Best essential oils for post-workout recovery

Don’t suffer with muscle soreness after a hard workout! Aromatic essential oils might be all you need to speed up your post-workout recovery and soothe muscle soreness…

There comes a time in every fit girl’s training plan when DOMS (or delayed onset muscle soreness) sets in. Perhaps you’re back at it after a bit of a break, or maybe you hit the weights a little too hard and are paying for it. Whatever your reason for feeling sore, wincing your way through post-workout pain isn’t the only option.

We’re not talking about stretching (although, please do that, too). We’re harking on about essential oils. Boasting sore muscle-soothing properties, as well as the more commonly known ability to balance mood, essential oils could offer quick relief after hard exercise. Indeed, a few drops of the right scent could even give you the pre-workout pep you need to get going again.

Related: 5 anti-inflammatory foods to beat muscle soreness

‘Essential oils boast powerful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties – a true multitasker,’ reveals Emilie de Block, founder of Bio Scents. ‘The botanicals in essential oils have anti-inflammatory effects that help alleviate pain. Not only will they ease your muscles, but the calming aromas will also reduce stress.’

So far so good, but what oils do you need to consider for post-workout recovery? ‘Essential oils such as lavender, peppermint and eucalyptus are packed with pain-relieving properties,’ adds Block. ‘These will transform aching muscles into pain-free musculature, in addition to helping improve circulation and helping ease swelling.’

Related: How to beat a fitness hangover: post-workout recovery tips

How essential oils work for post-workout recovery

What is it that makes these aromatherapy essentials such a saviour to workout-worn bodies? ‘The reason they’re so powerful is because they stimulate the olfactory nerve (the short nerve between your nose and brain), and signal the limbic system (the part of your brain that controls emotional stimuli),’ explains Block. ‘This is how we access those effects that we talk about so often – relaxation from lavender, a lift from frankincense and alertness from rosemary.’

There are different ways to use these nifty oils, depending on whether you want a pre-workout boost or a post-workout helper. Here’s what you need to know…

Pre-workout inhalation: Before exercise, try inhaling the essential oils. Their vapours go through the olfactory nerve and get to the limbic system the quickest, which is where they do their job. Simply bring the bottle to your nose and inhale directly, but do this for no longer than five minutes per hour.

Post-workout massage: After exercise, relieve tight, sore muscles by massaging pressure points and limbs with a carrier oil that is boosted with essential oil scents. Alternatively, apply a few drops of your chosen essential oil to a carrier oil and rub it onto your wrists for a post-workout energy boost.

Best essential oils for post-workout recovery

Picking the right scent is a part of the post-workout recovery process. Here’s what Emilie de Block recommends you use, plus when and why.

Note: Seek medical advice before using essential oils if you are pregnant or suffering from a medical condition. Always read instructions before use.


Good for: Before and after exercise

If you struggle to get out of bed in the morning, peppermint oil is a great wake-up remedy to help boost your mind and to energise you. It is believed to help support healthy breathing during exercise, too, and the best way to use it is by inhaling the oil directly from the bottle.

After exercise, peppermint provides cooling relief to tight, aching muscles and boosts mental clarity, thanks to the natural ingredient menthol. It is also great for any bruises you may have gotten during your workout. Try mixing it with a carrier oil like sweet almond oil and apply it to your muscles after a shower.


Good for: Before exercise

Known as ‘liquid sunshine’ due to its vibrant yellow colour, lemon oil provides a refreshing scent, purifying properties and burst of energy. It’s the oil to give you that extra oomph ahead of class and will help combat post-workout exhaustion, too.

Lemon is also thought to stimulate your immune system, plus promote lymphatic drainage and fat loss when used during training.


Good for: Before exercise

Lemongrass oil ignites the senses and can help give you the motivation you need to get from couch to class. We love to use it before yoga for an extra energising pick-me-up. Simply rub a few drops on your inner wrist before class.


Good for: After exercise

The primary benefit of eucalyptus oil comes from its anti-inflammatory properties. Muscles experience strains and micro tears as you exercise, and eucalyptus provides relief for the strains and reduces the inflammation associated with the tears.

For a double boost, we recommend using Bio Scents Eucalyptus & Peppermint Body Oil (£19.99) and massaging it into aching muscles after your next workout. Be sure to use a gentle motion, sweeping toward the heart, as this will help with the removal of lactic acid build-up. This empowering oil is great for mental fatigue, too, as it helps boost blood flow to the brain.


Good for: After exercise

As one of the most potent anti-stress essential oils available, clary sage has been used for thousands of years in aromatherapy. It contains an ester called linalyl acetate which is renowned for its ability to balance hormones, so it can help naturally centre and balance you. Clary sage is a neurotonic that is great for mental fatigue, especially after a long, hard workout when you need to relax.


Good for: After exercise

Lavender oil is used for various purposes and is a great reliever for athletes and non-athletes alike. If you’re experiencing post-workout muscle aches and soreness, or migraines because of a hectic, stressful lifestyle, lavender essential oil will help.

Lavender is a mild anxiolytic, which means it has relaxing qualities similar to medicines used in treating anxiety disorders. But unlike some medicines for anxiety, lavender does not have addictive side effects.

You can apply Bio Scents Lavender Body Oil (£19.99) with compression massage if you’re in pain due to sore muscles or swollen ankles. Or, for the best effects, apply three to five drops of pure lavender oil to a warm compress towel.


Good for: After exercise

This invigorating spicy scent is packed with pain-relieving and immune-stimulating properties that revive sore muscles after a workout. As a natural energiser for the body, and when used topically (diluted), its antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiseptic properties soothe skin and boost mood.

Aromatherapy essentials for your gym bag

Shop Bathletic After Sports Aromatherapy Bath Oil At Bathletic

Bathletic After Sport Bath Oil (£16.99 for 100ml)

Say hello to the fitness-focused recovery bath oil your body has been waiting for! The new 100 per cent natural Bathletic After Sport Bath Oil contains a restorative blend of grapefruit, eucalyptus, lavender, black pepper and frankincense to soothe tired and aching muscles after workouts, relieve stress and anxiety and promote a better night’s sleep.

Alexandra Kay Muscle Relax Body Oil Blend (£29)

This relaxing, herbal blend from the Time to Ease collection uses ginger and black pepper for warming relief, plus soothing peppermint and eucalyptus to support post-exercise recovery.

Bio Scents Eucalyptus Organic Essential Oil (£11)

Add a few drops of this oil to some Epsom salts before adding them to your bath. Woody and stimulating, it will increase your energy and help open your airways.

Tisserand Aromatherapy Muscle Ease Bath Oil (£11)

Soothe your hardworking body by dropping one or two capfuls of this warming blend of ginger, lemongrass and rosemary into a bath.

Words: Sarah Sellens and Emilie de Block | Images: Shutterstock

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