Headaches can take lots of forms and can sometimes put a halt to your routine. Regardless of how fast or strong they hit, there are ways to soothe and prevent them. You have some great essential oils for migraines and headaches at your disposal. Find out what they are and how they work, plus much more.
In this post, you’ll be learning about:
- FAQ about headaches and migraines. Do you know the difference? Because if you do, you’ll be able to find the most appropriate treatment. Details about the way aromatic oils can help with headache relief. Their properties and action mechanism can help you understand what’s happening with your body when you use them.
- The pros and cons of some of the best essential oils for headaches. Each of them makes a great ingredient in a migraine relief blend.
- How to use these oils and how to make an effective blend for your wellbeing.
- A few essential oil recipes for headaches and migraines.
- Types of headaches. This information can help you discover your headache type and find an appropriate treatment. Plus, some safety tips for when you handle/use Aromatherapy oils as remedies.
Best Essential Oils for Migraines and Headaches (Pros & Cons), How to Use Them, plus Recipes
Before telling you more about those essential oils that are good for migraine relief, we have to go through a few details.
I thought of shedding some light on common questions about headaches under the form of an F.A.Q. section. Take a look at them and, if you have some of your own, don’t hesitate to use the comments section.
Migraine headaches are among the most common types of headaches. They usually affect people between the ages of 20 and 60.
With age, they decrease in frequency and severity. Still, headaches are not uncommon in earlier ages either.
1) Migraines vs. headaches – Are they different?
A headache is described as general pain and pressure felt in the head. A headache usually:
- Affects both sides of the head.
- Ranges from mild to severe.
- Feels very intense in the forehead, temples, and back of the neck.
- Lasts about 30 minutes – an hour. But it can last up to a week too.
A migraine is a type of a headache. It usually:
- Affects only one side of the head. It’s not impossible to affect both sides either, though it’s less common.
- Feels like throbbing pain.
- Comes with other symptoms like nausea, flashing lights, sensitivities, etc.
- Ranges from intense to severe.
- Puts a halt to your daily routine, making it difficult to concentrate on anything else than the pain.
These are the differences between headaches and migraine headaches. You will read more about them and other headache types in the last part of this post.
2) How can essential oils soothe migraines and headaches?
The conventional headache treatment includes many types of medicines. Analgesics, anti-inflammatories, and antidepressants are just a few examples.
The doctor can prescribe a certain treatment only if the headaches last for weeks. Repeated attacks every month are also a cause for medical consultation.
Aromatherapy uses essential oils as an alternative or complementary therapy. This means that you can use aromatic oils to soothe your headaches along with medicines or alone.
Some of them can interact with certain medicines, though. You must tell your doctor about it so the treatment continues to be effective.
Essential oils for migraines are not as strong as medicines. Yet, medicines have a very important downside. They can affect the stomach lining, the liver, and the kidneys among others.
It’s their potency and frequency of use that causes these problems. And when you suffer from recurrent or chronic headaches, people tend to take a lot of pills.
Essential oils for migraine headaches are concentrated plant liquids. They are also volatile, meaning they can evaporate and disperse into the air.
This volatile nature makes them useful in soothing headaches.
How? The moment you open the bottle, the active oil molecules get out. Basically, they start working as soon as you sense their fragrance. That fragrance is made of oil molecules.
They travel through the nose, straight to the brain. From there on, these molecules can trigger certain responses from the brain.
Some can mimic hormones (Peppermint, Sage, etc.). Others can trigger the production of more white blood cells. This leads to an improved immune system. The list goes on and on because each oil has a different composition.
Essential oils for headaches are also:
- Anti-inflammatory (to decrease inflammation and pain).
- Antiseptic or disinfectant (to kill some of the pathogens that attack the body).
- Analgesic or pain relievers (to help with the pain).
- Diuretic (to stimulate the kidneys and promote toxin and water elimination).
- Anti-allergenic (to stop, soothe or prevent allergic reactions).
- Stimulant (to boost the necessary physiological processes).
- Anti-nausea (to decrease this symptom and help with a general feeling of wellbeing).
- Anti-anxiety (to improve the mood and help you control your emotions).
- Relaxant and sleep-inducing (to help with sleeping problems).
Some essential oils for migraine relief can also act like beta and calcium channel blockers. Beta blockers are used to decrease the blood pressure. Essential oils can induce peace and relaxation by lowering the heart rhythm.
The pros and cons of using Aromatherapy oils for headaches:
- Essential oils smell very nice. They can be very uplifting, soothing, and all around pleasant to use.
- They are cost-effective. While dealing with headaches or migraines, a few drops can make a big difference.
- The side effects of an aromatic essence is nowhere near that of drugs. They do come with enough precautions too but used with moderation, the risks are minimal.
- Sometimes, they may help in treating the cause of your migraines. For example, if it’s stress-related, they can help your body and mind to relax. If it’s workout-related, they can act on the injured tissue and speed up its recovery. The success of the treatment depends a lot on the cause.
- They are not as effective as analgesic pills. Pills work directly on the symptom, while the oils also evaporate or oxidize. Thus, not all the amount you inhale or use gets inside your body.
- Their effect is temporary and you might have to use/inhale aroma oils more often.
3) What essential oils are good for migraines and headaches?
I’ve told you about their benefits in general, but what essential oils can be used for migraines? Luckily, there are many essential oils that help with migraines and headaches.
Remember that the scent of an oil is extremely important. If you don’t like their fragrance, some essential oils can actually cause a headache.
What scent is good for migraines, you may ask. There is no one single oil good at it because scents are personal.
I will give you a list of oils proven to have some benefits in headache relief. Feel free to try them all, as you never know which ones will work for you.
Peppermint Essential Oil
Botanical name: Mentha piperita.
- Peppermint oil is great for migraines and cluster headaches. Peppermint essential oil is also great for tension headaches. One study found Peppermint oil to be as effective as 1000 mg of acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is known as paracetamol.
- Peppermint has analgesic properties. Thus, it can relieve local pain in about 15 minutes.
- It also causes a long-lasting cooling sensation on the skin. It can do that by altering the calcium channels. This means that Peppermint oil is a calcium channel blocker. Therefore, the oil can lower blood pressure and relax the blood vessels.
- The oil is stimulant and circulatory too, meaning it can improve the blood flow to the head. More blood delivers more oxygen. This helps to relieve the tension, inflammation, and pain.
- The oil is also antispasmodic, which helps to relax vein muscle spasms. These are usually painful.
- Plus, Peppermint can also improve breathing by clearing the airways and sinuses. This also leads to soothing sinus headaches.
- It’s a great anti-inflammatory agent too.
- Although it’s among the best cluster headache essential oils, Peppermint can be toxic. It is especially so if you use large amounts for long periods of time.
- Applied pure (undiluted) on large surfaces can drop the body’s temperature. This may lead to hypothermia.
- It can also be toxic to the nerves, especially if used in large amounts.
- Peppermint can trigger seizures.
Why I like it:
As you can see, Peppermint oil is an excellent anti-migraine and headache essential oil. It can also stimulate hair growth and improve digestion, among others. Knowing how to dilute Peppermint oil for headaches will help you use it safely. It involves mixing it with a carrier oil, of which I’ll be talking about soon.
Lavender Essential Oil
Botanical name: Lavandula angustifolia.
- Lavender is an excellent soothing essential oil. Thus, it’s also one of the best oils for migraines. Lavender is known to have antinociceptive properties. This means the oil can inhibit pain receptors, decreasing the pain levels too.
- Lavender essential oil is a mild sedative and calming agent. It can help you fall asleep, which helps your body get rid of a headache. You can use Lavender oil to relieve stress and anxiety symptoms and to lower blood pressure.
- The oil is also anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic. This helps with a throbbing migraine headache and the pain.
- One study concluded that Lavender oil can be used to manage acute migraine headaches. How should you use Lavender oil for headaches? Both the inhalation and topical application methods are safe and work well.
- Lavender oil is among the best tolerated essential oils. However, it may cause allergic reactions.
- The oil should not be used by people with cardiovascular problems.
- It could also increase the risk of asthma attacks. It’s best to seek medical advice first.
- High amounts of Lavender can be toxic to the liver and kidneys. Too much of this oil can also cause insomnia and restlessness/nervosity.
- Its scent is very characteristic and soothing, and it may be overpowering. Make sure you test it when you’re feeling well.
Why I like it:
Lavender oil is very common and can be found easily. The oil is a great beauty and anti-aging ingredient. It can speed up wound healing, but it can also help with scars. Lavender is not only a good essential oil for migraines, but it can also help with insomnia.
Sweet Basil Essential Oil
Botanical name: Ocimum basilicum.
- Basil is an excellent essential oil for headaches, in general. It has a strong antispasmodic effect. It helps to diminish the blood vessels contractions.
- One study revealed an anti-excitability effect on the nervous system. This means that Sweet Basil can calm down the nerves that cause a headache.
- The oil of Basil is a very good sedative and analgesic. Sweet Basil, like Lavender, can also help you fall asleep.
- It is also anti-inflammatory, which increases its anti-migraine effect.
- Basil is among the best essential oils for migraines and headaches. But it also comes with warnings. The oil has estrogen-like effects. This may interact with and decrease the efficacy of hormone-based treatments.
- It contains a high amount of methyl chavicol. That makes it dangerous for people on anticoagulants.
Why I like it:
The oil of Basil is a very fresh, stimulant, and energizing essence. It can help with all types of headaches, especially migraines. However, Basil oil can also be used as a digestive oil, and kidney and liver stimulant.
Nutmeg Essential Oil
Botanical name: Myristica fragrans.
- Studies show that Nutmeg has a great potential. It’s great at managing and relieving chronic inflammatory pain. It seems that a low-dose Nutmeg oil solution is much more effective than a higher dose.
- Nutmeg is among the best essential oils for migraines and headaches. It is so because it inhibits pain receptors, just like the other oils so far.
- It can help with migraine headaches by also stimulating drainage. This means that Nutmeg has anti-edema (water retention) properties.
- The oil also improves the blood flow to the head area.
- Nutmeg has impressive antibacterial properties, and it’s also anti-inflammatory.
- High amounts of Nutmeg oil can have narcotic effects. One may lose coordination and mobility, and get headaches among others.
- The oil has estrogen-like effects.
- It can be toxic to the nerves and liver, and it can burn the skin (if used undiluted).
- Talk to your doctor about its use if you suffer from asthma.
Why I like it:
Nutmeg is a great general stimulant and tonic. On top of all these benefits, the oil can improve the digestion and expel gas too. Nutmeg can relieve nausea, which makes it great for traveling.
What other oils can you use for migraines? There are many others that have many of the mentioned benefits.
That’s why, blending more essences, can cover everything you need to get migraine relief.
Thus, you could also use floral essential oils like:
- Clary Sage
- Ylang Ylang (for children)
Herbal essential oils for headaches:
- Roman Chamomile (for children)
- Bay Laurel
- Helichrysum (Immortelle)
Citrus essential oils for migraines:
4) How do you use essential oils for migraines and headaches?
There are two simple ways in which you can use your aromatic oils for headache relief.
- The FIRST METHOD is the topical application.
Applying essential oils topically can act directly on the affected area. The oils can absorb into the skin and capillaries very fast. That way, you can get faster relief.
However, the amount of oils that reach your blood is quite small. Part of the oils will evaporate and another part will oxidize in the tissue. Thus, only a smaller part will get to the affected area.
For a simple blend, you can mix 3 – 6 drops of essential oil per Oz carrier oil. The amount can be increased, but only after enough testing and practice.
If you can stand powerful smells and you don’t have other illnesses matters a lot.
- The SECOND METHOD is the diffusion/inhalation of the oils.
You can inhale directly from the bottle, or you can inhale from a diffuser. The latter is a special device that disperses the oil molecules in the air around you. The higher-quality the diffuser, the better the technology it uses.
Nebulizers, for example, are the best right now. They don’t use water and heat. This means that the oils are dispersed pure, unadulterated, and undiluted. Water particles can dilute and decrease the potency of the oils.
You can also use essential oils for migraines and headaches in aromatic baths. Even compresses work well.
When you want to add oils to water, mix them with salt first. They can also be mixed with milk, honey and shower gels. These are all environments that can help disperse the oils into the water.
Where to apply essential oils for headaches? The best places are those around the affected area. The temples and the back of the neck are good places to apply an oil blend.
Gentle massages on the neck and shoulders can offer relief from tension headaches. Taking steps to reduce the stress in your life can prevent many headaches.
Luckily, the use of Aromatherapy oils can help you relax and focus more on yourself. Aromatherapy is a very pleasant complementary therapy.
Adding an oil or two in your life can make wonders, especially if it’s one you absolutely adore.
5) Where do you buy essential oils for headaches and migraines?
This is a matter of preference. Many people already have a supplier or favorite brand they buy from. If you don’t know for sure, you can always trust the GC/MS report of the oils. Each oil comes with this quality report.
That’s where you’ll see how the oil was extracted, what chemotype it is, the chemical composition, etc.
This report should be put at your disposal for free access, whenever you wish to consult it. If not, you can always ask for it.
If you’re a doTERRA fan, you must know that they don’t make special essential oils for migraine headaches or cluster headaches. You can find high-quality, pure oils in many places, including online.
6) Essential oil recipes for migraines and headaches
Time to get practical! I’ve got a few blends for you to try when you get a new headache. Choose any one you like or can make.
Keep in mind that you can also use just one or two essential oils per blend. You can mix up to 5 oils in a blend.
Essential Oil Headache Roll-On Recipe
- Carrier oil: 1 Oz (30 ml)
- Sweet Basil essential oil: 2 drops
- Nutmeg essential oil: 2 drops
- Peppermint essential oil: 4 drops
As long as its smell is not too strong, the carrier oil can be anything you have at hand. You can use Olive, Coconut, Macadamia, Sesame, Argan, etc.
Add the essential oils first, then the carrier. Give the blend a gentle shake before each use and apply on the temples and back of the head.
Essential Oil Blend for Headaches
- Lavender essential oil: 2 drops
- Roman Chamomile essential oil: 4 drops
- Sweet Basil essential oil: 2 drops
- Carrier oil: 1 Oz (30 ml)
Shake the blend before each use.
Essential Oils for Migraines Diffuser Recipe
- Peppermint essential oil: 10 drops
- Lavandin essential oil: 10 drops
- Eucalyptus essential oil (ct. radiata): 10 drops
Mix these oils together and keep them stored in a dark colored glass bottle. Use 3 – 6 drops per diffusion session (20 minutes, every 2+ hours).
In terms of technology, the best essential oil diffusers are nebulizers and ultrasonic. Read more about diffusers and how to use them here.
Know Your Type of Headache! (Safety Tips for Safe Natural Remedies)
The exact cause of headaches is not yet known. However, specialists believe they’re more of a neurological problem. Besides this, there are lots of known trigger factors.
You can get a headache because of:
- Low blood sugar.
- Intense exercise.
- Certain foods.
- Hormonal changes (menopause and/or contraceptives).
- Long-term stress and anxiety.
- Sinus infection.
- The tension in the muscles.
- Lack of sleep and enough rest.
- Alcohol excess (hangover).
- Caffeine excess.
- Loud noises.
- Very bright lights.
These triggers can cause different types of headaches. Some affect the whole head, while others just part of it. Knowing what caused your headache can help you find out its type.
Knowing the type of a headache you suffer from can help you find the right treatment.
Types of Headaches
- The first one is, of course, the migraine headache. It is also known as a migraine with aura. The aura part refers to the fact that many will see flashing lights, dots, or lines before a migraine begins. These headaches are considered “classic”.
- The second type is called a tension headache. Stress and anxiety, but also muscle strain can trigger this type of a headache.
- Sinus headaches. They are not the same as migraines, even though the symptoms are very much alike. Sinus headaches are a result of a sinus infection. You might also have a fever and stuffy or congested nose. Usually, the headaches feel like a strong pressure in the face. The forehead and the eyes are the most affected.
- Cluster headaches. These are very painful headaches that come in clusters or cycles. They usually affect just one side of the head. Not only are they painful, but they also come and go regularly. These types of headaches are quite common. Some of the best essential oils for cluster headaches are Peppermint, Sweet Basil, and Lavender. However, this is a type of a headache you do not want to leave unchecked. As painful as it is, essential oils may not be of use here. Consult a medic right away and tell him about your intention of using Aroma oils too.
Other, rarer headache types include the Chiari headaches and thunderclap headaches. The latter requires immediate attention.
Thunderclap headaches may be the symptom of other severe illnesses. This headache starts suddenly (under a minute) and is very sharp.
The Chiari headache is caused by a birth malformation (defect).
People prone to migraine headaches are women and those with a family history. People with epilepsy or asthma or those who’ve suffered a stroke or are depressed are also prone to them.
Neurologic and hereditary illnesses usually make people more prone to migraine headaches. They can also affect children.
Migraines in children can be the only symptom or they can come with stomach pain and vomiting. A doctor should be consulted immediately.
In other words, the occasional migraine headache can be treated easily. Those that come back or simply follow a “schedule” should be enough to make you see your doctor.
Essential Oils Safety Tips
Essential oils are safer and have fewer side effects than medicines. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have some of their own also.
Still, it’s easier to prevent problems by doing a few simple things:
- Always very important! Test each new bottle of oil on a small skin patch. The composition of an essence may vary from lot to lot. Depending on where it grew, how it was extracted, bottled and stored, you may develop allergic reactions.
- Never use an essential oil for migraines or headaches undiluted. They may sensitize and irritate the skin.
- Avoid using aromatic oils for migraine relief on children without medical approval. The same goes for elderly people. Especially those who suffer from other conditions too.
- Avoid their use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Once the first trimester passes, you should ask for your doctor’s advice.
- Read as much as you can about an essence before using it. Some may interact with heart medicines, blood pressure, diabetes drugs, etc.
Headaches can be mild or severe. Sometimes, eating something and taking in some fresh air is the right treatment. Other times, things are not so simple. If you’re not sure about your type of headache, go to the doctor.
The right treatment can help you feel much better, much faster. Luckily, using essential oils for migraines and headaches is easy and oftentimes, effective.
Pick a few fragrances that you like and keep them handy and ready for a next headache. How do you deal with migraines and other types of headaches? Have you ever tried Aromatherapy oils to soothe them?