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Headaches are a common ailment and can be mild to debilitating. Over-the-counter medicines may help but are often filled with chemicals that can actually cause side effects or worsen headaches to adding additional toxins (yes, toxins, in over the counter and prescription meds). For example, acetaminophen can cause liver injury through the production of a toxic metabolite.
Fortunately, there are several all-natural ways to relieve headaches including using essential oils for headaches.
What Are the Best Natural Remedies for Headaches?
Prevention is the best option. Though you won’t stay forever invincible to the pains of a headache, knowing which headache triggers to avoid can help prevent head pain.
The following headache remedies can be effective in relieving some of the pain or discomfort caused by headaches:
- A warm bath can help you relax and may also reduce any muscle pain that could be contributing to a tension headache.
- Stay hydrated by drinking water. Adding foods with high water content like watermelon, celery, and cucumber to your diet can also help.
- Watch what you eat. Diet plays a vital role in preventing migraines. Many foods and beverages are known migraine triggers, such as:
- Foods with nitrates including hot
- dogs, deli meats, bacon, and sausage
- cheese that contains the
- naturally occurring compound tyramine, such as blue, feta, cheddar, Parmesan,
- and Swiss
- alcohol, especially red wine
- foods that contain monosodium
- glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer
- foods that are very cold such as ice
- cream or iced drinks
- processed foods
- pickled foods
- dried fruits
- cultured dairy products such as
- buttermilk, sour cream, and yogurt
A small amount of caffeine may ease migraine pain in some people. Caffeine is also in some migraine medications. But too much caffeine may cause a migraine. It may also lead to a severe caffeine withdrawal headache.
To figure out which foods and beverages trigger your migraines, keep a daily food diary. Record everything you eat and note how you feel afterward.
- Try acupressure. Acupressure is the practice of applying pressure with the fingers and hands to specific points on the body to relieve pain and other symptoms. According to a 2014 systematic review, acupressure is a credible alternative therapy for people in pain from chronic headaches and other conditions. A separate study found acupressure may help relieve migraine-associated nausea.
Referring to the chart below, pressing on the big toe or under the toes on the ball of the foot, you can use acupressure to help relieve headaches.
- Give Yoga a Try. Yoga uses breathing, meditation, and body postures to promote health and well-being. Studies show yoga may relieve the frequency, duration, and intensity of migraines. It’s thought to improve anxiety, release tension in migraine-trigger areas, and improve vascular health.
- Although researchers conclude it’s too soon to recommend yoga as a primary treatment for migraines, they believe yoga supports overall health and may be beneficial as a complementary therapy.
- Add magnesium to your diet. Magnesium deficiency is linked to headaches and migraines. Studies show magnesium oxide supplementation helps prevent migraines with aura. It may also prevent menstrual-related migraines.
You can get magnesium from foods that include:
- almondssesame seeds
- sunflower seeds
- Brazil nuts
- peanut butter
- Use essential oils. Essential oils are used as home remedies for a variety of ailments. But is using essential oils an effective way to relieve headaches, and, if so, which essential oils for headaches are best?
Essential Oils for Headaches
An essential oil is a concentrated liquid extracted from a plant. Aromatherapy is an alternative therapy based on the use of these oils. Aromatherapists believe that each essential oil offers a different set of health benefits.
Research supports the health benefits of certain essential oils, while other claims are based on tradition. This article explores five of the best essential oils for treating headaches, as supported by scientific evidence.
It is estimated that more than half of the adult population worldwide experiences occasional headaches, with the most common type being a tension headache.
While there are a number of over the counter and prescription medications available for headaches, these treatments can cause side effects.
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When someone experiences headaches regularly, they may look for natural treatments, including essential oils.
Who has the time to get bogged down with a headache? Certainly, not you, but they happen to the best of us. It doesn’t matter if you’re feeling the pains of a common headache the symptoms (no matter the severity) can easily keep you from feeling your best.
Before you reach for over-the-counter medicines, or simply suffer through the pain, think again.
Headache remedies can be natural and safe, and we’ve got a few things you can try at home to relieve your discomfort and get on with your day.
There are several studies that show specific essential oils may be beneficial for headaches. Some of the best essential oils for headaches and their associated symptoms include:
1. Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender is often used to help people get to sleep and to reduce stress, anxiety, or depression.
Many believe that it can help relieve headaches and migraines that are triggered by stress.
A 2012 study suggests that the inhalation of lavender essential oil can be a safe and effective treatment to manage migraine headaches.
Inhaling lavender essential oil may ease migraine pain. According to 2012 research, people who inhaled lavender oil during a migraine attack for 15 minutes experienced faster relief than those who inhaled a placebo. Lavender oil may be inhaled directly or applied diluted to the temples.
2. Rosemary Essential Oil
Rosemary oil is traditionally used to treat headaches and improve circulation.
There are few studies that specifically support rosemary oil as an effective headache treatment. However, a 2008 study suggests that rosemary oil has anti-inflammatory and pain-killing properties.
Another study from 2013 found that rosemary oil helped to reduce pain and insomnia in people going through opium withdrawal treatment.
These research examples suggest that rosemary oil may reduce the pain associated with a headache. However, more studies on humans are required before this can be confirmed.
3. Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint oil is stimulating and may relieve tension headaches when applied topically.
Peppermint has been used in alternative medicines for thousands of years. It is one of the most popular essential oils for treating headaches.
A recent 2015 review of published studies on essential oils states that applying peppermint oil to the temples and forehead provides relief from tension headaches.
The active ingredient in peppermint oil is menthol. Research published in 2015 shows menthol may be effective in treating migraines when applied to the head.
The menthol in peppermint oil may stop a migraine from coming on, according to a 2010 study. The study found that applying a menthol solution to the forehead and temples was more effective than placebo for migraine-associated pain, nausea, and light sensitivity.
4. Chamomile Essential Oil
People traditionally drink chamomile tea to relax and unwind. Chamomile oil is commonly believed to have a similar effect.
Research from 2012 showed that chamomile oil might improve some of the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
As headaches are often caused by stress and anxiety, it follows that chamomile oil may help treat headaches.
There are anti-inflammatory properties in chamomile that may also reduce a headache, but more research is needed into its health benefits.
5. Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Eucalyptus is traditionally used to clear sinuses and reduce inflammation. People experiencing headaches due to blocked sinuses may find that inhaling eucalyptus reduces their symptoms.
One study found that eucalyptus oil was effective for relieving pain and lowering blood pressure when it was inhaled.
6. Ginger Essential Oil
Ginger contains a naturally occurring oil that’s responsible for both its flavor and health benefits. The chemical compounds in this oil — which include gingerols and shogaols — have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. These compounds are also effective at treating nausea and vomiting, two symptoms associated with migraine attacks.
Ginger extracts may also increase serotonin, a chemical messenger involved with migraine attacks. Increasing the serotonin levels in your brain may help stop migraine by reducing inflammation and restricting blood vessels. A class of prescription medications called triptans treat migraine similarly.
Massaging ginger oil into the skin decreases pain in people with arthritis and back pain and may also help to reduce pain from headaches. For a migraine attack or tension headache, try massaging a few drops of the diluted ginger oil into your temples, forehead, and back of the neck once or twice daily.
M-Grain, is, in my opinion (and many others), the Holy Grail of essential oils for headaches. M-Grain is a blend of oils containing Basil, Marjoram, Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Peppermint, and Helichrysum.
It’s useful for pain relief, reducing inflammation, and discouraging spasms. I’ve noticed (and others, too) that M-Grain can also ease nausea caused from headaches and migraines.
I use this undiluted topically. I put two drops on my palm before rubbing my hands together, cup over my nose and mouth while taking a few deep breaths. I then rub my palms over my temples, on the base of my skull, and along my upper spine. It can also be used on your foot Vita Flex points (see chart above), shoulders, forehead, or other areas of pain caused by headaches or migraines.
Basil, being a hot oil, causes a warm sensation that tingles with the other oils where it is applied. I would highly recommend trying this oil topically first by diluting it, so you’ll know if your skin is sensitive to it.
8. Deep Relief Roll-On
The nine essential oils in this blend work synergistically to provide a refreshing and invigorating aromatic experience. Apply it to areas that would benefit from a cooling sensation after intense physical activity.
I keep this in my purse as well as on my desk for headache relief, arthritis and muscle soreness.
Apply generously on temples or back of neck or vita-flex points.
9. Panaway Essential Oil Blend
This is another great blend of essential oils for headaches, with Clove, Helichrysum, Peppermint, and Wintergreen essential oils, PanAway® essential oil blend has a refreshing, invigorating aroma and a cooling sensation when applied to the skin. PanAway continues to be one of Young Living’s most popular products and is a must-have for every home. Apply to temples, back of neck and/or Vita Flex points for headache relief.
Women’s Health magazine came out with a report on the effectiveness of essential oils for headaches, as well.
Essential Oils for Headaches Applications
1. Lavender, Spearmint and Eucalyptus Massage
A body massage can reduce physical tension that may be the cause of your headaches in the first place. Create a simple homemade massage oil with the headache-busting trio of Lavender, Spearmint and Eucalyptus Globulus essential oils.
This powerful combination of oils can be one of the most pleasant, natural remedies for headache that you‘ll ever try. Grab your spouse, a close family member or a good friend to do the massaging for you so you can completely relax!
- Combine 2 teaspoons of fractionated coconut oil with 1 – 2 drops each of Lavender, Spearmint and Eucalyptus Globulus essential oils in a small bowl.
- Gently stir the ingredients with a spoon until well-mixed.
- Massage the mixture onto the skin, focusing on areas where your headache is. Don’t forget to massage other tense areas that may be contributing to your headaches, including the neck, shoulders, upper back and pectoral muscles.
2. Soothing Essential Oil Steam Session
If you don’t have an extra set of hands around to take advantage of the massage, inhaling steam from essential oil-infused hot water can be the next best thing to ease your headache symptoms.
To relieve your head pain, try creating your own essential oil steam session:
- Warm a small pot of water on the stove until it begins to steam.
- Remove from heat. Allow the water to sit for a few minutes before testing the temperature of the steam to ensure that it isn’t too hot.
- Add 1-2 drops each of the following oils (in any combination) to the steaming water: Angelica, Clary Sage, Marjoram, Bergamot and Black Pepper essential oil.
- Lean over the pot in a comfortable seated or standing position.
- Breathing deeply, inhale the steam for up to ten minutes.
This soothing headache remedy can be easily completed at home up to three times daily.
3. Basil and Lavender Compress
A headache-soothing compress with essential oils can be just what you need to relieve the pangs in your head. Basil essential oil is one of the most used home remedies for headache and is especially useful for easing symptoms when combined with Lavender.
- Add one drop each of Basil and Lavender oils to a bottle filled with 500 ml of warm water.
- Cover and shake the bottle until the oils are well-mixed into the water.
- Soak a compress (soft cloth) with the mixture. Squeeze lightly to remove excess water.
- Put the compress directly on the forehead, temples or bridge of the nose and cover with a dry towel.
- Leave in place for up to four hours, breathing normally.
These steps can be repeated up to three times a day as needed for relief of your symptoms.
4. Warm Essential Oils Bath
Head into the bathroom to draw up this next headache remedy. Soaking in bath water mixed with essential oils can help reduce the effects of stress or tension headaches and is one of the most enjoyable home headache remedies.
- Draw a comfortable amount of warm bath water.
- Combine 1 – 2 drops each of Citronella oil, Laurus Nobilis, Lemongrass, Neroli and Rose oil (up to 8 drops total) with an equal amount of shampoo or liquid soap. Add to the bath.
- Gently stir the oil and soap mixture into your bathwater.
- Soak in the tub for at least ten minutes for maximum benefits.
The combination of the above essential oil ingredients creates a relaxing and enticing aroma of citrus, floral and spicy scents that make this once-a-day headache remedy quite divine.
All of the all-natural remedies using essential oils for headaches listed above are safe, effective and easy to complete at home or at work. The next time you suffer from headaches, try any one of these techniques to ease your pain and get back to feeling like yourself again.
You may enjoy this video by migrainedisorders.org on natural remedies including essential oils for headaches:
While I’m not a doctor and cannot diagnose or treat medical conditions, I love sharing how oils have helped me and my friends and family.