Muscle aches happen for many reasons: exercise, sleeping in the wrong position, sickness, and so on. It can be a pain (literally) to deal with, but there are a good number of helpful herbs and home remedies to ease sore muscles.
You also could be dealing with muscles spasms or cramping, which aren't technically the same as muscle soreness. However, the following remedies work for these problems, too.
So whether you've over-exercised or just deal with daily aches and pains, here are the top herbs and remedies to help out your sore muscles.
Remedies for Different Types of Sore Muscles
What is causing your muscle pain will be a big factor in deciding which of these herbs and remedies can help the most.
If you are dealing with muscle soreness that comes from an event like exercise or cramping during PMS, you'll likely want something topical that can bring relief right away. You could try an oil or balm infused with herbs or take an herbal bath.
For long-term muscle soreness, maybe from an illness or carrying extra weight during pregnancy, you may want to add internal remedies to the topical treatments.
Muscle salves and oils will help to treat soreness right away, but taking a supplement like turmeric, garlic, or capsaicin will build up in your system over time and help with pain long-term.
Top Herbs + Essential Oils for Sore Muscles
Arnica is a perennial plant native to the mountainous regions of Europe and Siberia. Its yellow-orange flowers are similar in appearance to daisies.
Creams and other products using arnica flowers have recently shot to popularity as a topical treatment for muscle soreness, general aches, bruises, and inflammation.
A study that evaluated one such topical arnica product found that it did decrease muscle pain a few days after intense exercise. (1) Arnica ointments have also been shown to accelerate the healing of bruises and even improve osteoarthritic symptoms. (2)(3)
Camphor essential oil is extracted from the Camphor tree and has been used medicinally in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for centuries. (4) The oil has a cooling effect and is used in remedies for sore muscles, inflammation, sprains, and rheumatism.
A spray containing camphor as well as several other essential oils was found to relieve mild to moderate muscular pain in one study. (5)
Used topically, camphor oil also improves circulation, which can relieve muscle spasms and cramps. You can use it on its own or in combination with other herbs.
Lavender and Peppermint
Lavender and peppermint can be used as herbs or essential oils in remedies for sore muscles. Both are especially helpful for headaches caused by tense, stiff muscles.
Peppermint contains menthol, a compound that's known for its pain-relieving properties. (6) It also has anti-spasmodic properties that help muscles to relax and relieve cramping.
Lavender, especially the essential oil, has demonstrated pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. (7)
You can mix a few drops of each oil together with a carrier oil and rub on sore muscles.
If you're dealing with a headache from muscle tension, you can also add in this Headache Releaf tea containing both lavender and peppermint.
Rosemary is a popular food seasoning, but it has a history of use as a pain-reliever as well.
The essential oil has been shown in a few studies to be effective at relieving different types of pain. (8) Rosemary can also calm muscle inflammation.
Eucalyptus and Wintergreen Oils
Eucalyptus and wintergreen are very different from each other, but both have a similar cooling and soothing effect on muscles. They penetrate into muscles to bring relief.
Wintergreen oil is a much-used addition to both conventional and natural sore muscle remedies. It contains an active ingredient called methyl salicylate that has pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. (9)
Eucalyptus essential oil is known as a powerhouse for clearing chest congestion but also reduces muscle pain and inflammation.
You can get the power of many of these herbs and oils- arnica, rosemary, camphor, and eucalyptus- in this Muscle Mend salve.
Herbal Bath Teas for Sore Muscles
A warm to hot bath can be good for sore muscles on its own (since heat helps relax muscles). Adding in herbs will give you even more pain-relieving benefits.
You can make an herbal bath tea two different ways.
One method is to simply add the desired herbs to a muslin bag, old nylon, or something similar. Tie it under the faucet and let water run through as the tub fills up.
Or use the desired herbs to make a strong infusion by pouring boiling water over them and letting it steep for a few hours or overnight. Then, add to bath water.
Here are a few of the best herbs to add to your bath.
Although not an herb, Epsom salts can be added in with any of the following herbs to aid sore muscles. The high magnesium content will help with muscle pain and inflammation.
Chamomile is a very soothing herb with anti-inflammatory properties. It can help with both muscle soreness and spasms or cramps.
Use dried chamomile to make an herbal bath tea, or mix a few drops of the essential oil with Epsom salts.
Peppermint is a great herb to use in a bath as well as topically. Soaking in a peppermint bath can ease muscle pain, inflammation, and cramps.
For relief, try an herbal bath mix of equal parts chamomile and peppermint.
Calendula is an herb with many uses. It can relax muscles, calm muscle spasms, and relieve cramps. (10)
Calendula also has anti-inflammatory properties, and will benefit your skin health as it soothes your muscles.
Other Remedies for Sore Muscles
As mentioned, heat can be a simple way to help relieve sore muscles. It naturally relaxes muscles and increases blood flow to help muscles heal.
In some studies, moist heat (like a bath, damp towel, or wet heating pack) has been shown to help more than dry heat. (11)
Interestingly, cold therapy can also help muscle pain by reducing inflammation. You can apply a cold pack directly to the sore location or take a cold bath (if you can stand it).
Magnesium is a very important nutrient for muscle health and one of the reason Epsom salts are effective for sore muscles.
It won't necessarily help with exercise related soreness, but magnesium deficiency can cause muscle cramps and spasms. If you suspect this is the case, a magnesium supplement could help.
All of these herbs and remedies for sore muscles are considered safe for regular use. However, be sure to consult your doctor as necessary, especially if you are pregnant or have a medical condition.
If your muscle soreness does not get better or you suspect an injury, be sure to visit a qualified health professional before continuing home treatment.
Sore Muscles? Try These Remedies
Muscle soreness often responds well to home treatment, and there are many options besides just using conventional painkillers.
Try out any of these herbs and remedies for sore muscles, or treat your aches and pains with this made-for-you Muscle Mend salve. Relief is on the way!