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Essential Oils For Headaches And Migraines
A headache is one of those pains that you just can’t ignore and that can prevent you from getting on with your regular routine.
When you have a pain in your foot, your knee or even your stomach, it is normally possible to simply take it easy and wait for that pain to go away. You can still engage in other activities, as long as you don’t use the affected area.
The same is not true for headaches. When you have a headache, you will find it’s almost impossible to do anything – even think! The best thing to do is to lie down in a dark room and to wait for it to pass. And if you have a migraine, then you can add vomiting, flashing lights, nausea and hallucinations to the list of symptoms.This becomes a very serious problem if it’s something that’s going to happen on a regular basis and you can end up living in constant fear of your next migraine. Medication may help but not always. So how about trying something else, like essential oils?
How Can Essential Oil Help Headaches and Migraines?
So how can an oil possibly help headaches and migraines?
There are actually a number of different things that they can do.
Firstly, essential oils can be highly relaxing. People find the smell of many of these oils naturally calming and this can help them to relax their muscles and to potentially calm their mind. What’s more though, is that the molecules that enter through the nasal passageway can also have a direct impact on the central nervous system. This causes the body to switch from a ‘fight or flight’ state to a ‘rest and digest’ state. In other words, the body relaxes and the muscles relax with it.
This can be helpful in a wide variety of headache cases but it can also be especially helpful when it comes to treating ‘tension headaches’. A tension headache is a type of headache that is caused by tensing the face and head muscles for long periods of time. This is something we can find ourselves doing throughout the day without realizing, especially if we’re having a stressful day or if we’re out in the sun. This essentially causes pain around the head and one of the best ways to combat it is to allow those muscles to relax entirely.
Some essential oils can even go as far as to be mildly sedative and this makes them effective at helping you to get to sleep – something that can be very difficult when you’re fighting against a raging headache.
Another benefit of essential oils is that they can help to lift the mood, thereby combating stress. Several different types of essential oil have been demonstrated to increase the production of serotonin and dopamine in the brain – both ‘happiness’ hormones which can reduce the sensation of pain. This is also another way that essential oils can improve sleep – because serotonin is converted into melatonin after a while.
Other essential oils are directly analgesic, meaning that they can numb pain when they come into direct contact with the affected area. At the same time, essential oils encourage and facilitate gentle massage which can help to confuse pain signals to the brain and help to ease the muscles.
All these things together make a number of essential oils perfect for helping to reduce the symptoms of headache and migraine. However, it’s important to make sure that you see your GP if you find yourself having repeat migraines or headaches. This can be a sign of numerous other problems ranging from eyestrain (which may be a sign that you need glasses) to more serious problems like epilepsy. Likewise, a doctor will be able to prescribe stronger and faster acting medication for the more severe conditions.
Using home remedies such as essential oils should be considered supplementary to the course of action recommended by your doctor. This can help you to treat mild headaches on your own and can be used to further the benefits from more potent medication.
How to Use Essential Oils for Headaches
With all that in mind, how do you go about using essential oils for headaches and migraines? One option is to apply the oils directly to the head. You can do this by gently rubbing the oils into the temples or the source of the discomfort, in which case the circular motion will further help to encourage circulation and relax the muscles.
In other cases, you might opt to use an oil diffuser of some sort or an oil burner and to scent the room. This can be an effective option for more mild headaches or ongoing, chronic pain. This is also a good way to avoid headaches from occurring in the first place if you suffer from them regularly.
You can also use aromatherapy in conjunction with meditation. Light a candle and burn some oil and just try to calm your mind as much as possible while relaxing your body and particularly the muscles in your head and face.
Finally, if you’re looking for a way to indulge and relax, try adding a few drops of essential oils to a warm bath. A warm bath can be an effective home remedy for migraines and headaches in and of itself, and will be even more useful when combined with essential oils.
The Best Essential Oils for Headaches and Migraines
With that said, what are the best essential oils to try if you suffer from headaches and migraines? Here are some good options:
Peppermint oil has a pleasing ‘cooling’ sensation when applied directly to any given area. It has also been shown to help stimulate additional blood flow to the head when applied there topically and is useful for reducing muscle contractions.
All these things make peppermint oil highly effective in alleviating tension headaches and in one 1996 study, this was demonstrated while looking at the effect it would have on 41 patients. It was found that peppermint oil was very effective in relieving pain when applied 15-30 minutes after the headache began.
Lavender oil is one of the most popular essential oils for a wide range of different benefits. Among these are its excellent ability to relieve tension and stress and to encourage relaxation. This is a mild sedative, antidepressant and anti-anxiety. It is also an anxiolytic and – importantly – an anticonvulsant.
Anticonvulsants are the type of medication that is used to treat epilepsy, which has close connections with migraines and with anxiety attacks. These include such medications as barbiturates, though unfortunately barbiturates come with numerous side effects, potentially leading to lethargy, confusion and addiction. Lavender oil is far milder and not likely to have any of those negative consequences. However, it can still be effective in treating migraines in particular and especially when inhaled.
As an additional benefit, the other uses of lavender oil in improving the mood can also help to get to the root cause of the headache where that cause is related to stress.
Eucalyptus oil is an expectorant. This means that it can help to clear the sinuses and reduce pressure throughout the head that might contribute to a headache. This is especially useful for treating headaches then where those headaches appear to be related to a cold.
Interestingly, eucalyptus oil is also useful for reducing the blood pressure. This works because it is a vasodilator, which in turn means that it can help to widen the blood vessels that carry blood around the body. This not only reduces tension further but also helps to ensure the maximum amount of oxygen and nutrients make it to the brain.
If you’re looking for an oil that will address the psychological aspects of a migraine specifically, then bergamot oil might just be the best choice. This is an oil that can increase the brain’s production of serotonin particularly effectively, which in turn has numerous positive effects.
Serotonin is our principle ‘happiness’ hormone and this means that it can help to boost the mood and simultaneously alleviate any stress that could be contributing to the migraine. At the same time, serotonin is also a natural anaesthetic and a precursor to the sleep hormone melatonin. When you combine all these factors, this is a great choice for unwinding after a heavy day and for fighting any headaches that might have come from it!