Why Essential Oils and Counterirritants Harmonize to Alleviate Musculoskeletal Pain

Essential oils

As the opioid epidemic rears its head and people have begun to fear pills; natural treatments are making headway in pain management. But how do they work?

In the medical profession, the mainstay of pain relief revolves around pharmaceutical agents. Corticosteroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), and opioids are prescribed in an attempt to ease physical distress. Sadly, these come with a range of side effects and potentially deadly consequences.

  • Corticosteroids are linked to gastrointestinal bleeding, increased rates of infection, weakened bones, and weight gain.
  • NSAIDs may increase the risk of heart attack, liver failure, stomach ulcers and bleeding, stroke and death.
  • Opioids are well known for their addictive properties, but they can also cause constipation, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting, and increase the pain they were meant to calm in the first place.

Thus, pharmacists, biologists, medical doctors, and other scientific professionals have developed options that provide much-needed pain relief without a long list of unwanted consequences. Thus, they have returned to nature’s lab to harvest safe ingredients for pain management.

Naturally-Derived Topical Analgesics that Counter the Pain

While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not generally review naturally-derived remedies, they have approved a handful of naturally-derived active pharmaceutical ingredients for over-the-counter (OTC) analgesic drugs, including counterirritants. For those not familiar with counterirritants, the FDA provides a helpful answer in its approval of counterirritants. You can explain that a counterirritant is:

an externally applied substance that causes irritation or mild inflammation of the skin for the purpose of relieving pain in muscles or joints by reducing inflammation in deeper adjacent structures.

In other words, counterirritants counteract pain and itching.

This can include pain caused by injuries, sore muscles or arthritis, as well as itchy skin caused by eczema.

Naturally-derived compounds that fall into this category for pain relief include menthol, camphor, capsicum, and turpentine oil. Menthol and camphor are the most popular counterirritants due to their ability to combine well together for enhanced pain relief and their ability to be used on large areas of the body, making them ideal for pain-relieving massage oils, creams, and ointments. However, capsicum and turpentine oil are also useful for isolated pain. Additionally, all of these counterirritants have been suggested as excellent penetration enhancers for topical medications to enter the skin, which we’ll discuss in the following section.

Here’s what you can tell your patients about these natural counterirritants.

  • Menthol is the main ingredient of Mentha piperita L (or peppermint) and has been traditionally prescribed for pain relief. It has been shown to relieve and reduce sensitivity to pain, likely through both central and peripheral nervous system actions. In addition, it acts as a penetration enhancer for topical medications.
  • Camphor is obtained from the bark of 50-year old cinnamomum camphora evergreen trees (camphor trees) through steam distillation. This waxy substance is well-loved for its pain-relieving effects as well as its ability to treat congestion as a vapor rub— among its other antibacterial and antifungal benefits. Research shows this natural compound is able to desensitize sensory nerves and activate thermosensitive receptors leading to the relief of physical discomfort. Additionally, it acts as a penetration enhancer for topical medications. It’s important to remind your patients not to use it on broken skin since it can be toxic if it enters the bloodstream in high concentrations.
  • Capsicum is another popular counterirritant derived from hot chili peppers. When applied to the skin, the heat sensation depresses the cutaneous sensory receptors to temporarily relieve pain. It is particularly used to treat neuralgia associated with herpes zoster (shingles), however, it is also used for musculoskeletal pain. Likewise, it acts as a penetration enhancer for topical medications. While capsicum is generally as safe and effective (GRASE), some people are sensitive to the compound. Do not cover the treated skin with a bandage or other type of dressing, which can lock in the heat and cause an uncomfortable burning sensation or redness. If redness or an uncomfortable burning sensation occurs, advise your patients to wash off the product with cool, soapy water.
  • Turpentine oil is another approved counterirritant obtained from the gum of the pinus palustris (pine tree). It is quite similar to camphor, thus many products that list camphor as an active ingredient are actually making synthetic camphor from turpentine oil, likely due to it’s wider availability. Pine trees grow extremely fast and grow virtually everywhere in the United States — and are dispersed throughout China, South-East Asia, Russia, Europe, and parts of the Middle East. It has been used to treat toothaches (external application to the jaw), chest congestion, and musculoskeletal pain much like its sister essential oil. It also acts as a penetration enhancer for topical medications. Like camphor, turpentine oil is only advised for topical application since it can be toxic if high concentrations enter the bloodstream. Thus, you should advise your patients not to use products that list turpentine oil or camphor on broken skin or inside the mouth.

In short, natural counterirritants can be used alone or combined to provide OTC topical pain relief without harmful chemicals. That said, as with any medication, they should be used appropriately according to the intended use of the product. Moreover, those with sensitivity should use small amounts in a small area of the body first.

CBD CLINIC™ has developed a 5-level system that starts with low doses of natural counterirritants (and lidocaine for level 1 ointment) in order to help practitioners customize their treatment for their patients, based on sensitivities and levels of pain.

Discover the therapeutic benefits of natural pharmaceuticals.
Register for an account today.

Why We Blend Numerous Natural Ingredients With Already Powerful Analgesics

While natural pain-relieving compounds have important actions on their own, as the saying goes, their sum is greater than their parts. Essential oils and extracts harmonize well with powerful naturally-derived analgesics. The enhance the cooling effect and offer aromatherapy properties that make clients want to keep coming back for more.

The natural science behind CBDCLINIC™ products: The Harmony of Pain-Relieving Essential Oils and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients

Scientifically designed natural products that harness the power of natural ingredients are able to deliver pain relief without the substantial risks that accompany pharmaceutical agents. Our unique blends are formulated for pain relief with evidence-based analgesics. We go a step further to enhance their cooling effects with these powerful essential oils:

  • Clove oil: The aromatic oil contains (eugenol), a compound that has been shown to boast many benefits. Hence, it is a popular ingredient in toothache remedies and muscle and joint cream. Moreover, it’s spicy aroma makes it an excellent aromatherapy to invigorate the senses.
  • Eucalyptus oil: This cool, minty plant has been hailed for its wintery smell and cooling feeling. Thus, it is an excellent topical and aromatherapy ingredient to include in ointments, creams, and oils– not too mention a delightful addition to toothpaste.
  • Peppermint oil:  This oil has been touted for its soothing properties. In fact, menthol, the active ingredient approved by the FDA to reduce pain, is extracted from this plant in order to isolate the analgesic compound and make it available in higher concentrations.)
  • Tea tree oil: This camphor-like pungent oil has been shown to be a superpower staple in home remedies. You can find it in toothpaste, cleaning products, muscle rubs, and nearly everything else you can think of.
  •  Arnica Montana extract: Anyone who works in complementary and holistic medicine knows this extract. You can find arnica plenty of sports rubs in conventional and holistic markets.

* These herbal benefits have not undergone in-depth research or been approved by the FDA.

CBDCLINIC’s 5-level system for incremental levels of pain

At CBDCLINIC, we’ve combined scientific integrity and ingenuity with a pioneering, trailblazing spirit to develop a range of gold standard formulations that treat pain at its source. Each of our five product levels comprises specifically blended products, targeted at the appropriate level of pain and sensitivity.

Our unique combinations of essential oils and analgesics ensure we provide safe, powerful relief from aches and pains via our analgesic cream. Our care and attention to detail enable us to deliver on our promise of pain relief and help you to choose the right product, the first time.

Ask us how your clinical practice can benefit from pain relief products blended with CBD.

Don’t Take Our Word For It: Listen to Other Clinicians’ Opinions

Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only. It has not been approved by the FDA to diagnose, treat, prevent, cure, or mitigate any diseases or conditions. We use CBD in our products for cosmetic purposes only.



Skip to content