Essential Oils For Migraine
If you’re a frequent migraine sufferer, you probably often find yourself relying on over-the-counter and prescription pain medications to ease your troubles. While medication is certainly effective, it can also have negative side-effects including rebound headaches and even liver damage from long-term, heavy use.
If you experience headaches often, a natural remedy like essential oils can help treat your pain and prevent migraines without the harsh side effects of medication.
What is a Migraine Headache?
Migraine headaches are characterized as severe, painful, recurring headaches. This type of headache can be produced by a huge array of sources: genetics, stress, anxiety and depression, and high blood pressure, to name just a few. If you struggle with frequent migraines, you know first-hand how they can affect your ability to work, go to school, and enjoy your life.
Did you know that almost half of all adults on the entire planet will suffer from a headache each year, according to health authority The World Health Organization (WHO)?
Migraine headaches can cause a host of unpleasant and at times debilitating symptoms that impact your ability to go about your life. The primary symptom is a throbbing or pulsating sense of pain that can occur anywhere on the head.
The pain may be accompanied by other symptoms, including:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurry vision
- Sensory disturbances (also known as auras)
These symptoms can last anywhere from a couple of hours to 2 or 3 days at a time. Migraine headaches are the second most common form of headache and the sixth highest cause of workdays lost due to illness globally, according to the WHO.
6 Essential Oils for Migraine
Essential oils are a popular option for natural, non-medicinal migraine treatment. In fact, the overuse of pain medication can lead to rebound headaches, which can lead to a vicious cycle for migraine sufferers.
So, what is an essential oil? In basic terms, essential oils are concentrated liquids harvested from a plant or herb. Essential oils are a cornerstone of aromatherapy, which is a form of alternative (a.k.a. non-medicinal) therapy to help treat health issues and their symptoms. Each essential oil is a unique formula with unique effects on the human body.
The health benefits of essential oils are rooted in a combination of tradition, folklore, and scientific research. In this article, we’ll explore the top six essential oils for treating migraine headaches.
Here are the oils we’ll be taking a closer look at:
- Peppermint oil
- Lavender oil
- Rosemary oil
- Eucalyptus oil
- Chamomile oil
- Ginger Oil
Essential Oils For Migraine
Peppermint oil is the queen of migraine-treating essential oils. It’s extremely popular among migraine sufferers because its key ingredient, menthol, is highly effective at pain management and muscle relaxation.
How to use it:
- Topical: Dilute a few drops of peppermint oil and apply it directly to your temples or forehead for pain relief. For the best outcome, apply the oil within 30 minutes of the migraine’s onset. Mixing peppermint oil with eucalyptus oil can be especially helpful for severe headaches.(1,2)
You may already know that lavender is used for relaxation and stress relief, but did you know that it can help treat migraines too? Lavender essential oil is an excellent treatment for migraines related to anxiety disorders and stress. Researchers have linked the topical and aromatic use of lavender oil to soothing effects on the limbic system and the central nervous system. Plus, lavender is thought to help regulate the brain’s serotonin levels, which in turn reduces pain in the central nervous system.
Lavender oil is also known for relieving sleep issues like insomnia and nighttime restlessness. For some people, a bad night’s sleep is enough to send them spiraling into a migraine. Using lavender oil can prevent migraines from striking in the first place! (3)
How to use it:
- Topical: Apply diluted lavender oil directly to your skin
- Aromatic: Breathe in lavender oil via an oil diffuser or add droplets of diluted lavender oil to a warm bath
Rosemary oil has been used for centuries as a folk remedy to relieve pain, stress, and improve circulation throughout the body. It has a reputation for its analgesic (painkilling) and anti-inflammatory properties.
For some people, migraines are accompanied by unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and upset stomach. Luckily, rosemary helps to soothe upset stomachs and improve digestion, so it may help to curtail some of those undesirable symptoms. (4)
How to use it:
- Topical use: Dilute a few droplets of lavender oil with a carrier oil like coconut oil or avocado oil. Gently massage the oil mixture into your temples or forehead.
- Internal use: Add one drop of rosemary oil into water, tea, or soup to reduce headache pain.
Eucalyptus oil is essentially helpful for headaches related to sinus pressure caused by colds or allergies. The oil will help clear your sinuses and open your nasal passages; this will clear up sinus tension that could otherwise lead to a migraine headache. Eucalyptus is also thought to boost your mood and balance your emotions, making it ideal for people who suffer from headaches related to stress or anxiety.
Some essential oil users swear by a mixture of eucalyptus and peppermint oils because together they benefit both the muscles and the mind. In tadem, it’s they’re a one-two punch for both the physical and emotional aspects of headaches.
How to use it:
- Aromatic: Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a warm bath and breathe in the vapor.
- Topical: Dilute 2-4 drops of eucalyptus essential oil in a carrier oil like coconut oil or grapeseed oil. Gently apply the oil mixture to your chest and breathe it in to clear your sinuses.
Chamomile is an essential oil known for the relaxing effect it has on the body and muscles, which in turn can help treat migraine headaches. Plus, chamomile can help mitigate common migraine triggers like anxiety and insomnia, nipping migraines in the bud before they even begin.
Note: If you’re pregnant or think you might be, you should skip chamomile essential oil since it can increase the risk of miscarriage. Try one of the other essential oils on this list instead!
How to use it:
- Aromatic: add a few drops of chamomile oil to an oil diffuser or dilute it with a carrier oil and then add it to bath water. Breathe in the resulting steam.
The use of ginger oil goes way back to ancient Chinese medicine. Healers used it for its anti-inflammatory and adaptogenic (stress relieving) properties. It’s also a well-known method of soothing migraine headaches. Like rosemary, it also helps with nausea and other stomach issues associated with severe headaches.
How to use it:
- Internal: Add a drop of ginger to tea, soup, or a glass of cold water.
- Topical: Dilute a few drops of ginger with a carrier oil, then apply the mixture to the affected areas. For migraine headaches, apply it directly to the forehead, temples, neck, or shoulders. For stomach issues, rub the mixture into your belly.
Tips for Using Essential Oils to Treat Migraines
1. Essential oils are concentrated and extremely potent when undiluted. If you plan to apply the oils topically, especially to a sensitive area like your face, we recommend first diluting the oil. Mix a few drops of the oil with a carrier oil to lessen its potency. Common carrier oils include coconut oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil, and almond oil, although there are many more to choose from.
2. When using an essential oil for the very first time, you should test it out in case you experience an adverse reaction. To test it, simply apply a limited amount to a small patch of skin. Observe your skin’s reaction over the next 48 hours. While adverse reactions aren’t common, you’ll definitely want to know about it before diving in and applying the oil to large areas on your face or chest.
3. A little goes a long way when it comes to essential oils. For an effective treatment, as little as one to two drops should do the trick. When it comes to internal use (ingesting the oil via tea, soup, or other liquid) you should take a break every four weeks to let your body rebalance.
4. Pet owners, be aware that some common essential oils are toxic to dogs and cats. Take precautions to keep your oils stored safely away from your fur buddies so they don’t accidentally ingest them. If you plan to use a diffuser, keep your pets out of the room so they don’t inadvertently inhale vapors that could be dangerous to them. Here’s the full list of essential oils toxic to pets.
The use of essential oils has a long history in folk medicine as a natural way to alleviate medical conditions and their symptoms. In this article, we took a closer look at 6 essential oils that are known to help alleviate migraine headaches.
However, if your migraines are persistent and debilitating, you should discuss it with your doctor. Headaches can sometimes be a sign of underlying diseases or conditions, so they shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially if they last for days or weeks at a time.
Essential oils are best used to supplement prescription medication treatments, since relying solely on medication can come with its own side-effects and drawbacks. Excessive use of pain medication can lead to rebound headaches in the short-term and serious liver and kidney problems in the long-term. Essential oils are a safe, natural way to alleviate migraine symptoms without the risk of severe health repercussions.
Ready to get started? Let us know which essential oil is your favorite migraine remedy in the comments!
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