Whether it’s the all-too-familiar hangover headache or the debilitating, throbbing pain of migraines, you know you have to do something about the pain and discomfort you’re experiencing.
Headaches are a common problem — 50-75% of adults aged 18 to 65 years old have experienced headaches in the past year. Headaches are triggered by various factors, ranging from stress to blue light exposure to hormones. An underlying medical condition can also send you into a quiet agony.
For most people, avoiding triggers isn’t enough to steer clear of the pain, and other solutions are necessary. While over-the-counter medications (like analgesics) are available for headache relief, natural remedies might be your preference.
However, you can’t just opt for the first bottle of essential oil you see online and use it to keep your headaches at bay. Not all essential oils are effective for migraine and headache relief.
Keep reading to understand how essential oils work, the best essential oils for headaches, and how to get the right mix to reap their holistic benefits and help make you feel better. You’ll also learn to develop a discerning eye when buying essential oils for headaches.
What Are Essential Oils?
Before learning how essential oils for headaches work, it makes sense to understand the basics: What are essential oils?
Essential oils are highly concentrated oil compounds extracted from plants that capture their essence.
You might not realize it, but each plant has a unique essence. The word “essential” describes the plant’s essence of aroma or flavor in essential oils. This aromatic signature lends essential oils the characteristics that we usually associate them with — like the cool, refreshing scent of peppermint oil or lavender’s warm, calming smell.
Essential oils have been around for centuries and used by ancient civilizations worldwide.
While its exact origins are unknown, ancient records reveal that the Egyptians used aromatic oils as early as 4500 BC.
Today’s essential oils are cold-pressed or steam-distilled extracts of almost any part of a plant — roots, bark, stems, flowers, and leaves.
Although essential oils are popular for their scent, they do more than make your room smell great. They can also help reduce stress, improve alertness, and calm the mind and body.
Before you use essential oils, there are three important things you should remember:
- Don’t ingest essential oils.
- Don’t apply undiluted essential oils to your skin to avoid unwanted side effects such as irritation and rashes. You have to dilute, or mix, essential oils with carrier oils to tone down their concentration and to carry their benefits to the skin. Jojoba oil, olive oil, coconut oil, and sweet almond oil are examples of carrier oils.
- Some essential oils are produced and manufactured by adding chemical solvents to the actual plant parts. These oils may not be considered true essential oils because the added ingredients can alter the oil’s purity.
With that taken care of, let’s move on to the most important questions: What is the best essential oil for headaches, and how do these oils exactly work in easing headaches and migraine pain?
What Is the Best Essential Oil for Headaches?
Essential oils are ideal if you want to explore natural and effective options to relieve headaches, whether it’s brought about by PMS, accompanied by a bad hangover, or simply a nasty migraine attack.
One advantage of essential oils for headaches over common headache medications is their ability to tackle the underlying causes of headaches, such as stress and blocked sinuses. Meanwhile, the most common over-the-counter drugs for headaches are designed to treat pain, not the root cause.
Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint essential oil is first on the list for a good reason — it helps soothe tension headaches, characterized by dull, squeezing pain on both sides of your head.
A paper published in 2016 described how topical application of peppermint oil was more effective than a placebo. It also mentioned that peppermint essential oil is as effective as aspirin or acetaminophen in alleviating tension-type headaches, as shown in clinical trials.
In addition, a scientific review of related studies on the efficacy of essential oils revealed that peppermint oil works for headaches when applied around the head and temple. The cooling effect of menthol in peppermint essential oils helps tame and loosen the feeling of pressure and tightness.
How to Use Peppermint Essential Oil for Headaches
- Dilute 2-3 drops of essential oil in 10 milliliters of carrier oil and massage on the affected area to relieve the symptoms.
- Add a few drops to your steam diffuser and let the relaxing, refreshing scent fill your surroundings. This can even help clear nasal passages.
- Dilute peppermint oil in a carrier oil and dab it onto your temples.
Eucalyptus Essential Oil
If your headaches are mainly because of clogged sinuses, the minty, herbaceous scent of eucalyptus essential oil might be a great pick for you.
First off, there’s research in Israel linking eucalyptus oil to soothing sinus headaches.
Aside from helping you breathe better by clearing nasal passages, a sniff of eucalyptus also calms the nervous system.
Plus, combining peppermint oil and eucalyptus has been shown to ease the stress that can cause headaches.
How to Use Eucalyptus Essential Oil for Headaches
- Do a eucalyptus steam by adding 3 to 5 drops into a bowl of hot water. Inhale the eucalyptus scented water, and you’ll be able to breathe better in no time with clearer airways.
- Add 2-3 drops to your oil diffuser for clean, fresher air throughout your home.
- Dilute 3 to 5 drops into your carrier oil and dab it onto your chest, forehead, and temples.
Lavender Essential Oil
You’ve probably read about how lavender oil works well as a sleeping aid. But there’s more to this essential oil than its sleep-boosting qualities — it also works well as a soothing, calming relief for migraines.
For example, a study in 2012 suggests that inhaling lavender essential oil for 15 minutes significantly reduces the symptoms of migraine attacks.
How to Use Lavender Oil for Headaches
- Use lavender oil as part of your aromatherapy routine by adding a few drops to your diffuser.
- End a stressful day by massaging diluted lavender oil onto your skin. Add two drops of lavender essential oil to a teaspoon of your favorite carrier oil.
- Make some pillow spray. Blend 20 drops of lavender essential oil with 10 drops of sweet orange essential oil. Add some distilled water, shake and spray it to your pillow to calm the senses and take the edge off stress-related headaches.
Rosemary Essential Oil
You may not realize it, but fatigue, stress, and constant exposure to noise, heat, or cold can result in headaches.
For this type of headache, rosemary essential oil can help ease the pain. A review of scientific literature on the therapeutic effects of rosemary oil revealed that it can help people calm feelings of anxiety and stress, both of which can trigger headaches.
How to Use Rosemary Essential Oil for Headaches
- Feel calmer and restore balance by adding 1-2 drops of diluted rosemary essential oil into your hot bath.
- Dab a few drops of rosemary essential oil into a clean cotton cloth and inhale it to soothe stress headaches.
- Massage 2-3 drops of the oil into your temples or the back of your neck. Add two drops of rosemary essential oil to 1 teaspoon (or 5 ml) of carrier oil.
Chamomile Essential Oil
The sweet, herbaceous scent of chamomile oil relaxes the body and mind, making it perfect for headaches caused by stress. This essential oil can also help with easing general feelings of anxiety and restlessness. In 2014, researchers hypothesized that chamomile oil may be beneficial in soothing migraine headaches. Four years later, a clinical trial of 100 patients supported the hypothesis and showed that an oleogel preparation (thick, viscous formulation) of chamomile oil is effective for migraine without aura (i.e., a migraine that isn’t associated with vomiting, nausea, and light sensitivity).
There’s also exploratory research looking at chamomile to help calm the mind and reduce feelings of anxiety.
How to Use Chamomile Essential Oil for Headaches
Warm 5-8 drops of Way of Will’s Natural Body Massage Oil made with peppermint essential oil and chamomile essential oil by rubbing your palms together. Massage it to your head and temples.
Frankincense Essential Oil
Cluster headaches can happen so suddenly and catch you off guard with their sharp piercing pain on just one side of your head.
The good news is that the deep, warm, and woodsy aroma of frankincense essential oil has been shown to ease the pain caused by cluster headaches.
How to Use Frankincense Essential Oil
- Put 5 to 10 drops of essential oil in a diffuser and let nature do its calming wonders.
- While meditating, put a few drops of frankincense oil onto cotton balls. Place them around you to get in the zone and keep you calm.
- Frankincense bath salts recipe: Add 16 drops of Frankincense essential oil, 1 tablespoon of fractionated coconut oil, and 1 cup Epsom salt into a bowl. Blend well and store bath salts mixture in an 8-ounce Mason jar. Rejuvenate a tired body and mind by adding 1/4 cup of the mixture into warm water for a relaxing bath. Be sure to remove all bath salts after bathing to avoid slipping.
How to Dilute Essential Oils for Headache Pain
For those days when a headache can keep you from feeling your best, stop the pain in its tracks by using plant-powered essential oils to help soothe and ease the pain.
If you’re new to essential oils for headaches, a 2% dilution rate is an excellent start to get the most benefits. A 2% dilution rate is equal to two drops of essential oil per teaspoon of carrier oil.
Meanwhile, a 1% dilution rate is recommended for children and the elderly because their skin tends to be more sensitive. Check out our Guide to Using Essential Oils Safely on Skin for more information.
It’s also worth noting to store your carrier oils in a dark glass bottle in a cool, dark place.
Get the Best Quality Essential Oil for Headaches
Essential oils can have numerous health benefits such as reducing the symptoms of headache and migraine relief.
When shopping for essential oils, the golden rule is to get the best quality possible. Sometimes, the quality of essential oils may be compromised, often because the supplier or brand needs to cut production costs.
Finding high-quality essential oils for headaches often involves some research on your end. It also helps to find brands who are committed to natural, synthetic-free essential oil formulations and social responsibility.
If it’s your first time buying essential oils for headaches, take note of the following:
- Plant’s source location
- The ingredients
- Method of oil production
- Packaging and label
- Average price points
Reputable essential oil companies will clearly state on their labels that their essential oils are 100% pure-grade essential oil, like each oil from Way of Will.
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