A headache is the most common form of physical pain. Up to 70 percent of the world’s adult population will experience some kind of a headache this year. Symptoms of headaches may include pain in the head and neck regions, loss of appetite, poor sleep, light headedness, and dizziness. And commonly, the method of treatment used most often for headaches is pain medication, which can have unwanted side effects.
What Causes Headaches?
Headaches may be due to different factors such as the following:
- Stress related to work, school, home life, or relationships with friends and family
- Toxicity in the body
- Cold and flu
- Head injury
- Poor posture
- Structural deviations of the neck
- Dental and sinus issues
- Sleep deprivation
- Food allergies and intolerances
Types Of Headaches
Headaches can be of three types: tension, migraine, and cluster.
1. Tension Headache
Tension headaches, also referred to as stress headaches, are the most common type of a headache worldwide. Such a headache exhibits itself as a dull, achy sensation with tightness or pressure around the forehead or back of the head and neck. This type of a headache has also been described as a “vice-like” squeezing sensation. Interestingly, women are twice as likely to suffer from tension headaches as men.
About 15 percent of the world’s population experiences a migraine. A migraine is a recurring type of a primary headache that affects half of the head with a throbbing pain. It usually lasts up to 72 hours. Most people report having an aura before a migraine episode. This is a visual cue signaling that a migraine is about to occur.
Symptoms of migraines are mild to intense and include the following:
- Muscle weakness
- Blurred vision
- Stomach pain
- Sensitivity to movement, light, heat, sound, and smell
Thought to be caused by a combination of both genetic and environmental influences, unlike tension and cluster headaches, migraines may be inherited through one’s family. Changing hormone levels may also play a role as the fluctuation increases the pressure on the blood vessels and nerves of the brain.
3. Cluster Headache
Cluster headaches occur in cyclical patterns or clusters. Often referred to as “suicide headaches,” these are one of the most painful types of headaches. Commonly, they awaken you in the middle of the night with intense pain in or around one eye and on one side of your head.
Cluster headaches recur with some regularity and the symptoms are described as intense and severe, lasting from 15 minutes to 3 hours and occasionally up to an entire year. Fortunately, such headaches are rare and affect less than 0.1 percent of the world’s population.
7 Essential Oils For Headaches
Essential oils are most effective if used immediately at the first sign of a headache.
These 7 essential oils or blends of the oils have been effective as a comfort care measure for relieving painful symptoms associated with tension, migraine, and cluster headaches. Each essential oil is known to contain a potent combination of properties and acts as an analgesic pain reliever, vasoconstrictor, and decongestant to promote circulation and shrink swollen membranes.
1. Peppermint (Mentha X Piperita)
Steam-distilled flower tops of peppermint, found in the USA, are used to make peppermint oil. Its benefits are as follows:
- Provides relief from nausea and indigestion
- Relieves congestion and promotes circulation (vasoconstrictor)
- Relieves pain (analgesic)
Caution: Peppermint cools by constricting your blood capillaries. Therefore, please use in the form of extremely weak dilutions. It may also be a mucous membrane irritant (low risk), choleretic (increases bile production in the liver), and neurotoxic. The maximum dermal use level is 5.4 percent. Research indicates that peppermint oil might aggravate gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD), a type of heart burn. And aromatherapy safety expert Robert Tisserand recommends not using the oil with children under 10 years of age.
2. Sweet Marjoram (Origanum Majorana)
Steam-distilled flowers and leaves of sweet marjoram, which can be found in Egypt, are used to make this essential oil. Its benefits are as follows:
- Promotes deep relaxation
- Supports the release of deep mental and emotional tension
- Helps with emotional exhaustion
- Provides relief from panic attacks
- Comforts and calms the nervous system
3. Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus Globulus Or Radiata)
Steam-distilled leaves of eucalyptus, found in Australia, are used to make this essential oil. Its benefits are as follows:
- Circulatory stimulant
- Powerful decongestant oil (physical, mental, and emotional)
Caution: Aromatherapy safety expert, Robert Tisserand, recommends not using eucalyptus oil with children under 10 years of age.
4. Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia)
Steam-distilled flowers of lavender, found in high altitudes in France and Bulgaria, are used to make this essential oil. Its benefits are as follows:
- Universal healing oil
- Breaks the habit of negative self-talk
- Provides relief from negative mental states
- Calms anger
- Promotes the release of suppressed toxic emotions
5. Lemon (Citrus Limonum)
Cold-pressed peels of lemons, found in Italy, are used to make this essential oil. Its benefits are as follows:
- Powerful astringent
- Excellent blood cleanser
- Body-mind tonic
- Helps break obsessive, repetitive thoughts and habits
Caution: Lemon oil can cause skin sensitization if oxidized and is phototoxic (low risk). The maximum dermal use level is 2.0 percent. Citrus oils are considered to be phototoxic and care should be taken when applying on skin. Please avoid exposure to direct sunlight or sunlamps for up to 12 hours after use as it can cause skin pigmentation.
6. Juniper Berry (Juniperus Communis)
Steam-distilled berries, found in Croatia, are used to make this essential oil. Its benefits are as follows:
- Excellent reputation as a powerful detoxifier and blood cleanser
- Promotes the balancing of conditions of excess
- Relieves congestion
- Relieves hangover headaches due to overindulgence in rich food or alcohol
7. Basil (Ocimum Basilicum “Linalool”)
Steam-distilled leaves, found in Egypt and Nepal, are used to make this essential oil. Its benefits are as follows:
- Fortifies the nerves
- Stabilizes the nervous system
- Psycho-emotionally supports self-expression and gives a secure feeling
- Clears the mind
How To Use Essential Oils For Headaches
- Dispense 1–3 drops of a single essential oil or blend of oils on a cotton ball or smell strip.
- Inhale the aromatic vapors of your headache pain relief formula for 10–15 seconds.
- Repeat as needed.
These oils are also effective if diffused into the air or as a cool compress applied to the back of your neck.
Ready-To-Use Headache-Relief Blend Recipe
- To make a headache-relief blend, simply add 15–30 drops of any one essential oil or blend to a 1-ounce bottle of your favorite carrier oil (recommend fractionated light coconut oil).
- Shake the bottle well to disperse the oils thoroughly.
- Apply a few drops of this diluted oil or blend to sinus points around the nose and forehead and on the back of your neck.
Caution: Please keep the oils away from your eyes and do not apply oil directly on any open sores as this can cause sensitization. Note that these statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. All statements are intended for informational purposes only.
Note that a headache may also be a sign of dehydration. So, be sure to drink plenty of pure, fresh water daily. The recommended water intake is generally half your body weight in ounces, every day.