These are oils that I regularly use in my massage practice (because they work).
There are a couple of oils that have found there way into my massage practice as regular tools to aid the relief of pain. One of them, peppermint oil, is fairly widely known but I've found that fewer people know about the benefits of arnica oil. So I'm going to give you a quick rundown of what these oils are and why I use them!
This oil has been used for thousands of years as a natural wellness product. Like other essential oils, it is extracted from plants and is very concentrated. The peppermint plant is actually a hybrid plant (a combination of spearmint and watermint) and is high in menthol.
The oil that I have used most frequently throughout my massage career is Japanese mint (but there really is little difference between Japanese mint oil and peppermint oil).
There are tons of uses for peppermint oil (including use for indigestion, coughs and colds, and improving alertness) but as a massage therapist, I use it topically for pain relief. Because of its analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties (reduces pain, reduces inflammation, reduces spasms) it's really great for relieving pain brought on my muscle soreness or muscle spasms. I pour a drop or two onto my hands (very little is needed because it's very concentrated) and then massage it into the effected area. Most commonly I use this oil on the shoulders, back of the neck, base of the skull (also known as the "gates of consciousness") and the temples. Because of the high concentration of menthol, this oil gives a nice cooling sensation to the skin. I have some at home that I use as soon as I feel a tension headache coming on - I rub a little bit onto my neck and temples, and the headache is usually gone in a matter of minutes.
Some precautions: don't use this oil on children (the menthol is too powerful for them), don't use it in the tub (the menthol is also too powerful for your "downstairs" areas), and only use a drop or two at a time. Don't apply to broken skin. Don't use if you're pregnant or breastfeeding (my rule of thumb with pregnancy and nursing is to check with your health care provider before using ANY essential oils). You can ingest this oil and use it in a diffuser, but I honestly don't know very much about that so I won't bother to pretend!
Arnica is another plant that has been used for a very long time because of its healing properties. It's a yellow flower with hairy leaves, related to the sunflower, and is native to western North America.
This is an oil that I've actually only started using in the last couple of years. Before then I had no idea it existed. But I have had major success with clients when using it in massage, and have heard from many people that it works wonders when used at home. This is another oil that has many uses, but I'll only be talking about the topical uses since that's what I'm familiar with. When massaged onto the body it helps with strains, sprains, bruising, swelling, arthritis and even insect bites. There are two stories that immediately come to my mind when I think of arnica oil: The first is of a coworker who had a huge bruise on her leg. Almost as an experiment (because we were skeptical that the oil worked as well as people claimed) she started applying the oil to the bruised area. She massaged the oil gently onto the bruise for a couple days and noticed that it healed dramatically faster than other bruises she had had before. The other story is of a client who had sprained both of her ankles at the same time (which makes me cringe just thinking about it). She also experimented with arnica oil by applying it only to one foot and ankle at home. She was surprised to see the swelling in that foot go down much faster than the one without the oil. After hearing these stories, and many others, from people who have used this oil I am a true believer in its benefits.
Precautions: As with the peppermint oil, don't use if you're pregnant or breastfeeding and don't use on broken skin. Don't use this oil if you have high blood pressure as it may increase blood pressure, and don't use this oil if you're allergic to ragweed or related plants (like daisies and marigolds). Also be careful if you're taking medications that slow blood clotting.
The two bottles that are pictured at the start of these post are available to purchase at SwizzleSticks SalonSpa in Calgary (the spa gets them from a local provider, and they are all natural, free of toxic additives). Peppermint oil is widely available at health food stores and other places that sell essential oils. Arnica oil is a little less common (but can be purchased online if you can't find any locally). My suggestion is to look for something that is as concentrated and free of additives as possible.