Best Essential Oils for Headaches

Quick Answer: Best Essential Oils for Headaches

1. Lavender Oil
2. Rosemary Oil
3. Peppermint Oil
4. Chamomile Oil
5. Eucalyptus Oil

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A headache is a pain or discomfort in one or more parts of the face or head which may occur rarely or frequently. [1]

According to the International Headache Society, there are more than 150 types of headache disorders. [2]

Headaches may be caused due to a fever, infection, head trauma, stroke or an underlying condition such as a tumor.[3]

Headaches are of four main types vascular, tension, traction and inflammatory. [4] The most common type of vascular headache is a migraine which can last for more than a day at times. [5]

There are three main types of headaches tension-type, migraine and cluster headaches. [6] Tension-type headaches are most common in the college population. [7]

A migraine starts in early childhood and may have a family history. [8] Cluster headaches usually occur in a series that may last weeks or months. [9]

Drug therapy, stress reduction and eliminating certain foods which could be the triggers are the possible treatment options for headaches. [10]

Essential oils and aromatherapy can be a wonderful way to reduce the pain and frequency of headaches and may also be prophylactic in some cases.

What are Essential Oils?

Aromatic liquid substances extracted from flora, grasses, fruits, trees, etc. are called essential oils. They are extracted from plants or parts of plants that contain the essence of the plant hence the name eg: Lavender oil.

Carrier oils are the fixed oils which are used to carry or dilute the essential oils eg: Sweet Almond Oil.

Essential oils for a major part of aromatherapy where aromas are used to achieve a therapeutic response. [11]

These concentrated liquids have multiple uses in medicine.

They may be used orally (ingested), topically (applied to the skin) or aromatherapy (inhaled) which is a form of alternative medicine.

They are extracted using either steam and water (distillation) or using mechanical techniques such as cold pressing.[12]

The oils may also be ingested in some cases, depending on the ailment.

Since the essential oils are highly concentrated they are used only after diluting with a suitable fixed vegetable oil i.e the carrier oil.

Some examples of essential oils are citronella oil, sandalwood oil, bergamot oil, etc. Carrier oils include castor oil, jojoba oil, etc.

How Essential Oils Help in Headaches

Yes, the role of essential oils in relieving headaches is based on several assumptions on how they may actually function.

It is believed the oils such as peppermint can have an analgesic effect and may also inhibit certain chemicals that are responsible for muscle contraction.

Some essential oils can relax the blood vessels i.e vasorelaxant which can help in case of vascular headaches such as migraines.

There are several mechanisms by which essential oils can help provide relief from various types of headaches and their accompanying symptoms. Some of them are as follows:

1. Helps in Preventing Smooth Muscle Contraction

Peppermint oils can produce an analgesic effect. [13] They are also known to reduce the levels of substance P and hydroxytryptamine which have shown to cause smooth muscle contraction in animals models. [14]

2. Provides Mental Relaxation and Improved Cognitive Performance

A combination of eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil and ethanol can improve cognitive performance as well as provide mental relaxation. [15]

Ethanol, when combined with peppermint oil, is known to decrease sensitivity to headaches. [16]

3. Helps with Withdrawal Headache Symptoms

Rosemary oil is known to reduce stress and help prevent insomnia both of which can cause headaches.

A study showed that the oil was also useful for headaches which were a consequence of withdrawal treatment to opioid medications.[17]

4. Provides Pain Relief

A study found that fifteen minutes’ inhalation of lavender oil helped reduce the number of migraine attacks and pain intensity and is an effective and safe treatment for acute migraines.

5. Can Elevate Pain Tolerance

A study has shown that the volatile oil from Rhizoma linguisti has a profound effect in raising the pain threshold in animal models and has the potential to be used for treating headaches. [18]

6. Has Relaxing Effects

Eucalyptus and peppermint oil have relaxing effects and has significant effects on the muscles responsible for a headache. [19]

What are the Best Essential oils for Headaches?

There are several well-known essential oils that extremely beneficial for headaches. They can help to relieve pain, increase tolerance, reduce sensitivity, vasorelaxation and also calm the mind.

Some of them include lavender, chamomile, ginger, rosemary, and peppermint essential oils.

1. Lavender Oil

Lavender oil is well known for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety. Both of these can be major causes of headaches. [20]

A study conducted showed that fifteen minutes of inhalation with lavender oil was greatly beneficial in reducing migraines attacks. [21]

2. Rosemary Oil

Rosemary oil is a well-known remedy for headaches. Studies in animal models have shown that it has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. [22]

It has also proven to be beneficial in case of headaches caused due to the withdrawal of opioid medications. [23]

3. Peppermint Oil

Studies have shown that topical application of peppermint oil to the temples and forehead and provide relief from headaches. [24]

A study has shown that applying 6% menthol gel topically can relieve migraine. [25] Menthol is a major component of peppermint oil.

4. Chamomile Oil

Chamomile oil is known for its neuroprotective effects and its topical application is proposed to relieve migraine headaches.[26]

Its anti-inflammatory properties are hypothesized to be responsible for relief from migraines but more research is required. [27]

5. Eucalyptus Oil

A study has shown that oil can reduce pain in an individual. The pain reducing and relaxing effects may be useful for patients with tension headaches. [28]

How to use Essential Oils for Headaches?

There are many ways to use essential oils for headaches including applying it topically to the forehead or steam inhalation and cold compression to the head by adding essential oils to a cloth with cold water and applying to the forehead.

Hot showers with essential oils are also beneficial.

For Migraine Headaches

Essentials oils can be diluted with a carrier oil such as coconut oil and applied to the temples of the head and forehead. [29]

Lavender or peppermint oil can be used on the temples and the back of the neck for this purpose.

For Sinus Headaches

Inhalation of essential oils by adding a few drops to a tissue and inhaling the tissue can be done. [30]

A compress can be created by soaking a few drops of cold water with few drops of essential oil and applied to the forehead. [31]

For Tension Headaches

Eucalyptus or peppermint oil is used on the forehead and temples to relieve stress and tension [32].

Add 5-10 drops lavender oil to bath for a soothing and calming effect on the mind. [33]

A few drops of the oil can be placed at the bottom of the shower and then have a hot shower.

The steam will cause the essential oils to diffuse throughout the room which can be inhaled and would be tension relieving. [34]

How to use Essential Oils for Headaches during Pregnancy?

Essential oils can be used for headaches in pregnancy in 3 main ways that is cold compressions, steam inhalation or adding to a hot shower bath and topical application of essential oil diluted in a suitable carrier oil to your forehead and temples.

Along with nausea, joint pain and fatigue; headaches are a common occurrence during pregnancy.

They occur more frequently during the first and third trimester of pregnancy.

Headaches can be relieved with the use of certain essential oils. Peppermint essential oil can be quite beneficial for headaches during pregnancy as it has vasodilator properties.

Just rub a few drops on your forehead and temples or inhale to get relief from headaches. [35]

Lavender oil can also be sprintz on your pillow before bedtime to get relief from headaches. [36]

In addition to this use of diffuser and steam inhalation with essential oils as well as cold compression can be useful.

Extra care should be taken when using essential oils in the first trimester as the potential risk for toxicity is higher during this stage. [37]

Do Essential Oils Benefit in Migraine?

Yes, essential oils can be beneficial in treating migraines.

A trial has shown that lavender oil can reduce the incidences of migraine attacks and also reduce pain severity.

Steam inhalation or topical application of the diluted essential oil are the best ways to use them for headaches.

Migraines are caused by a throbbing on one side of the head and is accompanied by symptoms of nausea and sensitivity to light.

Aromatherapy is a great way to obtain relief from migraines as well as probably prevent them in the future. [38]

A study has shown that inhalation of lavender essential oils can reduce the severity of migraines and also the number of migraine attacks. [39]

Topical application of the essential oil diluted with a suitable carrier oil such as coconut oil or steam inhalation are the preferred methods of treating migraines.

Do Essential Oils Benefit in Sinus Headaches?

Yes, essential oils can provide relief to people with sinus headaches.

Eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint are some of the essential oils that are useful for sinus headaches.

They can help with the lessening of pain with fewer side effects and are more cost effective.

An accumulation of pressure in the sinuses is responsible for the sinus headaches. Essential oils are a safe and effective way of managing sinus headaches.

Eucalyptus oil is found to have benefit in those suffering from sinus and other kinds of headaches. [40]

Adding about 4 drops of the oil to a carrier oil such as coconut oil and applying the mixture to the forehead can relieve sinus headache and related symptoms. [41]

A study showed that participants who applied peppermint oil 15 to 30 minutes after the onset of a headache.

The participants experienced a lessening of pain with fewer side effects and was less expensive than other headache therapies. [42]

What Precautions are Required when using Essential Oils for Headaches?

Some precautions that are necessary when using essential oils for headaches are always performed a skin test to check for allergies and never apply the oil topically without diluting it with a suitable carrier oil such as coconut oil.

Always consult a physician or aromatherapist before using essential oils.

Always use therapeutic grade essential oils. [43]

Essential oils should never be diluted with water and used, as oil and water is immiscible. [44]

Choice of essential oil used in pregnancy should be made with care and preferably avoid using during the 1st trimester. [45]

When using essential oils with a diffuser during pregnancy ensure that the room is well ventilated to avoid an overpowering smell that may lead to nausea. [46].

During pregnancy, the use of essential oils should be switched up and do not use the same essential oil continuously i.e. every day for several weeks. [47]

Many essential oils can be irritants, therefore, they should always be tested on a small patch of the skin. [48]

Essential oils should always be used with a carrier oil, as they are concentrated if used directly can damage the skin.

Also, it provides the added benefit of moisturizing the skin.

Always consult your physician or a qualified aromatherapist before using any essential oils. [50]

Final Words

Essential oils are an excellent way of managing several kinds of headaches such as tension-type, migraines, cluster headaches, etc.

It is important to use the right essential oil, in the right way for this purpose.

Lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus are some of the best essential oils for headaches.

These oils can also be used topically when suitably diluted with a carrier oil or through inhalation in headaches that occur during pregnancy.

When used with the supervision of an aromatherapist, essential oils can be a greatly useful way to relieve headaches.

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