Essential Oils: the Runner’s Ally for Well-Being

Running puts the body through a lot of strain, regardless of experience level or whether an occasional or regular activity. Essential oils are a great health resource for runners, helping them to prepare their bodies for exertion and recovery. Read on to learn more about their benefits.

What are essential oils?

They are a natural means of supporting muscular effort, relaxing muscles, soothing inflammation, and increasing joint flexibility.

Plants naturally produce these volatile compounds in order to protect themselves from illnesses and external attacks. Essential oils are produced from these substances [1].

Each essential oil is unique, with its own distinct odor and characteristics.

They are extremely antiseptic, antiviral, analgesic, and cicatrizing. Each essential oil has its own unique properties!

As you can see, essential oils are perfect for a runner’s daily needs and pains.

Using essential oils

Essential oils can be used in several ways:

  • Diffused in the air, in which case the essential oil is inhaled or diffused in a room (take care, as not all essential oils should be diffused as there are some that can irritate mucous membranes).
  • Internally, by diluting them with a neutral pill designed for such use, in vegetable oil, with a few drops on a cube of sugar, in a spoon of honey, or on a slice of bread.
  • Cutaneously (the most common technique), via massage and/or aromatic baths. This technique requires diluting the essential oil with vegetable oil.

Which essential oils should you use? 

Each essential oil has specific characteristics that meet different precise needs. It is therefore important to know which oil corresponds to each need in order to maximize their effectiveness.

Anti-inflammatories:

For athletes dealing with pain, certain essential oils can serve as an alternative to various medications to fight inflammation.

  • Wintergreen oil (Gaultheria procumbens): soothes muscle pain and cramps thanks to its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Runners can use it in a diluted form by massaging it into the affected area.
  • Rosemary oil (Rosmarinus officinalis L): soothes and prevents cramps due to its relaxant and analgesic properties. It is used exclusively via cutaneous application. 1 or 2 drops diluted in vegetable oil should be applied to the affected area.

Analgesics:

Plants have great powers, including properties that allow them to effectively ease pain.

  • Lemon Eucalyptus oil (Eucalyptus citriodora Hook): thanks to its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, this strain, diluted in vegetable oil, can be used in a massage to relieve tendinitis and rheumatism.
  • Peppermint (Mentha x piperita): due to an antispasmodic property and its action on the digestive and respiratory systems, it helps manage liver problems and dyspepsia. Taken orally (2 diluted drops), or via massage, it can also reduce pain. Be careful to only use it on a small area.

Relaxants:

A localized massage can relax areas that are painful after your run.

  • Juniper oil (Juniperus communis): because of its antispasmodic properties, this variety can be used to help muscle contractures, cases of sciatica or joint pain. It is used orally diluted in honey (2 drops) or cutaneously, diluted in vegetable oil and massaged into the affected area.
  • Laurus nobilis oil (Laurus nobilis): this essential oil has antiseptic, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties. Used before athletic activity, applied to the wrists, it helps you have confidence in yourself, relax, and manage your stress. It can be used in diluted form both orally and cutaneously.
  • Scotch pine oil (Pinus sylvestris): thanks to its antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, and decongesting properties, it’s perfect for use in treating weakness and loss of energy or tonicity. It can also be used to treat sciatica, lumbago, arthritis, cramps, and rheumatism. It is applied directly to the area to be treated, to increase tone, after being diluted in vegetable oil.

Antiseptics:

Certain essential oils contain powerful molecules to fight infections:

  • Gingergrass oil (Cymbopogon Martini Watson): because of its antiseptic, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, as well as its ability to promote cellular regeneration and healing, it can be used to treat athlete’s foot, a common complaint for runners. It can be used cutaneously, in diluted form, directly on the infection.
  • Tea tree oil (Malaleuca alternifolia): with antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and antiparasitic properties as well as its ability to stimulate the immune system, you can use it in diluted form to treat skin infections.

Oils with other benefits:

Essential oils have numerous benefits, at every level, and can be used for a runner’s daily needs:

  • Exotic basil (Ocimum basilicum var basilicum): thanks to its invigorating, antispasmodic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and relaxant properties, it can be used to help cramps or muscle tension. It also helps with recovery after exercising if diluted with vegetable oil and applied cutaneously.  
  • Helichrysum oil (Hélichrysum italicum): this essential oil has anti-inflammatory properties and can help with hematomas. It can be used for rheumatism, sprains, arthritis, and contusions. If you’ve suffered a blow or a sprain, it’s a great way to promote healing and improve blood flow. It should be massaged into the affected area after having been diluted.
  • Lavender officinalis oil (Lavandula officinalis): able to help with burns and with healing, antiparasitic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and relaxing properties, it will help you with various issues such as burns, blisters, and sunburns. It is applied cutaneously, diluted in vegetable oil.
  • Lavandin Super oil (Lavandula burnatii super): with antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, relaxant, calming, healing, and delousing properties, you can use it before exercising to help manage your stress and/or relax your muscles. To be used cutaneously after diluting it. After exercising, it can also be used in a bath to relax the muscles and help recovery.

Blend recipes to make at home

A blend is a mix of different essential and/or vegetable oils allowing them to act in multiple ways and providing the benefits of each essential oil.

Here are two blends that could help you before and after your runs via a prolonged massage of the affected area [2]:

To prepare the muscles before exercising, and to be massaged into the skin

In one tablespoon of sesame oil, mix:

  • 1 drop of Lemon Eucalyptus oil
  • 1 drop of Lavandin Super oil
  • 1 drop of Ylang Ylang oil
  • 1 drop of Cypress oil

For recovery, and to be massaged into the skin

In 5 drops of arnica oil, mix:

  • 1 drop of Lemon Eucalyptus oil
  • 1 drop of Gaultheria oil
  • 1 drop of Helichrysum oil
  • 1 drop of Rosemary Camphor oil
  • 1 drop of Peppermint oil

Precautions

It is important to respect the recommended doses in order to avoid poisoning.

Use of essential oils by pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, babies, and children calls for special care.

You must be sure to wash your hands properly after use. Do not diffuse oils continuously, and do not inject them.

Now that you have a good grasp on the proper way to use essential oils, there’s nothing left to do but take advantage of their benefits for more successful runs!   

Bibliography

[1] Bruno D. (2016). L’aromathérapie chez le sportif : conseil et prise en charge à l’officine. Sciences pharmaceutiques. dumas-01411312. 

Thomas, A. (2016). L’utilisation des huiles essentielles chez le sportif (Doctoral dissertation, Université de Lorraine).

 [2] Festy, D. (2016). Ma bible des huiles essentielles : Le guide de référence de l’aromathérapie dans sa nouvelle édition enrichie pour un bien-être 100% naturel. Leduc. s éditions.

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