Essential oils are used as home remedies for a variety of ailments. But is using essential oils an effective way to relieve headaches, and, if so, which essential oils are best?
An essential oil is a concentrated liquid extracted from a plant. Aromatherapy is an alternative therapy based on the use of these oils. Aromatherapists believe that each essential oil offers a different set of health benefits.
Research supports the health benefits of certain essential oils, while other claims are based on tradition. This article explores five of the best essential oils for treating headaches, as supported by scientific evidence.
Contents of this article:
Which essential oils help headaches?
How to use essential oils for headaches
Risks and considerations
Stressed man at desk pinching the bridge of his nose because he has a headache.
Many people with frequent headaches choose to seek out alternative treatments such as essential oils.
It is estimated that more than half of the adult population worldwide experiences occasional headaches, with the most common type being a tension headache.
While there are a number of over-the-counter and prescription medications available for headaches, these treatments can cause side effects.
When someone experiences headaches regularly, they may look for natural treatments, including essential oils.
Which essential oils help headaches?
There are a number of studies that show specific essential oils may be beneficial for headaches. These include:
1. Lavender oil
Lavender is often used to help people get to sleep and to reduce stress, anxiety, or depression.
Many believe that it can help relieve headaches and migraines that are triggered by stress.
A 2012 study suggests that the inhalation of lavender essential oil can be a safe and effective treatment to manage migraine headaches.
2. Rosemary oil
Rosemary oil is traditionally used to treat headaches and improve circulation.
There are few studies that specifically support rosemary oil as an effective headache treatment. However, a 2008 study suggests that rosemary oil has anti-inflammatory and pain-killing properties.
Another study from 2013 found that rosemary oil helped to reduce pain and insomnia in people going through opium withdrawal treatment.
These research examples suggest that rosemary oil may reduce the pain associated with a headache. However, more studies on humans are required before this can be confirmed.
3. Peppermint oil
Bottle of essential oil surrounded by peppermint leaves and flowers.
Peppermint oil is stimulating and may relieve tension headaches when applied topically.
Peppermint has been used in alternative medicines for thousands of years. It is one of the most popular essential oils for treating headaches.
A recent 2015 review of published studies on essential oils states that applying peppermint oil to the temples and forehead provides relief from tension headaches.
The active ingredient in peppermint oil is menthol. Research published in 2015 shows menthol may be effective in treating migraines when applied to the head as a gel.
4. Chamomile oil
People traditionally drink chamomile tea to relax and unwind. Chamomile oil is commonly believed to have a similar effect.
Research from 2012 showed that chamomile oil might improve some of the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
As headaches are often caused by stress and anxiety, it follows that chamomile oil may help treat headaches.
There are anti-inflammatory properties in chamomile that may also reduce a headache, but more research is needed into its health benefits.
5. Eucalyptus oil
Eucalyptus is traditionally used to clear sinuses and reduce inflammation. People experiencing headaches due to blocked sinuses may find that inhaling eucalyptus reduces their symptoms.
One study found that eucalyptus oil was effective for relieving pain and lowering blood pressure when it was inhaled.