5 Best Essential Oils to Fight Headaches: Full Review & Beginners Guide 2017

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According to the World Health Organization, up to half of the adult population worldwide suffers through headaches every day. Headaches can range from a minor nuisance to a major ailment. (1)

If you deal with recurring headaches, you probably have searched to find an effective treatment. Painkillers, either over the counter or prescription, are the most common headache remedy.

Unfortunately, these don’t work for everyone since they don’t treat the cause of the problem and often have nasty and unwanted side effects, like liver damage, fatigue, nausea, constipation, dry mouth and may even cause more headaches.

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In short, essential oils can help you manage your headache symptoms by treating the underlying causes of the headaches.

The best essential oils for your headache depend on what type of headache you suffer from.

5 Best Essential Oils to Fight Headaches

To beat headaches check out these oils:

Fortunately, there are other natural options out there to treat headaches. Essential oils are a great choice for headache treatment since they safely treat the cause of the headache and get to the root of the problem instead of just temporarily masking the pain.

Another added bonus for essential oils: using them to treat your headaches puts you totally in control of your headache management while minimizing nasty, unwanted side effects.

What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are aromatic natural oils that are made by distilling or pressing the oil from a plant like an herb or fruit. These oils normally smell like a stronger version of the plant they come from due to how they are made.

Homeopaths have a long history of using essential oils for many uses both medicinal and otherwise. These uses include:

How Can Essential Oils Help You Manage Your Headaches?

To figure out how to manage your headaches with essential oils, you must first figure out the type of headache you are suffering from and the causes of your headaches.

This is no easy task as there are many types of headaches and many causes of headaches out there. Types of headaches include the following:

  • Migraines: Migraines are recurring attacks of moderate to severe throbbing or pulsing pain pain often on one side of the head. If you suffer from migraines you might have sensitivity to light and sound.Nausea and vomiting often accompany migraines. Most migraine sufferers experience recurring migraine headaches. (2)
  • Tension Type Headaches: This type of headache is generally a mild to moderate pain in your head that is often described as a tightness or pressure. Though this is the most common type of headache, tension headaches are still not well understood. (3)
  • Cluster Headaches: A cluster headache is often a headache with one-sided head pain that may make your eyes tear or droop and your nose stuffy. These unpleasant headaches occur regularly for 1 week to 1 year, separated by headache-free periods. Cluster headaches are often confused with sinus headaches. (4)
  • Medication Overuse Headaches: Medication overuse headaches are often called rebound headaches. This type of headache occurs when someone takes a painkiller frequently for a headache. When the painkiller wears off, the headache comes back more viciously than it was originally leading to the need to take more painkillers and creating a painful cycle of headache that is hard to break. (5)
  • Sinus Headaches: Caused by inflamed sinuses, these headaches cause a dull, throbbing pain across the front of your head and face. Bending down or leaning forward normally makes the pain and fullness worse. (6)
  • Sugar Headaches: When blood sugar drops too low, either because it has been too long between meals or you are coming down from a sugar crash, you might get a headache from low blood sugar. These headaches often come on quickly and may be very severe. (7)

Each type of headache has a different cause. Some of the headaches are the primary illness and some of the headaches are a secondary response to another ailment, like low blood sugar.

Other common headache causes include:

  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Bad Posture
  • Dehydration
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Changes in caffeine intake
  • Allergies
  • Common cold and other viruses

If you suffer from chronic or a very severe headaches, you should check with your doctor immediately to rule out other serious headache causes including stroke or aneurysm. Serious headache causes require immediate medical attention and should not be treated with essential oils.

Aside from the life threatening headache causes, most headache causes can be remedied with the use of essential oils. Most of essential oils can treat the underlying causes of headaches by:

  • Relieving stress: Most essential oils have key stress busting properties that make them powerful headache fighters because of the neurological link between smell and emotion. A study conducted on 2 groups of terminally ill cancer patients proves the stress relieving properties of scent. The first group of patients received a hand massage with aromatic essential oils while the second group received a hand massage with unscented oil. The first group showed a marked reduction in pain score and depression, whereas the group that used only unscented oil showed no real changes. (8)
  • Treating the cause of allergies: Essential oils can also treat the underlying cause of allergies, another major source of headaches. Many allergies are caused by inflammation, which is the body’s way of protecting itself by raising levels of white blood cells.An allergic reaction occurs when the body has an unnecessary inflammatory response to an otherwise harmless substance. (9)
  • Encouraging hydration: A drop of certain essential oils in water may encourage you to drink more liquids, thus busting dehydration.
  • Boosting immunity: Some essential oils are proven immune system boosters. These oils keep your body healthy and make sure viruses and bacteria that may cause headaches stay at bay.

What are the Best Essential Oils for Headaches?

Navigating your way through all the available essential oils can be a daunting task. There are many oils that can help you get relief from your allergy symptoms without relying solely on medications.

The best essential oils for managing Headaches include the following:

All of these oils have unique properties that help you to control your Headaches better. Here are some of the ways each oil can help.

Lavender Oil

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Lavender Oil has a calming effect that is well-known and researched. A less commonly known fact about lavender oil is its ability to help reduce the severity of headaches.

One study that tested on 200 participants with migraine symptoms found that over 74% of the participants saw a reduction in symptoms using no medication and only 2-3 drops of lavender oil applied to their upper lips.

Comparatively, Tylenol was only 52% effective, Ibuprofen was 57% effective, and only an injection of Sumatriptan (used in emergency rooms) was close to as effective with 70% feeling a reduction in migraine symptoms. (10) (11)

Benefits of Lavender Oil for Headaches

With lavender oil being shown to beat out certain medications when it comes to migraine headaches, let’s take a look at how lavender oil helps with headaches. Lavender reduces headaches by:

  • Diluting Blood Vessels – Lavender has a natural compound that helps to open up blood vessels which helps to restore blood flow and help reduce tension and migraine headache symptoms.
  • Natural Antihistamine – Lavender’s properties help reduce histamine, a leading cause in seasonal and other allergy headaches. (12)
  • Eases Pain – Lavender oil can help reduce headache pain both associated with allergies and associated with migraine pain.

How to use Lavender Oil for Headache Relief

Lavender oil can be used to manage headaches in several ways. The most popular ways to use lavender oil to treat headache symptoms include:

  • Inhaling Drops Directly – Place two to three drops of lavender oil on your upper lip and inhale the fumes for about 15 minutes at a time. Repeat as needed. Use caution with this approach, however, since lavender can be toxic if ingested.
  • In Boiling Water – Boil a small pot of water and place two to three drops of lavender oil into the water. Place a towel over your head and bowl and inhale the vapors.
  • Soaking – Adding a few drops of lavender oil into a hot bath not only reduces stress, an underlying cause of headaches but allows you to inhale its soothing scents, giving you a one two headache relieving punch.

Peppermint Oil

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Not just for making candy canes, this fragrant oil packs a wallop when it comes to busting headaches. This minty fresh oil can ease even the worse headache symptoms.

In a 1996 study, researchers found that when applied topically to the forehead, the participants in the double-blind study recorded a reduction in headache symptoms. The study concluded that peppermint oil can be used as a good substitute for more expensive medicines available by prescription or over the counter. (13)

Benefits of Peppermint Oil for Headaches

Peppermint oils can help you reduce your headache symptoms by:

  • Muscle Soothing – Peppermint has a strong muscle soothing effect. When used on the forehead, it can help with headaches typically caused by tension or migraines. It does this by opening up blood flow to the parts of the body it is applied to.
  • Reducing Pain – Peppermint oil has pain relieving properties that can be used to help treat some of the painful effects of headaches caused by tension, allergies, and migraines.
  • Mental Soothing – Peppermint oil’s minty smell has the ability to help you relax mentally as well as physically. Like many other oils, the fragrance when inhaled has an overall calming effect on your mind and body.

How to Use Peppermint Oil for Headaches

To use peppermint oil, you can try:

  • Inhaling – Either put a few drops of peppermint oil on a sponge and inhale directly or place one or two drops in a pot of boiling water and inhale with a towel over your head and pot. This will help relieve some of the stress and tension that is associated with tension headaches.
  • Apply Directly to Forehead – Applying peppermint oil directly to the skin around the forehead can help target the pain around the head and help reduce your headache symptoms. One or two drops should be all you need. Be sure to dilute the oil with a carrier oil such as coconut oil to protect the skin. You can also apply the peppermint oil dilution to the back of neck and shoulders to help alleviate your headache pain.

Eucalyptus Oil

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Like many of the other essential oils, eucalyptus oil has multiple potential health benefits. Most notably, eucalyptus oil plays a role in reducing sinus headaches.

A study done in Israel focusing on opening airways, congestion, and sinus headaches found that eucalyptus oil opened up airways, reduced runny noses, and its anti-inflammatory effect reduced headaches in participants who used it. Another study reported similar anti-inflammatory effects when used with patients that helped reduce tension headaches.(14) (15)

Benefits of Eucalyptus Oil for Headaches

This oil works to give you sinus headache relieving benefits by having:

  • Anti-Inflammatory Properties – Studies indicated above show that eucalyptus has a strong anti-inflammatory property that helps reduce tension and sinus headaches in participants.
  • Antibacterial, Antiviral, and Antimicrobial Properties – Eucalyptus oil also exhibited antibacterial, antiviral and antimicrobial properties that help alleviate sinus pressure caused by an inflammatory response. This in turn reduces headache symptoms in those that use it. (16)

How to Use Eucalyptus Oil for Headaches

To use Eucalyptus oil try:

  • Topical Application – Add one to three drops of eucalyptus oil to a carrier oil such as coconut oil and apply directly to your forehead, neck, or shoulders. This will result in a reduction of swelling and reduce nasal blockage and clear your airways. As a result, it will help to alleviate the pain associated with sinus build up and pressure.

Chamomile Oil

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Chamomile has a calm reputation for good reason. Not only can this herb soothe your nerves and ease cold symptoms, but it is a great choice for treating stress related headaches.

Roman Chamomile has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties which make it ideal for treating headaches associated with tension and migraines. (17)

Benefits of Chamomile Oil for Headaches

Chamomile oils are most effective tension headaches, but can used to treat migraines as well by:

  • Reducing Tension – Chamomile has a tension reducing property that helps to greatly reduce headache pain associated with tension headaches.
  • Banishing Stress – Chamomile oil helps reduce stress that is a leading cause of tension headaches. Reduction in stress can help with overall health as well, but its impact on reducing headaches is also something to note.

How to Use Chamomile Oil for Headaches

To use chamomile oil, you can:

  • Bathe – When you have a painful tension headache, taking a bath mixed with chamomile oil is a great way to get some relief.
  • Topical – Add one or two drops of chamomile oil to a carrier oil and then rub on the forehead, neck, and shoulders to help reduce tension and alleviate the headache pain.
  • Brew a cup of tea – Chamomile tea is a home remedy for common ailments for a reason. You can make your own by purchasing a chamomile blend or you can simply add a drop of food grade chamomile essential oil to a cup of hot water with honey and lemon.

Spearmint Oil

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Since ancient times, people have used spearmint oil to treat a number of health ailments from rashes and skin issues to sexually transmitted diseases, and, of course, headaches.

It is considered by some to be a good alternative to its related peppermint oil as it has less menthol than peppermint and may be better tolerated by those that can’t take peppermint. Spearmint is an excellent oil to help alleviate headaches. (18)

Benefits of Spearmint Oil for Headaches

Spearmint oil helps relieve headaches by:

  • Relieving Relieving Nerve and Muscle Spasms – Reducing the number of times a nerve fires or the muscle spasms helps to reduce pain. When applied to the forehead, it can help reduce tension and migraine headaches.
  • Reducing Stress – Soothing spearmint can reduce stress when inhaled or consumed. The menthol in spearmint offers a sedative effect enhanced by the fresh scent and taste of this herb.
  • Balancing Hormones – Spearmint can help balance out your hormones. Hormonal imbalances can lead to headaches and other uncomfortable ailments.

How to use Spearmint Oil for Headache Relief

Tree oil can be used to manage Headaches in several ways. The most popular ways to use tree oil to treat allergy symptoms include:

  • Inhaling – Mix a drop two in water and boil it to maximize the effect of spearmint’s menthol and fresh scent.
  • Topically – Mix a drop or two of spearmint oil with a carrier oil to create a soothing balm to reduce headaches. Rub directly onto your forehead, neck, and shoulders.

Essential Oils: Tips and Tricks for Fighting Headaches

Use essential oils to their fullest capabilities to beat your headaches with these tips and tricks.

  • Choose the right oil for the type of headache you are suffering from. Identifying the type of headache you are suffering from first will help you identify the underlying cause and choose the best oil for you.
  • Try mixing the oils together to create a headache blend. Try combining lavender oil with eucalyptus oil for a soothing blend to beat tension headaches.
  • Experiment with uses. You might find soaking in a lavender bath really helps beat headaches but you dislike rubbing the oil directly on you. You may find however that you love using a peppermint oil balm on your forehead. Try different uses for each oil to find what works best for you.
  • Remember, essential oils are NOT a substitute for medical care. In some cases headaches may be a symptom of a larger medical problem. It’s always a good idea to consult with a doctor to rule out any underlying medical issues that may cause your headaches.

Conclusions: Can Essential Oils Help Me Fight Headaches?

Essential oils may help you beat your headaches. These oils can fight many underlying causes of headaches including stress, allergies, and dehydration.

Beware though: essential oils are never intended as a substitute for a doctor’s care. In the event of a severe headache or series of headaches, seek immediate medical attention.

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