6 Best Essential Oils for Migraine Headaches

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Managing the pain of migraine headaches can be quite difficult. Relying on pharmaceutical agents increases your risk of developing a variety of side effects. Good thing Mother Nature has the answer to this problem – essential oils.

Throughout the history of man, Mother Nature has been kind enough to give to use many of her bounties as well as wonderful gifts. And while we don’t understand many of these gifts, we do know that many of our health problems can be solved if we only listen to what Mother Nature has to offer. It is no secret that ancient civilizations have been using essential oils to cure many of their ailments in addition to the more traditional uses as fragrances. And one of the most often indications of essential oils even in ancient times is migraine headaches.

In this article, we will be sharing with you 6 of the best essential oils for migraine headaches. We will also be exploring some of the recipes and/or blends that you can prepare yourself to manage your own migraine. And lastly, we will take a look at how you can manage your migraine through other means.

Hopefully, towards the end of this article, you will be more empowered to manage your headache and be instrumental in helping others who may be suffering from migraine, too.

First, a Look at Migraines

One of the most painful types of headaches is migraine. Three out of 20 individuals all over the world is affected with this type of headache. One of three of these individuals eventually experience what has been known as one of the pathognomonic signs of migraine – an aura – a visual disturbance that immediately precedes an episode of migraine. For those who experience an aura, it is usually a very frightening omen since it signals the impending occurrence of the dreaded migraine.

The pain in migraine only affects one side of the brain, hence, it is often called unilateral headache and can last anywhere between 2 hours and a full 72 hours. However, it is not uncommon to have migraine on both sides of the head. Accompanying the pain is nausea and vomiting, hypersensitivity to light and sounds as well as smells, irritability, and fatigue. In some types of migraine, you may actually feel as if your world is spinning. You may also sweat profusely, have nasal stuffing, experience blurred vision, and even have diarrhea and frequent urination.

But why is there migraine? No one actually understands why some people are more susceptible to the occurrence of migraines. Experts believe that migraines can be hereditary and then grossly made worse by environmental factors. One of the most commonly associated triggers of migraines is stress – both physiologic and psychological. In fact 4 out of 5 individuals with migraines report that stress is the number one trigger in their headaches.

And this is where Mother Nature’s essential oils can work their wonder. Essential oils have been known to calm the mind so you don’t feel stressed out. While we certainly cannot change your genetic predisposition towards migraines, we can however, do something about your number one migraine trigger – stress. As such, essential oils that have excellent anti-stress properties will do many wonders in managing your migraine.

Our 6 Best Essential Oils for Migraine and Other Headaches

1Peppermint Essential Oil 

It has long been known that peppermint essential oil is one of the most effective oils in the management of tension headache, especially when used as a massage oil.

One particular study showed that peppermint oil can effectively reduce the pain in migraine when applied within the first 30 minutes of an attack. Another study revealed that when peppermint oil was combined with eucalyptus and ethanol, it was able to soothe the muscles of the forehead and the temple. Additionally, it had a mentally relaxing effect. When peppermint was used together with ethanol, the accompanying sensitivity of the migraine headache was also effectively reduced.

Peppermint is one of the most well-studied essential oils and has thus, been used extensively in a variety of applications. Members of the medical community as well as those in alternative and holistic medicine actively prescribe the application and use of peppermint oil for a variety of health problems including indigestion, nausea, bowel spasms, stomachache, respiratory problems, and fever. Its most amazing benefit is in the reduction of pain such as those found in migraine headaches.

2Eucalyptus Essential Oil 

While eucalyptus essential oil is largely associated with the management of respiratory problems particularly in the expectoration of pulmonary secretions, it is nevertheless a very effective anti-migraine essential oil.

The actual mechanism of action of eucalyptus in terms of alleviating some of the symptoms of migraine is closely related to the relief of nasal and sinus congestion which has been shown to exacerbate the pain experienced during migraine attacks. A study in 2013 revealed that the application of eucalyptus oil on the subjects’ forehead and chest significantly reduced the formation of edema, decreased blood pressure, alleviated pain, and provided comfort and emotional stability. These resulted in fewer symptoms and the overall reduction of migraine headache pain.

3Lavender Essential Oil 

Considered as the CEO of essential oils, there are a lot of reasons why lavender essential oil is also great for soothing migraines and other types of headache. It is known to provide a relaxing and calming effect which can help reduce the effects of stress as a trigger in migraine headaches. Of particular importance is its ability to regulate the circulating levels of serotonin to help minimize or reduce the pain impulses that are generated in the central nervous system. This has been shown to reduce the incidence of migraine attacks.

A 2012 research showed that inhaling lavender oil for at least 15 minutes during a migraine attack can significantly reduce the severity of the tension headache as well as its associated symptoms. More importantly, the test subjects showed better sleep and reduced incidence of restlessness. It is this anti-stress effects of lavender essential oil that makes it one of the best essential oils to use in migraines. It has also been shown to reduce muscle tension which can aggravate the migraine attack.

4Rosemary Essential Oil 

Some would not think of rosemary essential oil as an effective anti-migraine oil. But its calming effects as well as its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties make it the ideal essential oil for the management of headaches. It works by reducing stress as well as the emotional triggers that may precipitate an attack of migraine headache.

For many centuries, rosemary essential oil has been applied and massaged directly onto the painful area. Some civilizations consume rosemary to help manage more systemic pain as well as pain originating from a disease process. Whether it is by simply inhaling the aroma of rosemary or the massaging of the temples, the use of this essential oil has been shown to be effective in reducing the severity of a variety of symptoms of migraine headache.

One study in 2013 showed that rosemary oil is effective in reducing muscle tension, fever, insomnia, and nausea. It was also effective in reducing the severity of the pain experience. It also improved sleep patterns and was able to reduce the severity of myoclonic seizures. These symptoms have been shown to be consistent with migraine headaches.

5Chamomile Essential Oil 

Chamomile may be best known for its use in skin conditions but it’s also very effective against migraine headaches. It has a very effective calming effect which can soothe emotional triggers that might precipitate migraine.

One of the effects of chamomile essential oil is by relieving the pressure against the glossopharyngeal nerve which has been shown to play a role in the neuralgia that is seen in migraine. Chamomile constricts the different blood vessels that are located around this cranial nerve and thus, relieve the pressure. It has also been shown that chamomile essential oil can reduce muscle spasms by stimulating the increased activity of gamma aminobutyric acid receptors. This effectively reduces the abnormal firing of the neurons which can worsen the pain felt during a migraine attack.

Several studies showed that chamomile essential oil’s action on GABA receptors can help provide a more soothing relief to the already-agitated person who has migraines. This helps reduce the overall intensity of the different manifestations associated with migraine headaches and other types of headaches and neuritic pain.

6Spearmint Essential Oil 

Closely related to peppermint, spearmint essential oil is also effective against migraine headaches. In fact, for individuals who may not be able to tolerate the overpowering blend of peppermint, spearmint is actually highly recommended. Its anti-migraine properties are also similar to that of peppermint essential oil.

Spearmint is known to be effective in reducing the intensity and severity of pain seen in migraine headaches. It reduces muscle spasms as well as muscle tension to bring the much-needed relief of migraine symptoms. It is also known that spearmint essential oil can soothe overstimulation of the brain as a result of emotional and psychological stress. It is this relaxing and calming effect on the nervous system that spearmint essential oil works its wonder in alleviating the symptoms of migraine.

Some Essential Oil Recipes and Blends for Managing Your Migraine

Making your own blend of essential oils for migraine is quite easy. Generally, you will have to use about 3 drops of your favorite essential oil and mix it with 5 mL or a teaspoon of a carrier oil. You have to understand that while essential oils are Mother Nature’s gifts to us, their active ingredients do come in highly concentrated forms so it is often best to dilute them first with another oil. However, there are certain essential oils that can be applied directly so there’s no need to dilute with a carrier oil. But, given the fact that these essential oils don’t come cheap, we do strongly recommend diluting them.

So, here are some recipes we know will definitely work for your migraine.

1. Basic Recipe for Headache Massage 

One of the best ways to relieve migraine and other types of headaches is massage. You can just get your partner to give you a relaxing head massage using this recipe and you will feel much more comfortable thereafter.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 ounce of your favorite carrier oil; you can choose jojoba, olive oil, coconut oil, or even sweet almond oil, or any other carrier oil for that matter
  • 10 to 12 drops of essential oil of your choice; however, if you choose eucalyptus, spearmint, or peppermint essential oils, use only 6 to 8 drops
  • 1 ounce of dark-colored glass bottle, preferably amber or cobalt; it would also be helpful if it has an orifice reducer insert

What to do next: Pour both the carrier oil and your chosen essential oil into the dark-colored bottle. Put the bottle in between you’re your hands and gently roll it to mix the different oils. Do not shake.

How to use:

  • Apply 1 to 4 drops of the basic massage oil mixture onto your fingers.
  • Massage the tip of your fingers onto your head, first the forehead then working your way towards the temple then the neck.
  • You can apply firm circular or long strokes.
  • Make sure to steer clear of your eyes.
  • It is always better to have your partner do this for you.

Some suggested blends: You can use the following combinations of essential oils for your massage treatment. All blends have to be mixed in 1 ounce of your chosen carrier oil. 

  • 4 drops of chamomile EO and 8 drops of lavender EO
  • 4 drops of eucalyptus EO and 4 drops of spearmint EO
  • 4 drops of rosemary EO and 8 drops of chamomile EO
  • 4 drops of spearmint EO and 8 drops of lavender EO
  • 4 drops of eucalyptus EO and 8 drops of rosemary EO
2. Recipe for an Aromatherapy Room Air Freshener Spray 

Because migraine can be triggered by stress, the best way to manage it is simply by avoiding stress. Unfortunately, it is clear that stress can’t really be avoided. As such, it is often important to provide a more relaxing, a calm environment. You can use any of these essential oils to create your very own aromatherapy inspired room air freshener spray. This will help calm your nerves and help prevent any migraine attacks.

What you’ll need:

  • 30 to 40 drops of any of the essential oils listed here; or you can have whatever essential oil you think works best for you
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled water
  • 1.5 ounces of alcohol, preferably Everclear or Vodka, with a high proof; this gives the aromatherapy a much longer lasting effect. If you decide to do away with the alcohol, you can simply increase the distilled water to 3.0 ounces. Don’t use rubbing alcohol like isopropyl alcohol.
  • Clean spray bottle preferably one that has a fine-mist setting

What to do next: Fill the bottle with distilled water and alcohol. You can also do away with the alcohol altogether. Pour the essential oil of your choice. Shake vigorously.

How to use:

  • Always shake the bottle before you use it. Remember that water and oil don’t mix so it’s all a matter of coating the water molecules with molecules from the essential oil.
  • During your first use, spray in your room or on your bed. Give it a day to check whether you can smell the aroma. If it is too strong, then you need to adjust to mixture by adding more water. If it is too weak, then you need to add more of the essential oil.

Some suggested blends: Here are some suggested blends that you can use in making this classic aromatherapy room air freshener spray for migraine prevention. 

  • 20 drops of rosemary EO, 4 drops of peppermint EO, and 2 drops of spearmint EO
  • 15 drops of chamomile EO, 9 drops of lavender EO, and 2 drops of peppermint EO
  • 15 drops of peppermint EO, 9 drops of chamomile EO, and 6 drops of lavender EO
  • 15 drops of spearmint EO and 15 drops of lavender EO
3. Recipe for an Aromatherapy Essential Oil Diffuser 

Making your aromatherapy spray may come in handy if you’re traveling. But, if you’re at home, we strongly recommend making your very own essential oil diffuser, also known as aromatherapy diffuser. This works on the principle of dispersion where molecules of the essential oil disperse into the surrounding air. This fills the room with the aromatic fragrance of the essential oil. It’s like leaving your bottle of perfume open so the moment you enter your room, you are already greeted by the wonderful scent.

What you’ll need:

  • For simple diffusion, 3 to 4 drops of your chosen essential oil and cotton ball
  • For steam diffusion, 10 drops of your chosen essential oil and 2 cups of boiling water
  • For candle diffusion, 1 drop of your chosen essential oil and soy candle or pure beeswax

What to do next:

  • For simple diffusion, apply the essential oil onto the cotton ball
  • For steam diffusion, just add the essential oil to your boiling water
  • For candle diffusion, light the candle for about 5 minutes or until the wax has melted. Add the essential oil onto the melted wax and not on the wick. Light your candle again.

How to use:

  • For simple diffusion, you can just place the cotton ball near your nose and then inhale
  • For steam diffusion, place the bowl of hot water with essential oil on a table. Bring your face directly over the bowl and cover your head with a towel. Make sure to cover the bowl as well. Make sure to inhale deeply for at least 10 minutes. Also, keep your eyes closed.
  • For candle diffusion, just let the candle burn and let the scent diffuse into the rest of the room.

Other diffuser suggestions: What we have listed above are just some of the home-made alternatives you can use to make your very own aromatherapy diffuser. These do have their own pros and cons especially when it comes to the effective length of the aromatherapy. As such, you can buy a commercially available aromatherapy diffuser. You can get any of the following:

  • Lamp ring diffuser
  • Sandstone diffuser
  • Terracotta diffuser
  • Candle diffuser
  • Fan diffuser or electric diffuser
  • Electric heat diffuser
  • Ultrasonic diffuser
  • Essential oil nebulizer

Other Ways You Can Manage Your Migraine

It should be clear by now that the best management for migraine headaches is the active avoidance of the different triggers of migraine. There simply is nothing we can do if your genes have already dictated that you will have migraine. However, you can still prevent the occurrence of migraine attacks by observing the following.

  • Keep a diary of every possible trigger of your migraine attacks. For example, you may want to take note of specific circumstances that you did before you had an attack. These can include your sleep patterns, your eating habits, the different activities that you do, and anything that you can think might have triggered your migraine.
  • Whenever you have an attack, take note of what you were exactly doing right before the pain set in. take note also what you did that somehow alleviated the pain.
  • As much as possible, avoid these triggers.
  • Get as much regular sleep as you possibly can.
  • Engage in regular exercise so you will feel a lot better about yourself.
  • Learn some stress management techniques such as breathing exercises, imagery, yoga, meditation, and tai chi, among others
  • Watch what you’re eating. Some foods are known to trigger migraines like red wine, processed food, MSG-containing foods, meats with sodium nitrates, chocolates, chicken liver, and smoked fish as well as other kinds of foods. That’s why it’s important to keep a diary of your migraine episodes.

If it is impossible to prevent migraine, then make sure that you observe the following when the symptoms of migraine begin:

  • Apply cold compress on your head
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Find a quiet and darkened room to rest until the pain subsides

You don’t have to live in constant pain because of migraine. You can always turn to Mother Nature for her many essential oils.

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