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10 Best Natural Muscle Relaxers And How To Use Them

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10 Best Natural Muscle Relaxer And How To Use Them

Applied to the skin in the form of an oil or salve, arnica oil is a potent natural remedy for various inflammatory and exercise-related injuries. So are anti-spasmodic essential oils like peppermint, sweet marjoram, clary sage, lavender, or eucalyptus oil, when massaged onto the sore area. Another "sweet way" to relax your muscles is by filling up on berries, cherry juice.

We’ve all experienced painful muscle cramps. Muscle cramps are common and often occur when a muscle is overused or injured. Working out when you’ve not had enough fluids (dehydration) or when you have low levels of minerals such as potassium or calcium can also make you more likely to have a muscle spasm. It can also be triggered during pregnancy or menstruation and by medical issues like kidney failure and hypothyroidism.1 So what can you do when your muscles tense up and cause you pain? Your doctor may prescribe muscle relaxants, but these often have side effects and may not be suitable for you. So, how about checking out some natural muscle relaxants that can ease your cramps?

Natural Muscle Relaxers

1. Tart Cherries

Tart cherries, which are rich in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties, can have a protective effect. They help reduce muscle damage and pain due to exercise. According to one study, tart cherry juice minimized post-run muscle pain in people who had it for a week before participating in a running event.2

2. Blueberries

Blueberries are also known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. A blueberry smoothie may be just the thing to help your muscles recover after strenuous exercise. According to a study, women who had exercise-induced muscle damage due to strenuous contractions of the quadriceps were able to recover faster when they had blueberry smoothies before (5 and 10 hours before) and after (immediately after, then 12 hours and 36 hours after) exercising. It is thought that the blueberries and activate internal antioxidants in the body.3

3. Chamomile

If you suffer from painful menstrual cramps, chamomile tea might be the savior that you’ve been waiting for. During a study, participants were given two cups of chamomile tea a day for a week before their periods started and for the first five days of their menstruation cycle. After drinking chamomile tea for a month, they had a significant difference in menstrual pain compared to the control group, As an added bonus, chamomile tea was also found to reduce anxiety and distress.4 You can also massage chamomile essential oil into cramping muscles for relief. It has both antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory effects. Do remember to dilute it with a vegetable oil so it’s not too strong.5

4. Arnica

Arnica has been traditionally used for ages to relieve sore muscles and joints due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Chemical compounds present in arnica, known as sesquiterpene lactones, are responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties. You can use it as a compress by mixing 1 tbsp (15 ml) of arnica tincture with half a liter of water and soaking a clean wash cloth in it. You can also benefit from a salve that contains arnica oil.6

5. Peppermint oil

Peppermint oil contains menthol which has antispasmodic effects.7 It can relieve pain, ease muscle spasms, and reduce inflammation. Add it to a warm bath to relieve sore muscles. But remember, a little goes a long way, so 2 or 3 drops will suffice for a tub full of water. You can also use it to massage a sore area. Mix 10 drops of peppermint oil to an ounce of a carrier oil like almond oil. Then massage the sore area. If you’re massaging calf muscles remember to massage from the ankles up, toward the heart.8

6. Clary Sage Oil

Clary sage oil works really well as a muscle relaxant. It contains linalool alcohol, which has antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving properties.9

7. Clove Oil

Cloves contain a chemical known as beta-caryophyllene as well as a compound known as eugenol. These chemicals give clove oil strong anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and anesthetic properties.10 Word of caution, though – clove oil is particularly potent and must be diluted with a vegetable oil before use. There have been reports of permanent desensitization of skin and problems with sweating after clove oil was accidently spilled on the skin. It’s best not to use clove oil for children or if you’re pregnant or have sensitive skin.11

8. Lavender Oil

Lavender oil contains compounds such as 1,8 cineole and linalool that give it analgesic, muscle-relaxant, anti-inflammatory, and antispasmodic properties. This sweet smelling oil can help those tight muscles to ease up.12

9. Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus oil is another muscle relaxant containing the chemical 1,8 cineole with its pain-relieving, muscle-relaxing, and anti-inflammatory properties. 13 Dilute it with a carrier oil and massage it into cramping muscles for relief.14

10. Sweet Marjoram Oil

Sweet marjoram oil was traditionally used by ancient Greek physicians to treat muscle spasms. In fact, it is said that Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, gave it a sweet, woody scent to symbolize happiness. It relaxes overworked muscles, soothes sprains, and eases menstrual cramps too.15 In one study, women with menstrual cramps used a cream with the essential oils lavender, clary sage, and marjoram in a 2:1:1 ratio and 3% concentration. They massaged their lower abdomen from the end of one period to the beginning of the next with it. The combination gave them relief and reduced the duration of pain from 2.4 to 1.8 days.16

How To Use Essential Oils

All the essential oils mentioned above work well to relieve muscle soreness, but, as we just saw, a combination of oils can also be used synergistically to improve their impact. However, do keep in mind that essential oils should not be used neat on your skin. They’re usually diluted with carrier oils like sweet almond oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, sesame oil, or grapeseed oil. While mixing essential oils with a carrier oil, using about 2% essential oil is generally considered safe. This works out to about 20 to 25 drops of essential oil for 2 ounces of carrier oil.17

Also, always remember to do a patch test before using an essential oil to ensure you’re not sensitive or allergic to it.

Other Remedies For Muscle Cramps

Not getting sufficient fluids is a common reason for muscle cramps during sports activities. Stay hydrated by sipping on water or natural “sports drinks” like tender coconut water or lemon water. This will hydrate you and help replace lost minerals too. Orange juice and bananas can also help increase your potassium intake and reduce muscle cramps.

If your muscles cramp up during an activity, stop for a while and stretch the muscle. Applying heat to a muscle when it starts to spasm can also help relax it.18

References   [ + ]

1, 18. Muscle cramps. National Institutes of Health.
2. Kuehl, Kerry S., Erica T. Perrier, Diane L. Elliot, and James C. Chesnutt. “Efficacy of tart cherry juice in reducing muscle pain during running: a randomized controlled trial.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 7, no. 1 (2010): 1.
3. McLeay, Yanita, Matthew J. Barnes, Toby Mundel, Suzanne M. Hurst, Roger D. Hurst, and Stephen R. Stannard. “Effect of New Zealand blueberry consumption on recovery from eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 9, no. 1 (2012): 1.
4. Jenabi, E., and S. Ebrahimzadeh. “Chamomile tea for relief of primary dysmenorrhea.” Iranian Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Infertility 13, no. 1 (2010): 39-42.
5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 13. Tsupko, Polina. “Aroma 201: Advanced Aromatherapy Certification Program Synergistic Effect of Essential Oils on Muscle Tissue.”
6. Bedi, Monica K., and Philip D. Shenefelt. “Herbal therapy in dermatology.” Archives of dermatology 138, no. 2 (2002): 232-242.
8. MA Goldstein, MC Goldstein, and LP Credit. Your Best Medicine: From Conventional and Complementary Medicine—Expert-Endorsed Therapeutic Solutions to Relieve Symptoms and Speed Healing. Rodale Books, 2008.
11. Martin, Ingrid. Aromatherapy for massage practitioners. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2007.
14. MA Goldstein, MC Goldstein, and LP Credit. Your Best Medicine: From Conventional and Complementary Medicine—Expert-Endorsed Therapeutic Solutions to Relieve Symptoms and Speed Healing. Rodale Books, 2008
15. Wilson, Roberta. Aromatherapy: essential oils for vibrant health and beauty. Penguin, 2002.
16. Ou, Ming‐Chiu, Tsung‐Fu Hsu, Andrew C. Lai, Yu‐Ting Lin, and Chia‐Ching Lin. “Pain relief assessment by aromatic essential oil massage on outpatients with primary dysmenorrhea: A randomized, double‐blind clinical trial.” Journal of obstetrics and gynaecology research 38, no. 5 (2012): 817-822.
17. Erica, M. T. “SalonOvations’ day spa techniques.” Cengage Learning 137 (1996).