Headaches and migraines are common health complaints. They may be caused by a number of factors such as stress, dehydration, poor posture, muscle tension or sinusitis. Often the trigger is unknown, but is likely to be caused by hormonal, dietary or environmental factors.
There is some evidence to suggest that essential oils may be helpful in the treatment of headaches and migraines. Peppermint and eucalyptus oils, known for their cooling effects, increased cognitive performance and demonstrated muscle-relaxing and mentally relaxing effects in a study of 32 healthy participants . The same trial showed that a combination of peppermint oil and ethanol had a significant analgesic effect with a reduction in sensitivity to headaches.
Lavender is also an excellent essential oil for headaches and migraines. In a clinical trial on the use of lavender for the treatment of migraine headache, forty-seven patients with were divided into cases and controls. The first group inhaled lavender essential oil for 15 minutes, and the control group used liquid paraffin for the same time period. Patients were asked to record their headache severity and associated symptoms in 30 minute intervals for a total of 2 hours. Of the 129 headache attacks recorded by participants, 92 responded entirely or partially to lavender. In the control group, 32 out of 68 recorded headache attacks responded to placebo. The percentage of responders was significantly higher in the lavender group than the placebo group .
Another helpful oil is chamomile, which has been suggested as a new treatment for the relief of migraine pain. Chamomile essential oil is thought to possess pain relieving effects for migraines due to its anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects .
In addition to peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus and chamomile, other essential oils that may be helpful for relieving headaches and migraines are basil, rosemary, marjoram, clary sage, citronella and lemongrass. The oils can be inhaled either by using an oil burner or sniffing from the bottle or a tissue, or they can be diluted in a carrier oil and massaged into the forehead and temples.
Other essential oils may also be used to address the cause of headaches and migraines, if known. For example, stress may be reduced by using calming essential oils such as neroli, rose, frankincense or bergamot, while oils such as ginger, black pepper or pine may help to relieve muscle tension. In these instances, aromatherapy massage may be beneficial.
1. Göbel, G Schmidt and D Soyka, Effect of peppermint and eucalyptus oil preparations on neurophysiological and experimental algesimetric headache parameters, Cephalalgia, Volume 14, Issue 3, pages 228–234, June 1994.
2. 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;67:288–291.
3. 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 Nov;83(5):566-9.