So you’ve tried every headache cure out there. Drinking more water, using cold compresses, sipping ginger tea, doing yoga… the list goes on and on. But have you tried essential oils? They may seem like a daring option, but in reality, science now backs up the health benefits of using essential oils for headaches and migraines. Essential oils are a natural, scientifically-based choice that could relieve your next headache. Once you know the benefits of different oils, how to apply them and other must-knows, you’ll be well on your way to a headache-free day.
What are essential oils?
No, they’re not exotic and no, they’re not incense. Essential oils are simply the natural liquids distilled from plants that retain their original scent. You may be thinking of perfumes or flavoring, but essential oils go beyond these common uses. These oils can interact with various areas of your body to reduce pain, stress, etc.
How do I use essential oils?
Essential oils are easy-to-use, but must be properly applied. For example, essential oils should never be ingested. Typically, they’re inhaled or applied topically to the skin, but only after being diluted. They should never be applied directly to the skin without being diluted first.
If you’re not sure whether to inhale essential oils or apply them topically to the skin, keep in mind that both methods will give you the main effect of the oil. In general, inhaling the oil will make it become absorbed by the body’s bloodstream faster than being applied topically. On the other hand, when the oil is applied to the skin, it takes longer to enter the bloodstream, but will better serve the area applied.
Common mistakes when using essential oils
Essential oils should be used responsibly. Make sure to consider your medical conditions before trying them. If you’re pregnant, have asthma or allergies, or other medical conditions, check with a doctor before trying essential oils.
In addition, we can’t stress this enough: don’t forget to dilute essential oils before applying them topically. Especially when you’re first trying an essential oil, it’s important to have a high dilution ratio to avoid any effects or reactions. You can dilute essential oils with other carrier oils including coconut, almond and vegetable oils. A good general rule is 1 drop of essential oil for every 12 drops of carrier oil.
Top four essential oils for headaches
There are a myriad of different essential oils that you can use to relieve a headache or migraine. Every oil has different properties and can be used effectively depending on the type of headache or migraine you’re experiencing. Below, we’ll give an overview of the top essential oils and their ideal application.
Peppermint essential oil has been heavily studied as having a relieving effect on headaches. One study has linked its “cooling” property to increased blood flow and muscle relaxation. Because of the link to muscle relief, it’s especially useful for a tension headache.
Example application: Try applying it topically to your temples and forehead, as suggested by practitioner Toni Fairman. (Don’t forget to dilute it first!)
Eucalyptus is another great choice for headaches. It has anti-inflammatory and autoimmune-boosting properties, which makes it ideal for sinus headaches or those originating from bacterial infections.
Example application: A good way to take eucalyptus is to add essential oil to your next hot bath. The combination of the eucalyptus and the steam will have a maximum effect on your sinuses.
Lavender is an excellent “catch-all” essential oil that is best known for relaxation and stress relief. Not only is it a good antibacterial, but it’s also an immune-booster. Because it has a sedative effect, it’s also commonly used to help you get to sleep. This essential oil is good for any headache, or to use after a stressful day at work.
Example application: After work or at night, try making a compress for your forehead with water and a few drops of lavender.
Rosemary is a great option to improve circulation, and is shown to be good for relieving fatigue and killing pain. It may also have a positive effect on memory. It’s great for any migraine or cluster headache, or any headache that involves moderate to intense pain.
Example application: Try adding rosemary to a home diffuser to inhale it for 45 minutes or so for relief.
How else can I use essential oils for headaches and migraines?
You can enjoy essential oils in several different forms, as mentioned above.
- A diffuser. This is one of the most popular ways to inhale essential oils. You can purchase a diffuser for your home or car, which will release the essential oil over the course of 45 minutes to an hour. Or, if you prefer you can apply a few drops to a cotton ball or kleenex and breathe in the essential oil that way.
- Remember that to apply essential oils to the skin, you must dilute them first using a carrier oil (such as coconut, almond and vegetable oils). After this is done, press the oil against your temples or forehead for best results. You can also have essential oils rubbed into your skin during a massage, which will relax your muscles at the same time. For example, according to massage therapy experts, essential oils can be incorporated into massage therapy treatment for maximum results.
- A bath or compress. Taking a bath with about 6-8 drops of essential oils can be a relaxing way to receive the properties of the essential oil. In addition, you can use a compress, soaked with cold water and a few drops, in order to get stress relief.
Side effects and other must-knows
Remember that you may experience side effects when using essential oils. Be sure to use smaller amounts at first to see what your reaction may be. If you experience any side effects such as rashes and/or allergic reactions, stop using it and consult your doctor. If used topically, the oils should always be diluted. If diffused, they should not be inhaled for longer than an hour. Essential oils can be beneficial for relieving your next headache, but should be used in moderation.
Have fun with essential oils
Essential oils are an enjoyable and scientifically-based option for alleviating headaches. Make sure you test which oils are best for you, and with what amounts. Use a trial-and-error approach for the different methods and make the most of the various essential oil properties and stay headache-free.
About Dr. Brent Wells
Dr. Brent Wells is a graduate of the University of Nevada where he earned his bachelor of science degree before moving on to complete his doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College. He founded Chiropractor Wasilla in Alaska. He became passionate about being in the chiropractic field after his own experiences with hurried, unprofessional healthcare providers. The goal for Dr. Wells is to treat his patients with care and compassion while providing them with a better quality of life through his professional treatment.