If you could improve your sports performance by using essential oils (EOs), would you do it? If you could heal your minor sports injury without taking weeks off to recover, wouldn’t that be utterly amazing? But does it work? After some research across a number of sources I learned that EOs are medicines from plants that are 50-to-70 times stronger than taking the herb form. For example, distance runner Amanda Brooks says that one drop of peppermint EO is equivalent to 28 cups of peppermint tea!
Five Top Essential Oils for Athletes
There are a number of EOs that offer athletes a variety of positive outcomes from performance enhancement and relief from muscle aches to immune support and antimicrobial healing. But the five that seem to make most of these lists include the following: lavender, peppermint, lemon, eucalyptus and clove.
Lavender is a great stress reliever. It helps relax the body while soothing and healing cuts, burns and bruises; it’s also great for a good night’s sleep before that important game.
Peppermint not only relieves nausea, indigestion and those pregame nervous jitters, it also improves mental alertness and concentration while relieving aches and pains, especially muscle and arthritis pains while improving respiratory function.
Lemon stimulates your nervous system performance and helps maintain good health. But it also elevates your mood, increasing positive feelings when you aren’t feeling quite up to par. Effective for treating/preventing athlete’s foot, it helps detoxify the body to maintain peak athletic performance.
Eucalyptus also helps your stamina and performance by improving respiratory function and its anti-inflammatory abilities also reduce pain, leading to greater flexibility. When mixed in a spray bottle with water, you can keep your body cool at a game; it’s also good during your athletic match for “waking up” the body and mind, keeping your focus and concentration on the game.
Clove keeps you healthy by increasing your white blood count and immune function. Since it helps to reduce inflammation, you wind up with reduced arthritis pain and improved flexibility. And because it has antiseptic properties, it keeps your body clean, free from skin infections and able to fight athlete’s foot.
How to Use Essential Oils
Because of their concentrated strength, you always want to dilute EOs – DO NOT apply directly to your skin without diluting them and DO NOT ingest them (while there are a few you can ingest, this rule applies to most of the EOs).
According to Brooks, you can:
put 10 drops of the pure oil into hot water or a diffuser made for this purpose and inhale the essence
put 5-10 drops in a bath
put 5-10 drops on a hot water-soaked cloth and wrap it around the injured area
dilute the EO with a vegetable carrier oil, such as coconut, olive or grapeseed oil and massage sore muscles
Essential Oils Aren’t Created Equal
Like medications, not all oils are created equal. Since the FDA doesn’t regulate essential oils, there is no real control over the potency of the oils and it can widely vary, some only containing 5-10 percent of an EO.
Before buying, do some research online or at a health food store to discover a high quality brand manufacturer of EOs. And be sure to read the labels. The truth really is that you get what you pay for – those less expensive oils made from lower quality ingredients or those that come pre-diluted simply don’t work as well as the pure oils.
Of course, it’s important to note that EOs should not be used in place of visiting a doctor. Since they have never been evaluated by the FDA, they are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you are ill, by all means, visit a physician.
But I have to admit that as an athlete, I am very intrigued by them. While I have not used them yet, I am going to look for ways to incorporate them into my daily life to see if I can witness the benefits for myself. I invite you to join me.
Bryan Lee is a National Exercise & Sports Association (NESTA) certified personal trainer, life coach and author who has lost over 130 pounds. Please check with your personal physician before using these health and fitness tips.