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Side Effects of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and How to Use Aromatherapy Safely

by Nicole Barton(more info)

listed in cfs me long covid, originally published in issue 248 - August 2018

According to NHS UK Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is “a long-term illness with a wide range of symptoms. The most common symptom being extreme tiredness.[1]

Chronic Fatigue is also called myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME. It can affect anyone, including children, but tends to be most common in females, developing from the mid-20s to mid-40s.

Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue

The main symptom of CFS/ME is severe fatigue and feeling generally unwell after any kind of activity. Other symptoms may include muscle and joint pain, headaches, problems sleeping, lowered immunity, sore throat and glands, flu-like symptoms, dizziness, nausea, brain fog i.e. can’t think properly or concentrate, poor memory, low mood and even heart palpitations. The severity of these symptoms can vary greatly from day to day or even within the same day, but, tends to be worse after over-exertion, whether that be physical, mental or emotional. The symptoms often only become apparent 24 to 48 hours after exertion, so sufferers can seem perfectly ok at the time, but will feel the full effects of having ‘done too much’ later down the line.

There is no specific test to diagnose CFS/ME. Diagnosis is usually based on your symptoms and by ruling out other illnesses that have similar symptoms. It is therefore important to see your GP to ensure that you have been correctly diagnosed.

Causes of Chronic Fatigue

There is no ‘definitive’ cause of CFS, however theories suggest it could be caused by viral or bacterial infections, immunity problems, psychological stress, trauma or hormone imbalances. It could also be heredity with CFS running in certain families.

Coping with CFS / ME

Day to day life can be extremely hard for people with CFS. I am one of the sufferers and I know only too well how difficult it can be to cope with this debilitating condition. It is not only the extreme tiredness and other physical symptoms, but also the effect it can have on your mental and emotional wellbeing and self-esteem. I became interested in holistic therapies as a way of managing my illness and I found that aromatherapy really helped to improve my overall wellbeing.

Essential oils LS

Which Aromatherapy Essential Oils can be Helpful for CFS/ME

Exhaustion & Fatigue

When dealing with general fatigue we’d typically look to stimulating essential oils such as Rosemary or Lemon to revitalize our energy levels. However, with CFS, these powerful oils can over-stimulate the body (which is already over-stressed) and have the opposite effect. It is therefore better to choose essential oils that can help to calm, relax and rebalance the system.

Petitgrain essential oil is excellent when feeling tired and run-down as it simultaneously helps to relax yet revitalise. It is excellent in fatigue-fighting blends and combines well with Geranium and Lavender essential oils. Cypress and Bergamot are also good oils to try for calming the nervous system. One theory is that CFS sufferers are constantly in a ‘state of stress’, with the autonomic nervous system being constantly in overdrive and imbalanced. Essential oils that can help to balance the nervous system will therefore calm the body and allow it to re-energise.

Try using up to 3 drops each of any 3 oils in an aromatherapy diffuser or candle burner to see how they effect your general wellbeing and energy levels. My personal favourite is Bergamot, Geranium and Petitgrain, but be guided by your nose when choosing your oils – as you’ll naturally be drawn to the oils that your body needs most.

Muscle Pain

Self-massage with aromatherapy oils can be a lovely way to soothe aches and pains. Black Pepper, Cypress, Lavender, Peppermint and Sweet Marjoram essential oils are all great for relaxing and easing sore muscles. Grapefruit oil can also help to sweeten up your blend and is an excellent choice for CFS/ME as it has a lovely uplifting aroma and can help boost immunity, rid the body of toxins and ease fatigue. Choose any 3 essential oils and add 2 drops of each to 10ml of carrier oil such as Sweet Almond, Coconut or Grapeseed oil. My recommendation for a tension-busting massage is 2 drops of Sweet Marjoram, 2 Black Pepper and 2 Grapefruit in 10ml of carrier oil.

If you don’t fancy a massage you could use the essential oils in a cold or warm compress. Use a hot compress to relax the muscles or a cold compress to ease inflammation. Add the essential oils to a bowl of hot or icy water. Place a clean flannel into the bowl to absorb the oils, wring out, and place onto the affected area. Repeating the process when the flannel goes cold or warms up.

Brain Fog

Poor concentration and memory can be a real challenge for CFS/ME sufferers, but there are some great cephalic (brain stimulating) essential oils that can help. Try diffusing 2 drops of Basil, 4 drops of Lemon and 2 drops of Rosemary for 30 minutes in the morning to kick start your day. This is quite a stimulating blend however, so don’t overdo it. If you do find it too strong, swop the Rosemary for Lavender which is more calming, but still stimulates the brain. Move to a more relaxing blend in the evening, to remind your body of how it should be working i.e. alert in the mornings and winding down at night.

Impaired Immunity

Our immune system is generally weaker when we are tired and run-down, so this obviously poses a real problem for people with CFS. There are plenty of immunity boosting essential oils however, such as Lavender, Lemon, Sweet Orange and Tea Tree. Eucalyptus and Lemongrass are also excellent for fighting off germs! If you don’t like the smell of Tea Tree you could use Ravensara instead as this has a less pungent aroma. I really like diffusing 5 drops of Sweet Orange each day - either on its own or in one of my morning or evening blends – to help stimulate my immune system. I also use a few drops of Eucalyptus in an aromatherapy inhaler stick when I feel a cold coming on. You can pop it on a cotton pad or tissue if you don’t have an inhaler, then sniff regularly throughout the day.

Problems Sleeping

If you struggle to get a restful night’s sleep, try making up a sleep inducing aromatherapy spritz to keep by the bedside. Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Ylang Ylang and Mandarin essential oils are renowned for their calming, sedative properties. Use an atomiser bottle and mix 5 drops of Chamomile, 5 drops Lavender and 5 drops of either Mandarin or Ylang Ylang into 100ml of Chamomile Hydrolat. Shake well before use and spritz onto your face and neck before bed. You can also spray it onto a tissue and place inside your pillowcase. Sandalwood essential oil is another excellent choice in place of the Mandarin or Ylang Ylang if you prefer a woodier aroma.

Low Mood

If your symptoms are causing you to feel down there are a variety of oils that can help to lift your mood, these include: Cypress, Geranium, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Jasmine, Peppermint, Sweet Orange and Rose. I like to make a pulse point oil in roller-ball bottle that I can keep with me and use throughout the day. Mix 10ml of carrier oil (Sweet Almond or Grapeseed) with up to 4 drops of your chosen essential oils. I normally recommend using a maximum of 3 different essential oils in any one blend, so as not to confuse the body. Pour the blend into your roller-ball bottle and apply to the pulse point on your wrists throughout the day as and when required. I like a citrussy daytime blend of Lemon, Lime and Sweet Orange which is perfect for the lifting the spirits.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety play a key role in unbalancing the nervous system. I personally like diffusing Bergamot, Lavender and Mandarin when I’m feeling particularly stressed. Roman Chamomile and Clary Sage are also wonderfully soothing, as is Rose Otto which I find effective when feeling ‘on edge’. These oils can also be made into a pulse point oil as per the above instructions.

Starting Gradually

People with CFS/ME can be sensitive to different stimulus so I would recommend starting slowly with your aromatherapy oils, gradually building your exposure over time to test for any sensitivities. Start with using just one drop of each oil in your blend before increasing to the quantities mentioned above. This will ensure that you don’t shock or over-stimulate your body with sudden use – but work towards gently balancing it over time.

Removing Toxins

Once your body is more accustomed to using essential oils, you might want to consider including small amounts of detoxifying essential oils such as Fennel or Juniperberry in your morning or daytime blends. This will help to rid the body of harmful toxins that might be contributing to your symptoms. Do not use in high doses or too regularly though as you can release too many toxins, which your body may struggle to cope with.

Personalise It

As you can see, there are many essential oils that can support a variety of CMS/ME symptoms. The key to choosing the right oils, is to enjoy the process and be guided by your nose, as the oils you like the smell of, will most likely be the ones that your body needs. Our bodies are very clever – even if they are exhausted! Choose your favourites and get creative – mix it up and try new blends to see what works best for YOU! Don’t give up on your body, because you think it’s let you down – try using nature’s finest essential oils to restore your faith in your body’s ability to know what it needs to heal itself.

Safety Advice / Disclaimer

Always ensure that you use only 100% pure, unadulterated essential oils from a reputable supplier such as Base Formula. The above advice has been provided on the basis that there are no known contra-indications to using essential oils. If you are pregnant, have any health problems or are taking any medication you should seek advice from your healthcare provider before using essential oils. I would also advise that you make an appointment with a local aromatherapist who will be able to take a full case history and offer you tailored treatment advice specific to your symptoms. Never take essential oils internally or apply undiluted to the skin. Avoid contact with eyes and mouth and keep out of reach of children.


  1. NHS UK. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME). Retrieved 18 June 2018, from


  1. Barbara said..

    In my experience and opinion of CFS it is caused by mercury mainly in amalgam tooth fillings. I have nearly gained 100% health by chelating from mercury, detoxing my whole body and healing the organs/systems damaged by the mercury. Essential oils have played a large part in managing my symptoms.

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About Nicole Barton

Nicole Barton HDipCT (VTCT) MFHT MBA previously worked as a Brand Manager in the beauty industry until high stress levels and an unbalanced lifestyle caused her to develop Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Nicole turned to holistic therapies to manage her illness, and after seeing significant improvements in her health and wellbeing, decided to start afresh and retrain in complementary therapies.

Nicole now works as Consultant Aromatherapist for Base Formula as well as running her own wellbeing clinics in the West Midlands and London. Nicole also offers specialist wellbeing consultancy and journalistic services to a range of other clients. She is qualified in a variety of natural therapies including aromatherapy, massage, reflexology, reiki, homeopathy, yoga, meditation, sound therapy and fertility reproflexology and may be contacted via

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