Aromatherapy for Headaches
Quick Links to Topics Within This
• Essential Oils Commonly Associated With Alleviating Headaches
• How to Use Essential Oils to Alleviate Headaches
• Topical Application and Gentle Massage for Headaches
• Diffuser Blends for Headaches
• Cottonball or Tissue Diffusion for Headaches
• Beware: Ylang Ylang Can Cause Headaches When Used In Excess
• Seek Medical Advice
• For More Info
The onset of a headache can begin when you least expect it, and can turn even the easiest of tasks into seemingly more difficult and painful endeavors. Essential oils may help relieve minor headaches, improve your mood and may play a part in helping to reduce the need to ingest pain medication.
Essential oils should not be used as a substitute for proper medical care and it goes beyond the scope of this article to describe the details for each type of headache. A headache or migraine can be a symptom of something quite serious. This article is intended to give you tips and ideas that you might wish to consider under the guidance of a medical professional if you have infrequent, minor headaches. The tips mentioned here will not remedy or "cure" any underlying medical issues. If you experience headaches or migraines, discuss your situation with your doctor and ask for his/her guidance on treatment and pain relief.
Essential Oils Commonly Associated With Alleviating Headaches
Be sure that you refer to the safety information for each essential oil that you are considering using.
Eucalyptus globulus and Eucalyptus radiata Essential Oils contain a significant quantity of the oxide 1,8-Cineole. 1,8-Cineole is said to act as both an anti-inflammatory as well as an expectorant. Eucalyptus Essential Oil is said to help ease headaches, most especially those associated with sinus headaches.
Helichrysum Essential Oil is considered by many in the aromatherapy community to be an especially powerful anti-inflammatory.
Lavender Essential Oil has a high percentage of esters (linalyl acetate), and therefore, offers anti-inflammatory and sedative properties. Lavender Oil is a good oil to use if you are trying to alleviate a headache during the evening/nighttime hours.
Like Lavender, Roman Chamomile Essential Oil has a high percentage of esters (isobutyl angelate), and therefore, offers anti-inflammatory and sedative properties. Roman Chamomile Essential Oil is also a good oil to use if you are trying to alleviate a headache during the evening/nighttime hours.
Peppermint Essential Oil contains a significant amount of menthol. Amongst its many uses, menthol is known to help relax and ease tension headaches and muscular aches and pains. Peppermint Oil is quite stimulating and may interfere with sleeping.
Although Peppermint Oil is typically the most recommended of the mints to use with headaches and contains significantly more menthol, I personally prefer the aroma Spearmint Oil. I often substitute Spearmint Essential Oil for some or all Peppermint Essential Oil in a blend.
How to Use Essential Oils to Help Alleviate Headaches
The following sections describe several ways that you can use the above essential oils to help ease a minor headache. I have personally found topical application to help me the most, but I have experienced relief using all the methods described below.
Topical Application and Gentle Massage for Headaches
When I have a headache, I have found that gently massaging several drops of the below recipe onto my forehead, back of my neck and/or temples (depending on the location of my particular headache) is especially soothing. Use the below recipe to create a topical headache blend.
Basic Aromatherapy Headache Massage Recipe:
- 1 oz. Carrier Oil (example: Jojoba or Sweet Almond Oil)
- 6-8 drops of your chosen essential oils from the above list of essential oils
- 1 oz. amber or cobalt glass bottle with orifice reducer insert
Combine the your chosen carrier oil and essential oils into the bottle, and gently roll the bottle between your hands to mix the essential oils into the carrier oil.
To Use: Drop 1-2 drops onto your fingers and massage onto your forehead, back of your neck and/or temples. Avoid getting the oils near your eyes.
Suggested Essential Oils and Blends for Use in the Recipe
- Blend #1: 4 Drops Lavender, 2 Drops Roman Chamomile, 1 oz. Carrier Oil
- Blend #2: 3 Drops Spearmint, 3 Drops Eucalyptus Radiata, 1 oz. Carrier Oil
- Blend #3: 2 Drops Helichrysum, 4 Drops Roman Chamomile, 1 oz. Carrier Oil
- Blend #4: 3 Drops Spearmint, 3 Drops Lavender, 1 oz. Carrier Oil
Headaches can feel powerfully strong. It might feel that you need to use a lot of essential oil to remedy your painful headache. With essential oils, using less is safer and can often be more effective than using more. Even for headaches, remember to always dilute essential oils adequately in a carrier oil before applying them to your skin or scalp.
Read the Guide to Diluting Essential Oils to learn how to properly and easily dilute essential oils.
Diffuser Blends for Headaches
Select one or more of the above listed essential oils and add several drops to your diffuser by following the manufacturers instructions. Be sure to use Peppermint Essential Oil sparingly as its aroma is incredibly strong. Spearmint Essential Oil is also rather strong, but it's typically not as tenacious as Peppermint Essential Oil. For more information on the different ways that essential oils can be diffused, read All About Aromatherapy Diffusers.
Cottonball or Tissue Diffusion for Headaches
Place 1-2 drops of your chosen essential oil(s) on a cottonball or tissue. Place the cottonball or tissue near your nose and inhale. When trying an oil for the first time, use only one drop to ensure that you do not have a sensitivity or reaction to the oil, especially while you have a headache.
Beware: Ylang Ylang Can Cause Headaches When Used In Excess
Ylang Ylang is commonly known to cause headaches when used in excess. I personally get headaches if I use too much Ylang Ylang Essential Oil in a formulation or if diffuse it for too long.
Seek Medical Advice
Important Note: A headache or migraine can be a symptom of something quite serious. This article is intended to give you tips and ideas that you might wish to ask your doctor about if you have infrequent, minor headaches. The tips mentioned here will not remedy or "cure" any underlying medical issues. If you experience headaches or migraines, discuss your situation with your doctor and ask for his/her guidance on treatment and pain relief.
For More Info
For more information, read Aromatherapy for Natural Head Ache Relief, a detailed and especially helpful blog post from Marge Clark of Nature's Gift. (Marge has been a supporter of AromaWeb since its beginnings. She was a source of encouragement to me when I originally launched AromaWeb in 1997. Her passion and love of this fields shines through all that she writes on the subject.)