By Sayer Ji
Chamomile oil, an ancient herbal remedy used to treat a variety of ailments, may have a new use for individuals suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a fairly common condition caused by a pinched nerve in the arm or wrist and is characterized by tingling or numbness in the hand or arm.
The apparent efficacy of chamomile oil on CTS symptoms could greatly reduce the incidence of surgery and other invasive or expensive treatment options.
Chamomile Oil for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Research has shown that chamomile oil, known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, may be useful in relieving pain associated with CTS when used topically and combined with the use of a splint.
Eighty-six patients diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome were enrolled in a study that revealed chamomile oil may effectively reduce pain and increase functionality in patients with mild to moderate CTS after only four weeks.[i] This wasn’t the first study of chamomile oil’s effects on reducing CTS symptoms, and other double-blind, placebo-controlled trials found similar results even in patients with severe carpal tunnel syndrome.[ii]
The two kinds of chamomile oil most studied are Roman chamomile and German chamomile, and it’s believed that the 28 terpenoids and 36 flavonoids contained in the flower’s essential oil are what contribute to the herb’s therapeutic value.[iii]
These compounds act synergistically when applied topically by reducing inflammation, promoting wound healing and providing antimicrobial properties, among other benefits.[iv] Researchers believe that chamomile and other herbal medicines may be the key to reducing the effects of neuropathy due to their lower complications in comparison with synthetic drugs and may have more protective effects.[v]
Current Diagnosis and Management of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, one of the three major nerves of the forearm and hand, is pinched as it travels through the carpal tunnel, a small passageway at the wrist made of bones and ligaments.[vi]
CTS accounts for 90% of all neuropathies and can be very painful, making it difficult to perform everyday tasks or making sleep difficult.[vii] Symptoms can occur during the day but are often most noticeable at night, and include:
- Weakness or clumsiness in the hands
- Dull, aching, prickly or tingling pain in the hand, arm, or elbow (sometimes referred to as “pins and needles”)
- Pain after repetitive hand or wrist motions
- Pain in the hands or arms after sleeping
- Dryness of skin on the hands
- Swelling in the hands[viii]
These symptoms may radiate up the affected arm and can also occur in the fingers, thumbs or upper arms.[ix] Carpal tunnel syndrome is most prevalent in middle-aged women but has also been linked with occupations that require small repetitive movements, such as typing, or work with vibrating tools.[x],[xi]
Conservative treatment options include alternative therapy, ice, splints, aerobic activity to induce weight loss in obesity-related cases, or specific exercises, while more severe cases may be treated using cortisone shots or surgery to relieve pressure on the median nerve.[xii],[xiii]
Surgery can be expensive, require unpaid leave of absences from work, and is linked with avoidable risks, so researchers are excited to discover alternative and inexpensive therapies like chamomile to alleviate symptoms and stop the progression of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Other Methods for Mitigating Pain From Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Chamomile isn’t the only oil studied for its potential uses in treating pain associated with CTS. In one study, flaxseed oil was more effective than hand splinting when applied as a topical gel.[xiv] Essential oil of lavender, when used topically, may be useful in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome and research is being done to test the efficacy of cannabidiol extracts on neuropathic pain.[xv],[xvi],[xvii]
However, chamomile oil remains one of the most effective topical natural treatments researched to date. Additional ailments positively impacted by topically applied chamomile oil include:
Monosymptomatic nocturnal enuresis (urinary incontinence) in children
Irritable bowel syndrome[xviii]
For those interested in herbal medicine or who have followed the progression of medical research in the last few decades, it’s not surprising that plant-based medicines can have such positive and effective impacts on ailments still commonly treated with synthetic drugs.
The innate power and healing properties of plant-based medicines is a fascinating subject to many patients and researchers alike, and a more natural approach to pain relief could mean an increase in patient dollars saved and a reduction in side effects caused by synthetic drugs and more conventional treatments.
To find more information on the researched benefits of chamomile tea or essential oil of chamomile, visit our GreenMedInfo.com Chamomile Research Dashboard.
[i] Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2017 Feb;26:61-67. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2016.11.010. Epub 2016 Nov 30.
[ii] Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2015 Nov;21(4):223-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2015.08.001. Epub 2015 Aug 12.
[iii] Mol Med Report. 2010 Nov 1; 3(6): 895-901.
[iv] Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Jan; 19(1): 70.
[v] Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2018 Apr; 21(4): 347-358.
[vi] Am Fam Physician. 2016 Dec 15;94(12):993-999.
[vii] Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-.
[viii] BMJ. 2007 Aug 18; 335(7615): 343-346.
[ix] Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-.
[x] Ulster Med J. 2008 Jan;77(1):6-17.
[xi] Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-.
[xii] Int J Clin Rheumtol. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2010 Dec 1.
[xiii] Am Fam Physician. 2016 Dec 15;94(12):993-999.
[xiv] J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2017 Jul; 22(3): 462-467.
[xv] J Hand Ther. 2018 Oct – Dec;31(4):437-442. doi: 10.1016/j.jht.2017.07.004. Epub 2017 Aug 10.
[xvi] J Orthop Traumatol. 2017 Dec; 18(4): 451-455.
[xvii] CMAJ. 2010 Oct 5; 182(14): 1494-1495.
[xviii] J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2017 Jan; 22(1): 12-17.
[xix] Mol Med Report. 2010 Nov 1; 3(6): 895-901.
About the author:
Sayer Ji is the founder of Greenmedinfo.com, a reviewer at the International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine, Co-founder and CEO of Systome Biomed, Vice Chairman of the Board of the National Health Federation, and Steering Committee Member of the Global Non-GMO Foundation.
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