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Parts of this were taken with permission from Essential Oils Overview and Reference Guide, published by: The Family Tree, 2008


see also lymphedema 

Edema (Oedema if you are British) results from an excess of fluid in the tissues of the body.  Most common is peripheral edema or swelling noticed in the legs, ankles, and feet or the arms and hands.  If fluid accumulates in the lungs it is known as pulmonary edema.  Common causes include pregnancy problems, heart failure, kidney and liver disease, and simple things like too much salt or a severe sunburn.  It can also be a side effect of some medications.

The symptoms of swelling in the legs may be confused with other conditions such as lymphedema and lipedema.  These are related but different conditions.  The differences are discussed at the end of this page.

With edema understanding the root cause and addressing it is fundamental.  Here are some causes that are mentioned.  The liver and kidneys are important in maintaining the balance of liquids in the body.  Problems with these organs can result in edema.  The heart and vein system control the flow of blood and if they are not functioning properly blood may pool in various parts of the body and fluids will leak into the surrounding tissue areas.  Edema in the hands, feet, ankles and legs may be because the veins are not returning blood efficiently to the heart.  This will typically result in both sides of the body being equally affected.  If the right side of the heart is weak peripheral edema (hands, feet, ankles, legs) will be result, if the left side of the heart is weak it will result in pulmonary edema.

Edema associated with pregnancy is discussed under pregnancy.  Edema may also be a side effect of certain medications. If no known reason for the swelling is identified it is referred to as idiopathic edema.


Edema, Lymphedema, and Lipedema

Edema is caused by excessive fluids from the circulatory system accumulating in the tissues of the body.  This may be the body’s normal response to an injury that causes temporary swelling or a problem with the heart or circulatory system that results in longer term swelling.  If the swollen area is pressed with the finger and removed the mark will soon disappear.  This is known as nonpitting edema.  A diuretic may help nonpitting edema.

Lymphedema is caused by excessive lymphatic fluids in an area of the body.  This is usually because the lymphatic system is impaired and unable to handle the amount of fluid present thus causing swelling.  These areas may be subject to infection or slow healing.  In the early stages if the swollen area is pressed with the finger and removed a mark will remain for an extended period of time.  This is known as pitting edema.  Lymphedema will not respond to a diuretic.

Lipedema affects primarily women and may be associated with genetics and hormones.  The symptoms are enlarged legs and buttocks as fat is abnormally deposited in the layer below the skin.  These fat accumulations do to not respond directly to normal dieting and exercise.


[search helps: swelling, swollen, water retention]

Oils, blends & products recommended:

Oils & Blends:  CypressC, GeraniumEC, GrapefruitC, Lavender, LemonC, LemongrassC, RosemaryC

Essential oils based products: Basic Vitality Supplements (LLV)

Also consider: Invigorating BlendC, PatchouliE

Note: to understand the E and C superscript go to Home and scroll to New Helps.

Suggested protocols:

Massage 2-4 drops of Cypress or Lemongrass with 4-6 drops of Lemon or Grapefruit directly to the area of swelling.  Consider a tablespoon of grape seed oil as a carrier to facilitate the massage and for its ability to strengthen the capillary walls.  Massage with motions towards the heart.  Repeat 2-3 times daily. 

Also take the Basic Vitality Supplements (LLV) and add 1-3 drops of Lemon essential oil to a glass of water and drink 4 times daily.

Experiences and Testimonials of others

Chelsea - I am about 35 weeks pregnant and have recently been experiencing swelling in my lower legs, feet, and hands. I have used Cypress on the bottom of my feet at night and had amazing success so far. I also drink lots of Lemon water. I was pushing on my shin this morning and it stayed, ahh! Any other ideas? I don't think toxemia is an issue because my blood pressure is actually low.

Pat - Don't forget the obvious with swelling and that would be potassium deficiency. So it won't hurt to start eating some bananas. You should be on the Basic Vitality Supplements (LLV). Here are a few blends for your condition:

 Rub Massage Blend on legs and ankles, that has all the good oils in it.    

Drink plenty of water with Lemon.    

You can alternate Wintergreen with the Massage Blend.    

Evening blend in a capsule, 8 drops Geranium, 5 drops Cypress and 5 drops Helichrysum.

When you are rubbing the oils on topically use coconut oil for smooth coverage and it is good for you also. Good luck with this new baby, you have all the tools to make this go well.

Marci - Lemongrass is wonderful for circulation too.


Editor - More on edema.

Chrystal - Last October I started having swelling in my lower legs.  The right side was worse than the left and I found that exercising helped.  When I went to the doctor in January, he said I would have to wear support hose to prevent the blood from pooling in my ankles as the veins were not able to close.  He also recommended exercising everyday. I was really resistant to wearing support hose because of how hard they are to put on and how expensive they are and I already have a problem with sweaty feet and I thought that would make that problem worse so I decided to just deal with it.

I asked a friend who knew about oils and they suggested Massage Blend and Frankincense.  I tried these for 2 weeks with not a lot of help, and the swelling was getting worse where I had swollen ankles all the time. I read that Lavender helps with swelling or edema so I started using that and at the same time I was using Lemon, Lime, and Wild Orange for a completely different reason. Today I showed my friend the results and she told me I had ankles again.  So if you are having trouble with swelling in your ankles try some Lavender and citrus oils.

Sharon - How are you using the oils?  Under the feet? Internally? How often?  I know someone with this problem whom nothing else has worked for in over 20 years now so I'd like to try it on her.  Thanks! This is exciting indeed!

Crystal - I have been using them once in the morning and once at night 2-3 drops each. Here is the kicker--I wasn't planning on this working and my body really responds to citrus oils and Lavender. I rub them right on my legs where the swelling is.


Maria - My aunt recently had a brain aneurysm and the left side of her body has been very affected.  She's having swelling in her left foot and I'm wondering what oils would be good for the swelling?

Rob - I would try Cypress neat using massage and use the Massage Blend Technique.  I would augment that with Frankincense just prior to the normal application of Lavender.  Cypress is very good for swelling, water retention etc.  Soothing Blend is great for inflammation.

Pat - I have had some swelling on my ankles and I read that Birch would help and it has. A definite wonder oil. I also recommend Cypress and giving your aunt the Massage Blend Technique would be a very kind and helpful thing to do for her.

Jan - Citrus oils can also be very effective in reducing swelling.

Loryjean - I am allergic to bee stings and was taught to rub a burnt Lemon half on my foot when I got stung. I'm not sure why the burning was important, but it did help take the swelling and pain down. Lemon oil would be SO much more effective, and less messy!


Susan – We have a friend with swelling in her feet and ankles.  Any suggestions for that?  

Rob - On edema.  I would suggest Cypress and Lemon massage to the areas of swelling and to the reflex area on the inner leg just above the calf or on the top half of the calf. Some people use a carrier oil with Cypress, I've never needed to.

Protocols folks recommend for children




Diet and Nutritional complements to essential oils


What Science & Research are saying

Grapeseed Oil Article

This is an excerpt of an article that has some interesting information that may apply to using Grape Seed Oil as a carrier with topical application of essential oils.

Grape seeds pack a healthy 'punch' of proanthocyanidins, by Victoria Dolby,
March 1997

Edema, the abnormal accumulation of fluid in the body's tissues, often results from capillary malfunctions. Proanthocyanidins extracted from grape seeds may help prevent edema by stabilizing the capillary walls and preventing abnormal capillary permeability. These compounds may be beneficial in the prevention of high blood pressure, heart disease, and even provide relief from fibrocystic breast disease. The anti-edema properties of proanthocyanidins may also be very useful in combating some symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.


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NOTE: The advice shared in this site has not been evaluated by the FDA. The products and methods recommended are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease, nor is it intended to replace proper medical help. As members offer or look for answers, kindly understand that essential oils work to help to bring the body into balance - thus helping the body's natural defenses to restore homeostasis. Essential oils are not used to "treat" medical problems.