Are you looking for top essential oils for headaches?
A headache is something that we have all experienced. In my case, I had severe migraine since I was eight years old. It reached a point where I was hitting my head on the wall because the pain was just too much to bear.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “headaches are the most common disorder of the nervous system, and yet, it is highly underestimated, under-recognized, and under-treated.”
In my case, I didn’t feel the need to tell my parents or go to the doctor, but I have been living on paracetamol since. I never really thought that my headaches would go away.
Only now have I realized what caused my headaches – my lifestyle was the culprit. When I was younger, it was caused by reading a book in a dim room or in a moving vehicle. When I was working, it was because I lacked sleep on weekdays and overslept on weekends. I also lived on coffee and missed meals, and rarely felt the need to hydrate myself with water.
As I grew older and became a parent, I sought a healthier lifestyle for our family, like many parents probably do. When I started to overhaul my bad habits, my headaches began to lessen. I hydrated myself often, allowed my body to rest, minimized my caffeine consumption, and ate on time. However, there would be times when my hormones just go haywire, especially during that time of the month, and the headaches would come.
These are my top essential oils for headache:
- Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). Lavender has many known monikers. Some of the most popular ones would be the Swiss Knife of essential oils and the other one, the mother of essential oils. I am personally in love with lavender because it is a versatile oil with many therapeutic benefits. It is also known as an excellent analgesic and can thus be helpful with pain. For example, 92 out of 129 headache attacks were totally or partially alleviated in a placebo-controlled clinical trial when the participants inhaled lavender essential oil for 15 minutes.
- Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) – Peppermint is also another widely used essential oil. From being a flavoring agent in gums and foods to being an active ingredient in muscle relaxants, peppermint is an aroma that many are familiar with. In addition, the menthol component of peppermint makes it effective in addressing headaches. In one clinical study, topical application of 10% Peppermint oil alleviated the pain severity of participants who had tension-type headaches. The oil was applied to the forehead and temples after 15 and 30 minutes. The results showed that peppermint oil in this dilution is as effective as taking acetaminophen. Peppermint is one of the prominent essential oils for headaches. Its main component, menthol, is also used in many pain blends.
- German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla or Matricaria recutita) – There are many versions of chamomile; the two most popular ones are German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla or Matricaria recutita) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). This is where knowing the Latin name of the essential oil can be helpful, so you know which chamomile oil to grab. For example, for headaches, the component chamazulene in German Chamomile, when applied topically, has been effective as a pain reliever in migraine without aura.
- Frankincense (Boswellia carterii) – While there is no clinical research on the use of Frankincense for headaches, there are studies that show how Frankincense essential oil has helped manage stress. In my case (because I always had stress-related headaches), I have often used Frankincense oil diluted in a dollop of aloe gel or carrier oil and massaged it on my neck and temples.
- Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) – For headaches caused by sinus congestion, it is best to use 1,8 cineole-rich essential oils such as Eucalyptus, Ravintsara, and the like. Inhaling these oils via a diffuser or personal inhaler can help clear up airways and increase cerebral blood flow.
Try using some of these oils when you feel like you are coming down with a headache. You can apply two methods of application: inhalation or topical application. Topical application can be combined with inhalation to address tension, stress-related, and cluster headaches. Inhalation via diffusion, steam inhalation, and personal inhalers can be used for headaches caused by stress or sinus congestion.
For adults, you can blend starting at 3% dilution (6 drops of essential oil to 10mL of carrier oil such as VCO or grapeseed oil) up to a maximum of 15% (30 drops of essential oil to 10mL of carrier oil). I also advise you to start low then increase the concentration if the dose does not work. Note that this guideline is for healthy adults without skin hypersensitivity. For children more than two years old, it is best to start at 1% dilution (2 drops of essential oil in 10mL carrier oil). Do not use peppermint and eucalyptus for children below six years old.
It is best to use these essential oils for headache at the onset of the episode. However, there will be times when these products just won’t cut it. In this case, please do not beat yourself up if you need to take a paracetamol or two. As I always say, essential oils are complementary products to what Western medicine is offering us, and it would not really kill us if we try and marry the two.