How to Use Essential Oils to Relieve Headaches and Migraines

Dr. Josh Axe Contributes to Vitacost Blog |

by | Read time: 4 minutes

Essential oils have been used for centuries to promote our physical and psychological well-being. They are highly concentrated oils that are distilled or extracted from the different parts of plants and just a small amount inhaled or applied topically can have powerful health benefits. Essential oils contain aromatic and therapeutic compounds that interact with the neurotransmitters in your brain and the cells in your body to fight illness and improve your health.

Row of Herb-Filled Glass Bottles Filled With Essential Oils for Headaches and Migraines |

From relieving stress and anxiety, to balancing blood sugar levels and improving the health of your skin, essential oil benefits are vast. They can be especially helpful for relieving headaches and migraines because of their anti-inflammatory, anti-stress, calming, detoxifying and stimulating properties

The 5 Best Essential Oils for Headaches and Migraines

1. Peppermint oil

Peppermint oil has a powerful cooling effect. It stimulates blood flow and inhibits muscle contractions that can cause headaches. When applied to your temples and the back of your neck, peppermint oil can help to alleviate tension headaches, sinus headaches and migraine pain.

Researchers in Germany found that when peppermint essential oil was used for the treatment of tension-type headaches in controlled studies, it was significantly more effective than placebo and its efficacy was even comparable to that of acetylsalicylic acid or paracetamol, two drugs that are used for pain relief. Researchers indicate that peppermint oil targets headache pathophysiology in multiple ways. It has proven to serve as a safe and natural alternative to over-the-counter pain relievers. (1)c

2. Eucalyptus oil

For headaches that are caused by sinus pressure and respiratory conditions, eucalyptus may serve as an effective tool. Because eucalyptus works as an expectorant, it helps to open up your nasal airways and eliminate fluids and harmful microorganisms that can cause sinus pressure.

Studies also indicate that eucalyptus oil has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral properties, so it can be used to improve respiratory conditions that lead to headache pain and tension. (2)

3. Lavender oil

Lavender oil is known for its ability to ease stress and anxiety, which can lead to tension headaches and migraines. It can also reduce muscular tension and improve sleep because of its sedative properties. Lavender oil is a great tool for relieving headaches that are brought on by the stress of the day and when used at night, it can help to improve sleep and boost your mood.

According to a 2012 placebo-controlled clinical trial published in European Neurology, when lavender essential oil was used aromatically for the treatment of 129 headache attack cases, 92 responded entirely or partially. Researchers suggest that the inhalation of lavender essential oil may serve as an “effective and safe treatment modality in acute management of migraine headaches.” (3)

4. Rosemary oil

 Rosemary oil has stimulating properties, and it has been used in folk medicine to boost circulation and improve alertness. It also helps to reduce stress, tension and pain.

A clinical trial published in Addiction and Health found that when rosemary was given to patients in addiction treatment programs, it helped to alleviate symptoms of withdrawal, including headache, nausea and mood changes. (4)

5. Frankincense oil

Frankincense oil is well known for its anti-inflammatory effects. Plus, studies show that frankincense also has analgesic and tranquilizing properties, helping to relieve tension headaches and migraines that are caused by stress and anxiety. On top of this, frankincense oil is commonly used aromatically and topically to help reduce pain. (5)

How to use essential oils for headaches and migraines

Using essential oils may seem intimidating at first, but it’s actually very easy and you’ll notice the benefits right away. The easiest way to use these oils for headache and migraine relief is to diffuse about five drops at home or work. You can buy a diffuser online or even at a home goods or health food store. I like to run my diffuser for about 45 minutes at a time, three times a day.

Another way to reduce headaches and migraines with essential oils is to apply them topically. All you have to do is put 2-3 drops of oil into the palm of your hand, rub your hands together and then massage the oil into your temples, back of neck and chest. This will help to reduce the tension, stress and inflammation that causes the pain.

If you are looking for stimulating and invigorating properties, use peppermint or eucalyptus oil, and if you are looking for more calming and sedative properties, use lavender or frankincense. And remember, when using essential oils on sensitive skin, it’s best to combine them with carrier oils, like coconut oil, first.

And one more easy way to use these oils is to add 5-10 drops to a warm water bath. This can be especially helpful if you experience headaches at night and have trouble sleeping. It will leave you feeling calm and more relaxed, as lavender and frankincense have sedative properties.

These five essential oils for headaches and migraines are easy to use and have proven to be effective. Plus, they serve as a safe and natural remedy for not only head pains, but many other ailments as well.

These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.