A migraine headache is one of the most painful headaches you can experience.
Migraine headaches are a result of specific changes within the brain, which causes severe head pain.
The severe pain usually occurs on one side of the head. Some people describe it as a “pounding” feeling, and it may be made worse with physical exertion.
In some cases, people may experience pain on both sides of the head. Other common symptoms include eye pain, sensitivity to light or sound, nausea and vomiting.
The exact cause of migraines is not known, but they can be triggered by many factors like hormonal changes, stress, strong stimuli like loud noises and certain foods.
Migraine headaches typically last from 4 to 72 hours and vary in frequency from daily to less than once per year.
In the U.S., more than 37 million people suffer from migraines (1).
According to 2015 report by the American Headache Society, the prevalence of migraine headaches is high, affecting roughly 1 out of every 7 Americans annually.
Migraines and headaches are leading causes of outpatient and emergency department visits and remain an important public health problem, particularly among women during their reproductive years (2).
To deal with migraine headaches, people often opt for over-the-counter or prescribed painkillers. But swallowing pills is not always a good solution, as it can cause side effects.
Instead of medicines, you can use essential oils to get relief from migraine pain.
Here are some essential oils you can use to treat migraines.
Note: Pregnant women should consult their doctor before using any essential oils.
1. Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint oil is one of the most commonly used essential oils to treat migraine headaches.
It contains menthol, which can help muscles relax and ease pain. A 2015 study published in Frontiers in Neurology found that a topical gel with 6 percent menthol decreased pain intensity after two hours (3).
Another 2015 review published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine suggested that peppermint oil may work for headaches (4).
Plus, peppermint essential oil can help ease nausea associated with migraine headaches.
- Dilute 2 or 3 drops of peppermint oil with 1 or 2 teaspoons of coconut oil and rub it on your shoulders, forehead and the back of your neck.
- Also, you can put a few drops of peppermint oil in a diffuser to diffuse the oil into the air.
2. Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender oil also helps alleviate headaches and migraines, due to its anti-inflammatory nature. It also dilates the blood vessels.
It even improves sleep and reduces stress, two common triggers of migraine attacks.
A study published in European Neurology in 2012 suggests that inhalation of lavender essential oil may be an effective and safe treatment modality in acute management of migraine headaches (5).
A 2013 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine also suggests that inhalation of lavender essential oil is an effective and safe treatment modality in acute management of migraine headaches (6).
A study published in the Journal of Herbal Medicine in 2016 reports that participants using lavender for three months reported a reduction in the frequency and severity of their migraines (7).
- Add 5 to 10 drops of lavender oil to a bowl of warm water. Lean over the bowl and take deep breaths to inhale the vapors and reduce your headache.
- You can also use a few drops of lavender oil to massage behind your ears, the back of your neck or your temples.
3. Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Eucalyptus essential oil is traditionally used to treat different types of headaches, including those experienced by migraine sufferers. This essential oil works best for migraine attacks that are caused by chronic sinusitis.
According to a 2009 study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, the leaves of the eucalyptus plant exhibit potent anti-inflammatory activity (8).
A 2013 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports that inhaling eucalyptus oil has a pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effect (9).
- Mix 1 drop of eucalyptus oil into 1 teaspoon of any carrier oil and apply it on your forehead, temples and chest.
- Alternatively, add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a large bowl of hot water and breathe in the vapors.
- You can also put a few drops of eucalyptus oil on a handkerchief and inhale the smell from time to time.
4. Chamomile Essential Oil
Chamomile oil is also beneficial for migraine pain.
The anti-inflammatory properties in chamomile essential oil can help reduce migraine headaches. A 2014 study published in Medical Hypotheses hypothesized that chamomile oil is a novel medicine for the relief of migraine pain (10).
It also helps relax and improve some of the symptoms of anxiety and stress, which in turn may help treat your headaches.
- Dilute a few drops of chamomile essential oil with 1 or 2 teaspoons of any carrier oil and use it to massage your temples and forehead.
- Also, put a few drops of chamomile essential oil in a bowl of hot water and inhale the steam.
5. Rosemary Essential Oil
To get relief from migraine pain, you can also try rosemary essential oil.
It helps treat headaches because of its stimulating, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. It has a calming effect on the body and helps reduce stress and insomnia, common triggers that can cause headaches.
A 2008 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food suggests that rosemary oil has anti-inflammatory and pain-killing properties (11).
A 2013 study published in Food Chemistry reports that rosemary has been traditionally used as medicine to treat headaches, owing to its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties (12).
- Add 1 or 2 drops of rosemary oil to a cup of tea, water or soup and drink it when experiencing migraine attacks.
- Also, you can mix 2 drops of rosemary oil with 2 drops of peppermint oil and 1 teaspoon of coconut oil. Use it to massage your temples, forehead and the back of your neck.
- Migraine. The National Headache Foundation. https://headaches.org/2012/10/25/migraine/. Published October 25, 2012.
- The prevalence and burden of migraine and severe headache in the United States: updated statistics from government health surveillance studies. Headache. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25600719. Published January 2015.
- Efficacy and Tolerability of STOPAIN for a Migraine Attack. Frontiers in Neurology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4316718/. Published 2015.
- Essential oils used in aromatherapy: A systemic review. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2221169115001033. Published July 10, 2015.
- Lavender essential oil in the treatment of migraine headache: a placebo-controlled clinical trial. European neurology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22517298.
- Lavender and the Nervous System. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3612440/. Published 2013.
- Effect of lavender essential oil as a prophylactic therapy for migraine: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Journal of Herbal Medicine. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2210803316300033. Published January 14, 2016.
- Characterization and Antioxidant Activity of Essential Oils from Fresh and Decaying Leaves of Eucalyptus tereticornis. ACS Publications. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf9012407.
- Effect of Eucalyptus Oil Inhalation on Pain and Inflammatory Responses after Total Knee Replacement: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3703330/. Published 2013.
- Potential effect and mechanism of action of topical chamomile (Matricaria chammomila L.) oil on migraine headache: A medical hypothesis. Medical Hypotheses. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306987714003077. Published September 06, 2014.
- Anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive effects of Rosmarinus officinalis L. essential oil in experimental animal models. Journal of medicinal food. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19053868. Published December 2008.
- Suppression of LPS-induced inflammatory activities by Rosmarinus officinalis L. Food Chemistry. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814612013817. Published September 12, 2012.