5 Essential Oils For Headaches Or Migraines

Headaches can be debilitating and impact nearly 20% of the population. 

If you’re ever experienced a bad headache or a migraine, you’d probably do anything to ease the pain. 

Essential oils are compounds extracted from plants. They are a concentrated extract of plants like flowers, herbs, and spices. 

If you want to treat headache pain naturally, then you might find relief from certain essential oils. 

5 Essential Oils For Headaches Or Migraines

1) Peppermint

Peppermint is by far the most popular essential oil for headaches. The topical application of peppermint oil has been scientifically proven to be more effective at treating headaches than a placebo.

Peppermint oil has the efficiency of acetylsalicylic acid, more commonly known as aspirin (1). Peppermint oil at a strength of 10% in alcohol is a licensed treatment for tension headaches for adults and children above 6.

Another study looked at 120 adults with migraine headaches (2). Those treated with an intranasal drop of peppermint oil (diluted to 1.5% strength) experienced reduced intensity and frequency of their migraine headaches.

Peppermint oil can irritate mucous membranes in your eyes and mouth, so be extra cautious when using peppermint oil for headaches or migraines.

2) Lavender oil

Lavender oil is one of the most popular essential oils for aromatherapy, but it has many other potential benefits. Lavender can help promote skin health, can be used as a natural fragrance, and may improve mood disorders like anxiety and depression

The oil of the lavender flower might also help ease your headaches. Some patients with migraines experienced significant improvement in their symptoms only 15 minutes after applying a few drops of lavender oil to their upper lip (3).

Another study of 47 people with migraine headaches concluded that inhaling lavender oil might be a safe and effective way to treat migraine headaches (4).

3) Rosemary oil

Rosemary oil has long been used in folk medicine to ease pain, such as headaches (5). This oil may also improve circulation, which can help ease pain from headaches.

Rosemary oil might also help ease stress and reduce joint pain, helping you to live a more pain-free and mobile life.

4) Eucalyptus oil

If you suffer from sinus problems like sinus headaches, then eucalyptus oil may help you. Eucalyptus oil can help open your nasal passages and clear blocked sinuses, which may improve your pain by reducing sinus pressure.

A study found that an essential oil blend containing eucalyptus helped promote muscle relaxation (6). Reducing muscle tension can help treat tension headaches, which are associated with pain in your head and sometimes the neck.

5) Chamomile

Chamomile is popular in tea, but it might also help you beat your headache. It has anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce prostaglandins, which are associated with migraine headaches.

Chamomile oil mixed with sesame oil may be especially beneficial because sesame oil has anti-inflammatory properties (7).

chamomile tea benefits

How to use essential oils for a headache

There are many ways to use essential oils for headaches. You can try different methods to find what works best for you or use the method most convenient to you during your headache.

Diffuser 

Diffusing essential oils is a popular method, partly because it acts as a natural fragrance for your home or working space. An essential oil diffuser uses water mixed with a few drops of essential oil and sprays a very fine mist into the air. 

Diffusing essential oils is a method of aromatherapy and might not be as effective for relieving pain as applying essential oils in a more concentrated method.

Topical 

You can apply essential oils topically to areas like your neck, temples, and behind your ears. If you use a pre-made essential oil blend, you likely won’t need a carrier oil to dilute the essential oil, which is the case with roll-on oil blends.

Pure essential oils are concentrated and very potent, so you don’t need much to treat headaches. Diluting the oils in a carrier oil helps evenly spread the essential oil on your skin and can help reduce the likelihood of a skin reaction.

Popular carrier oils for essential oils include sweet almond oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, and olive oil. 

Dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil and apply it on a small area of your skin (a patch test) to ensure you don’t develop a reaction or irritation before applying it over larger areas of your skin.

Essential oils can be a great addition to massage oil to promote muscle relaxation and reduce tension.

Baths/steam 

Applying a few drops of essential oils to your bath can help promote relaxation through aromatherapy. Lavender oil is a popular essential oil for baths.

Adding a drop of essential oil to a steam bath can help ease discomfort and pain from sinus congestion. Simply add a drop or two of the essential oil into a bowl of hot water and place your face over the bowl. Be careful not to burn your face by getting too close. Then, cover your head with a towel to help trap the steam as you inhale deeply for 5-10 minutes.

Orally 

You can take some essential oils orally, but not all of them are meant for oral use. Add a drop of edible essential oil to tea, or apply a drop or two directly under your tongue for the best absorption. 

How do you apply essential oils to your head?

To apply essential oils to your head to treat a headache, dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil. You can make different strengths of oil blends, but a 2% strength would be 8 drops of essential oil per tablespoon of carrier oil. 

If you experience pain, redness, or other skin irritation, try diluting the essential oil to a lower strength, such as 4 drops per tablespoon of carrier oil to reach 1% strength.

Some oils cause photosensitivity, which means they can burn your skin when you’re in the sun. If you use a premade oil blend, be sure it doesn’t contain a photosensitive oil if you’ll be applying it before sun exposure. Citrus fruit essential oils (orange, grapefruit, lemon, etc.) are especially photosensitive.

Conclusion

Some essential oils might help ease pain from headaches like migraines, sinus headaches, and tension headaches. Topically using a carrier oil is the most effective method to apply essential oils for headaches.

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Sources

  1. Göbel H, Heinze A, Heinze-Kuhn K, Göbel A, Göbel C. Oleum menthae piperitae (Pfefferminzöl) in der Akuttherapie des Kopfschmerzes vom Spannungstyp [Peppermint oil in the acute treatment of tension-type headache]. Schmerz. 2016. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27106030/ 
  2. Rafieian-Kopaei M, Hasanpour-Dehkordi A, Lorigooini Z, Deris F, Solati K, Mahdiyeh F. Comparing the Effect of Intranasal Lidocaine 4% with Peppermint Essential Oil Drop 1.5% on Migraine Attacks: A Double-Blind Clinical Trial. Int J Prev Med. 2019. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31404204/ 
  3. Koulivand PH, Khaleghi Ghadiri M, Gorji A. Lavender and the nervous system. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3612440/ 
  4. Sasannejad P, Saeedi M, Shoeibi A, Gorji A, Abbasi M, Foroughipour M. Lavender essential oil in the treatment of migraine headache: a placebo-controlled clinical trial. Eur Neurol. 2012. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22517298/ 
  5. Ghasemzadeh Rahbardar M, Hosseinzadeh H. Therapeutic effects of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) and its active constituents on nervous system disorders. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7491497/ 
  6. Göbel H, Schmidt G, Soyka D. Effect of peppermint and eucalyptus oil preparations on neurophysiological and experimental algesimetric headache parameters. Cephalalgia. 1994. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7954745/ 
  7. Zargaran A, Borhani-Haghighi A, Faridi P, Daneshamouz S, Kordafshari G, Mohagheghzadeh A. Potential effect and mechanism of action of topical chamomile (Matricaria chammomila L.) oil on migraine headache: A medical hypothesis. Med Hypotheses. 2014. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25238714/ 

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