief. There are so many natural methods to consider, from massage to acupuncture to infrared sauna to yoga to heat and electric stimulation (electromyostimulation).
We use all of these practices in our home, depending on the situation. But at the very outset of pain or inflammation, we first reach for essential oils. Sometimes we apply them to the area of discomfort mixed with a carrier oil. Other times we add them to massage oils. Today, I'm excited to share with you about a new body butter recipe that reduces pain and inflammation, while deeply nourishing the skin. [Side note: Have also successfully used it to address someone's topical fungal issue (thanks lemongrass and kombo butter!), but that definitely wasn't the intended purpose when I created this butter.]
The body butter contains three carriers and three essential oils. That's it! Here's a window into my reasoning for choosing these particular ingredients.
Kombo Butter (Pycnanthus anglensis)
Kombo butter originates from the seeds of a tropical West African tree called Pycnanthus angolensis, which is also known as the "African nutmeg." It is dark blue and chocolate-brown in color, with a earthy, rich aroma and thick, grainy, and buttery texture that easily absorbs into the skin. It offers incredible benefits for dry or irritated skin, particularly when combined with other butters (e.g., palm kernel, shea, or cocoa) and carrier oils (e.g., tamanu or trauma). It is also used with essential oils for calming swollen joints and sore muscles. Kombo butter is high in myristoleic acid, which is used to treat all kinds of muscle and joint pain. [NOTE: It is imperative that you buy kombo unrefined, as the myristoleic acid is lost when the oil is refined.] Kombo butter is great to apply to stiff or overused muscles... consider using after a long day of hiking, yard work, or lifting heavy objects.
Palm Kernel Oil (Elaeis guineensis)
Palm kernel oil is cold pressed from the kernels of the oil palm's fruit. It has a rich, caramel, nutty aroma and light brown color. It is very similar to coconut oil in that it has a high percentage of lauric acid, which adds a smooth texture to body butters, soaps, and salves. It is also high in myristic acid, an anti-inflammatory and cooling agent that makes it an excellent carrier for muscle, tendon, and ligament injury blends. It is also useful for softening and healing dry or itchy skin or lips, as well as moisturizing hair.
Trauma oil is olive oil that has been herbally-infused with arnica, St. John’s wort, and calendula. Arnica offers anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and tissue healing actions. St. John’s wort oil is excellent for nerve pain and trauma to the body. Calendula oil is skin healing and nourishing. Trauma oil is an excellent carrier for all blends intended to support the healing of injuries. It is an ideal carrier oil for essential oils, while also effective on its own. Consider using trauma oil to reduce the pain of injury, relieve swelling, and promote healing of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bruises. It is also effective at soothing sore and achy muscles, including through massage.
Lemongrass essential oil (Cymbopogon flexuosus) is useful in blends for pain, inflammation, and heat. Lemongrass is also a powerful analgesic and used to assist the healing injuries to muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones. It provides a cooling feeling and is useful in blends for hot and inflamed situations. Add a few drops to a massage blend for cooling, refreshing, and emotionally uplifting effects. It blends well with Juniper Berry, Black Pepper, Ginger, Frankincense, Patchouli, Vetiver, Palmarosa, and Sandalwood.
Juniper Berry essential oil (Juniperus communis) is excellent in massage blends for aches, pains, and joint inflammation. It also provides a calming and grounding effect. If you've done rigorous exercise or other physical activity, a Juniper Berry and Lavender bath with a carrier oil and Epsom salts would be a perfect solution.
Sandalwood essential oil (Santalum paniculatum) is a perfect base note in blends for inflammation and stress related aches, pains, and tension. It is very soothing, nourishing, and beneficial to the skin, making it highly sought after in body and skin care products. It also instills calmness and well-being, making it a perfect oil to incorporate into massage or aromatherapy. Use sandalwood to lessen tension and promote relaxation and emotional well-being.
There are many other analgesic (pain reducing) and anti-inflammatory essential oils that could have been included in this blend. Black Pepper, Clove, Ginger, Peppermint, Helichrysum, Ho Wood, Rosewood, Lavender, Eucalyptus, Roman Chamomile, Clary Sage, or Basil, just to name a few. I purposefully avoided stimulating oils, such as Peppermint, Ginger, and Black Pepper, as I intended this body butter for use in the evening before bed.
And now for the recipe. You'll be amazed how fast and easy it is to mix up!
The essential oils in this recipe are at a 5 percent dilution, which is appropriate for use with chronic conditions.
It is always possible to substitute a different butter, carrier oil, or essential oil if you are missing one of the ingredients. To achieve the same effect, select a substitute that has similar chemical constituents or therapeutic properties. Aromatics International has a really useful search function on their website, which allows you to search for essential oils by chemical component, plant part, or therapeutic use, among other options. Start searching their database on the left-hand side of this page. And always feel free to reach out by leaving a comment or emailing if you have questions about good substitutions. I'm happy to help!
Our favorite way to use this body butter is to liberally apply to areas of discomfort after giving them a good massage (which you can easily accomplish yourself without leaving home) with an essential oil-rich massage oil. Recipe for that coming soon!