The 6 Best Essential Oils for Headache Relief

August 20, 2018

Headaches are unfortunately a fact of life. Many people experience headaches a few times a week while some get headaches every single day. In severe cases, people can experience debilitating migraine headaches. Close to 70% of Americans will experience headaches severe enough to seek medical attention.

Headaches can dramatically impact quality of life. They can cause anxiety and impact relationships and self worth. There are many factors that cause headaches, further complicating the treatment process. Fortunately, there are many home remedies to treat headaches caused by a variety of factors.

Essential oils can help provide headache pain relief while also inducing relaxation. Research shows these essential oil blends can alleviate pain and even treat the root cause of many headaches. Read on to find out the best essential oils for treating headaches.

Causes and Treatments of Headaches

Not all headaches are the same. They range in cause and severity. Allergies, illness, hormones, caffeine, and exertion can all cause headaches. They are often the result of a night out partying and can be caused by too much stress. Tension headaches and sinus headaches are some of the most commonly experienced head pains. Migraine headaches are generally considered the most severe and can cause a loss of vision and sensitivity to light.

Most people treat headaches by taking over-the-counter or prescription medications. Running cold water over the back of your head can also help to alleviate pain. While these are effective treatments, they also come with some serious side effects. Medications can cause digestive problems such as nausea and upset stomach. Headache medications can also cause more serious side effects including depression and uncontrollable muscle movements.

Essential oils are natural remedies that can treat headaches without the scary side effects. They smell great, are made of all-natural plant parts, and offer extensive health benefits. Pure essential oils are free from harmful chemicals and toxins, making them an ideal solution for health conscious individuals.

Best Essential Oils For Headache

1. Peppermint Essential Oil

Peppermint oil has been used for over a thousand years. It is a staple in traditional medicine used by Ancient Egyptians as well as in Indian Ayurveda. Peppermint oil is derived from the peppermint plant, which is a hybrid of the spearmint and watermint plants. It has a refreshing scent and cooling properties that are calming.  Peppermint oil helps to increase blood circulation, reducing the throbbing feeling of headaches. This oil is a natural muscle relaxant that helps to soothe tension that can cause headaches.

A German study published in 1996 examined the use of peppermint oil on patients with headaches. The randomized double-blind study compared the effects of peppermint oil versus acetaminophen—a common headache medication sold as Tylenol.  The study examined 41 patients with a total of 164 tension headache attacks. The peppermint oil was found to be as effective as the acetaminophen in reducing headache pain over the period of one hour.

How to Use: Rub on Temples

Combine 4 drops of peppermint oil with 4 drops carrier oil such as olive oil or coconut oil. Rub in a gentle circular motion on temples or forehead to relieve headache pain.

2. Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender oil is one of the most beloved in the industry. It's calming properties are often used to fight stress, anxiety, and insomnia. The research surrounding lavender oil is also extensive. This oil helps to support the immune system and reduce migraine headaches in particular.

A study published in European Neurology demonstrated the power of lavender essential oil in soothing headaches and migraines. The study consisted 47 patients who experienced frequent migraine headaches. The study set up an experimental group and a control group. Participants in the experimental group received lavender essential oil aromatherapy. The control group received liquid paraffin. In the group that received lavender oil, 71% of patients reported a significant reduction in headaches compared to only 37% in the control group.

Lavender oil also boosts immune health, helping to prevent allergy-induced headaches. Allergies are triggered by an overreaction of the immune system to normal inputs. The body then produces histamine, which causes a runny nose and red eyes. Allergies can cause sinus pressure that triggers headaches. Lavender oil works to support the immune system and prevent overreactions. This helps to minimize allergic responses and results in fewer sinus headaches for allergy sufferers.

How to Use: Aromatherapy and Topical Application

Rub a few drops of lavender oil and carrier oil together between your palms. Rub gently onto the forehead, back of the neck or on temples to relieve existing headaches. To prevent allergy headaches, diffuse 4 drops of lavender oil a couple times per day in an ultrasonic diffuser.

3. Eucalyptus Essential Oil

Eucalyptus oil is one of the most recognizable essential oils. It boasts a distinctive fragrance that is piney and earthy. Eucalyptus oil is crisp and invigorating. The scent can help improve mood and promote balanced emotions. Eucalyptus oil is also effective at opening up airway and reducing sinus congestion. This can be beneficial for people who suffer from sinus headaches. Eucalyptus oil is antibacterial and antiviral, helping to prevent sinus infections that lead to these types of headaches.

A Korean study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine analyzed the effect of eucalyptus oil on pain. The oil significantly reduced the incidence and severity of pain. Researchers believe the health benefits of this oil can be attributed to two compounds: a-pinene and 1,8-cineole. Both of these chemical compounds have antioxidant activity that helps to suppress inflammation and activation of pain receptors.

How to Use: Sinus Reliever and Aromatherapy

Dilute eucalyptus oil to relieve sinus congestion. Combine 3 drops of eucalyptus oil with 4 drops carrier oil and rub liberally on chest and back. Apply directly to temples of forehead to alleviate sinus or tension headaches. Alternatively, diffuse eucalyptus oil in a diffuser and breathe deeply to clear congestion and reduce headache pain.

4. Rosemary Essential Oil

Rosemary oil has natural analgesic properties that help to minimize symptoms of pain. This oil's pain fighting properties are so powerful; it has been a successful treatment for arthritis and fibromyalgia. It is a grounding oil that helps to center emotions and reduce stress. Rosemary oil is particularly useful for treating stress-induced headaches.

A study published in Psychiatry Research examined the effect of rosemary oil on stress levels in humans. The human body releases hormones when it responds to stress. The most common stress hormone is called cortisol. Researchers found that inhaling the scent of rosemary oil helped to significantly reduce cortisol levels. Research indicates rosemary may also inhibit the release of the hormone in response to stress.

How to Use: Aromatherapy

Rosemary oil helps combat headaches caused by tension and stress. Add 3 drops of rosemary oil to a diffuser and use two times per day to induce calm. You can all add a few drops to a personal inhaler so you can take a sniff when you're feeling stressed out at the office or one the go.

5. Helichrysum Essential Oil

Helichrysum oil is a lesser known essential oil, but has been used for hundreds of years in alternative medicine. The oil is extracted from the helichrysum plant known as Helichrysum italicum. The oil is popularly called immortelle or everlasting and is more expensive than other common essential oils. The oil has a rich aroma that smells like fruit and honey.

Helichrysum oil has anti-inflammatory properties that help to reduce swelling and pressure that cause headaches. There are few clinical trials, but in vitro trials have demonstrated the analgesic effect of helichrysum oils.

How to Use: Warm Oil Wash Cloth or Aromatherapy

Heat a damp washcloth in the microwave for 30 seconds. Add 6 drops of helichrysum oil and place the warm washcloth on your forehead. Lie down and breathe in the scent of this floral oil focusing on relaxation. If you suffer from frequent headaches, add 4 drops of this oil to a diffuser daily. The aroma may help prevent the onset of constant headaches.

6. Chamomile Essential Oil

Chamomile oil is derived from a number of chamomile plants. The most popular are German chamomile and roman chamomile. Just like chamomile tea, chamomile essential oil helps induce relaxation and decrease pain. Chamomile works to relax muscles and treat insomnia.

A study published in Medical Hypotheses focused on the ability of chamomile to treat migraine headaches. Chamomile has been used in Persian medicine to treat frequent headache pain. Researchers found that chamomile contains several compounds including chamomile flavonoids that help inhibit the activation of pain receptors. The oil also contains anti-inflammatory properties that reduce swelling and may lower high blood pressure that can cause headache pain.

How to Use: Headache Sleep Aid

It can be hard to get a peaceful night's sleep if you suffer from chronic headaches. Diffuse a few drops of chamomile oil in a diffuser before bedtime. You can also add a few drops to a cotton ball and place it under your pillow.

Side Effects of Essential Oils

Essential oils are a great headache remedy with few side effects compared to prescription and over-the-counter medications. The FDA does not approve essential oils specifically in the treatment headaches, but it has approved their use on skin and in aromatherapy. Most side effects can be avoided by using the essential oils in accordance with approved uses.

Skin Irritation

Some essential oils may cause skin irritation for people with sensitive skin or allergies. Take particularly caution when using eucalyptus oil and peppermint oil as these tend to be harsher than other oils on skin. Always test the oils on a small part of skin before applying in larger amounts. Always combine essential oils with carrier oil when applying topically.

Pregnancy and Children

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should use essential oils cautiously. Consult with your physician before use. Essential oils may trigger reactions in infants under 2 years of age. Ask your pediatrician before using essential oils on kids under 14 years of age.

Using Essential Oils to Reduce Headache Pain

The aromatic fragrance of essential oils can open nasal passages, offering relief to sufferers of allergy of sinus-induced headaches. The anti-inflammatory nature of essential oils provide headache relief by improving blood flow and reducing tension. Some essential oils such as lavender oil are also effective in combating a migraine attack. They target the nervous system to reduce stress levels and induce calm. Essential oils work to improve headache symptoms without negative side effects. Use these oils topically or in aromatherapy to get relief from headache pain fast.

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