From foam rolling tools to infrared saunas, cryotherapy and compression boots, there's a growing list of fancy new treatments and products that are designed to help relieve sore muscles. But there's a low-tech muscle recovery method that people have been using for years that you may be overlooking: essential oils.
Indeed, aromatherapists often formulate products for addressing muscular pain, spasms, and tension in the body, explains Stephanie Tourles, the author of Stephanie Tourles’s Essential Oils: A Beginner’s Guide. (Massage and physical therapists may not incorporate essential oils into their practice because they don't have the proper training to safely administer them, she says.) When used with other techniques — such as stretching and self-myofascial release — certain essential oils can help soothe aches and pains from exercise and life.
A word of warning, though: If you're eager to try these essential oils yourself, it's important to dilute them heavily before applying them to your skin, Tourles says. Some people may find that essential oils irritate their skin, so you should aim to use six to 12 drops per ounce of carrier. Good carriers include hand lotions or fatty oils (think castor, almond, fractionated coconut, jojoba, or olive). As with other uses for essential oil, you should be careful and do as much research as you can: "Essential oils are serious medicine, being incredibly concentrated substances, and must be used with respect and knowledge of proper application techniques," she says.