How to Use Essential Oils for Migraines and Headaches

When you have a headache, you might want to try treatments other than drugs to ease your pain. Some people use essential oils -- concentrated liquids made from flowers, roots, leaves, and other parts of plants.

Also used in aromatherapy, essential oils may have some health benefits. Some studies have found that these oils can help ease migraine and other headache symptoms.

Peppermint

Mint has been used to treat various health issues for thousands of years. A few studies have found that it might ease pain from tension headaches if you put it on your temples and forehead.

Because it’s concentrated, use only a few drops. When put on your skin, it could cause rashes or other irritation. Don't put it on the skin or face of babies or young children because the menthol in peppermint could cause burning.

Lavender

One of the most popular essential oils in aromatherapy, lavender has been used for anxiety, pain, and to help people sleep.

There’s been a lot of research that looks at lavender's health benefits. But most of the studies have been very limited. One such study found that breathing in lavender essential oil might be a safe way to ease migraine symptoms.

Rosemary

This is commonly used to treat a range of issues, from indigestion and pain to cramps and hair loss.

One small study says rubbing rosemary oil on the skin relieves pain in people who were on hemodialysis, where a machine cleans your blood when your kidneys aren’t able to.

Some people use it for headache relief, though there’s little research that says it helps with migraines.

Chamomile

This popular choice is often used for anxiety, stomach issues, and trouble sleeping. You might drink chamomile tea to help you relax.

Because anxiety and stress may trigger migraines and other headaches, easing those worries may help ease pain. Although chamomile has often been used to treat migraines, there’s little research to show that it works.

Eucalyptus

It’s used to clear a stuffy nose, and it’s been paired with medication to help ease things like bronchitis and asthma. Studies have found that applying a mix of eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, and ethanol to your head might help you relax and think more clearly if you have a headache.

Don't put eucalyptus oil right on your skin. You could have an allergic reaction. Make sure it’s diluted first.

Sage

Sage, a popular spice, is also widely used to relieve tension, stress, muscle cramps, and menstrual changes.

Some people may turn to sage for relief of the headaches that come along with these conditions. But there’s little research on the subject.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on December 11, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: "Essential Oils."

National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy: "How Are Essential Oils Extracted?"

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Peppermint Oil," "Lavender," "Chamomile," "Sage."

Phytomedicine: "Essential plant oils and headache mechanisms."

Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine: "Essential oils used in aromatherapy: A systemic review."

European Neurology: "Lavender essential oil in the treatment of migraine headache: a placebo-controlled clinical trial."

Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research: "Comparison of the Effect of Topical Application of Rosemary and Menthol for Musculoskeletal Pain in Hemodialysis Patients."

Medical Hypotheses: "Potential effect and mechanism of action of topical chamomile (Matricaria chammomila L.) oil on migraine headache: A medical hypothesis."

MedlinePlus: "Eucalyptus."

Cephalalgia: "Effect of Peppermint and Eucalyptus Oil Preparations on Neurophysiological and Experimental Algesimetric Headache Parameters."

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