One of the first things people want to find out when they discover what great allies essential oils can be, is what the best essential oils for headaches are. However, a headache is one of the key ways our body chooses to communicate that something is wrong, whether that is on an emotional, mental, or spiritual level, so different situations require different oils. So, in this post, we’ll try to identify the best essential oils for headaches of many different descriptions.
What Essential Oil is Good for Headaches?
If we want to get good results straight away, I would suggest that “What essential oil is good for headaches?” is not our best question.
Our first question to ask ourselves is: Why might I have a headache?
Sometimes it will be a straightforward question to answer. Because my sinuses are blocked, for example.
Perhaps because I haven’t been sleeping well…
Or maybe, because I am so worried about my exams or that there’s not enough money coming in...
The best oils for headaches are the ones that are chosen with care and attention to what's going on in your body. Aromatherapy, in its best form, is a holistic therapy, looking at every aspect of a person’s life, to try to understand what is going on to create the disorder you are suffering from. In this case, we are thinking about the best essential oils for headaches, but the same would be for eczema, hayfever, or even toenail fungus.
If yesterday you were well, but today you are not, we want to know what happened yesterday that might have changed things. It could be as simple as you caught a bug, you got tired or even you ate something that disagreed with you, but in aromatherapy, we want to know what happened, why, and try to address that root cause. With that said, let’s have a look at our list of the best essential oils for headache relief.
Our List of the Best Essential Oils for Headaches
- Lavender Essential Oil
- Roman Chamomile Essential Oil
- Vetiver Essential Oil
- Peppermint Essential Oil
- Rosemary Essential Oil
- Sweet Basil Essential Oil
Each has its own place and reason to be used. So let’s start with these and work outwards from here.
Depending on why you have a headache and what kind of headache it feels like, will help you choose which one to use. So, our best route into deciding which one to use, or understanding anything about aromatherapy, in fact, is to understand how each oil influences our bodies energies.
We’ll begin by comparing peppermint essential oil for headaches with lavender.
A Comparison Between Lavender and Peppermint for Headaches
Lavender Essential Oil for Headaches (Lavandula angustifolia)
Lavender essential oil is soothing, calming, and relaxing. It feels like you are walking in fresh fields of purple flowers with no company except the warm sun gently kissing your face and the hum of the bees.
All troubles feel lifted away from you. You feel dozy, slow, and a bit lazy. Most of the walk, you’ll just want to meander up and down the many rows of lavender plants, gently brushing your fingers through the flowers. Anything or anyone else feels far away in the distance.
Let’s compare that with:
Peppermint Essential Oil for Headaches (Mentha piperita)
Both Sweet Basil, Rosemary, and Peppermint oils are aggressive. I mean, really, in your face, get things done now, right-this-minute-fast...bossy.
Peppermint essential oil has a cold energy (think about how your lips feel cool after you’ve brushed your teeth. Where lavender oil makes it feel like you left your troubles somewhere on a picnic blanket in the next field, peppermint brings everything into very sharp definition. You are alert, focussed, motivated, quick-witted. Your thoughts are clear, loud,, and organized.
Lavender, Vetiver, and Roman Chamomiles all soothe and relax, easing the actual pain, where basil, rosemary, and peppermint all help you think more clearly.
Opt for peppermint essential oil for headaches where you have to think clearer, be more upbeat (maybe you have a presentation to give) or actually, it is a good oil to choose for sinus headaches because it is so penetrating. The volatiles are able to cut through clogged sinuses and then open them out.
Getting The Balance Right
But, be careful, because there can be a temptation to use all stimulating oils if you are doing exams, for example. Or, if you are stressed about money generally, you might just want to leave the thoughts about those bills in the chamomile field. However, if you are so hyped up on invigorating essential oils, then it will be hard to sleep at night, which will make your foggy thinking worse, and of course, the bills don’t suddenly pay themselves just because you checked out on vetiver.
The secret to identifying the best essential oils for headaches is to use small amounts of invigorating oils in the day, then larger amounts of the relaxing oils to help you sleep, or to calm the general panic you feel.
Remember with aromatherapy, less is always more, when you think about how much of an essential oil to use, and always try to tackle the root cause of the problem too.
Let’s look a bit deeper into what each does, because that will also help you to identify which oils are right for you, at this moment.
For example, it's all very well if you know the best essential oils for headaches but you have just found out you're pregnant. You can’t use any of them on your skin. It’s always important to consider everything an essential oil can do, not only to get the best benefits from it, but also to ensure you are not accidentally causing something else to happen too.
6 Best Essential Oils for Headaches: Natural Remedies to Get Rid of Headaches Quickly
So soft, so gentle, so nurturing. Lavender should be on top of your list of the best essential oils for headache relief. In fact, it should always be your first choice if something hurts, you feel tense or you can’t sleep. You can safely use lavender up to 10% dilution on days when things feel very bad, but normally you would use at a 3% dilution. That means in a teaspoon of carrier oil, which contains roughly 100 drops, you could go as high as 10% if you are in a lot of pain, but usually, you would just use 3 drops. At ten drops you might find the fragrance a bit overwhelming and it might make your headache worse if you are applying your blend close to your nose.
Certainly use lavender essential oil at bedtime, and in the bath to allow your muscles to relax and to soothe you generally. Stress often underlies headaches and lavender essential oil is one of the best ways to tackle that.
Roman Chamomile is soothing and calming. It has a sense of lying on the grass and making silly pictures from the clouds. It is slow, gentle, and relaxing. Roman chamomile is not only one of the best essential oil oils for headaches, and for stress generally, but it also calms skin irritations and irritated tummies.
Choose Roman chamomile paired with peppermint as your best essential oils for headaches if you also have stomach issues too. Irritable Bowel Syndrome and nervous diarrhea often accompany stress headaches and both of these also offer stomachic support.
Chamomile is a safe and gentle option for most people. Avoid using it in the first sixteen weeks of pregnancy, however, you could safely inhale this one in the early days of pregnancy that have so many digestive and stress niggles.
Where lavender and chamomile essential are the best essential oils for headaches, in that they make the troubles drift away, vetiver has a grounding feeling, that makes you feel heavy, relaxed, and as if you have smothered them, and a thick blanket of reassurance lies upon you.
Vetiver feels extremely slow and relaxed and is wonderful for making the world around you feel slower. If you have been hoping the world would just stop so you could get off, vetiver is going to be up there with lavender, Roman chamomile, and perhaps mandarin or rose otto as the best essential oils for headaches.
Deeply pacifying, it feels hypnotic and tranquilizing.
Again, safe to use except during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. I would avoid inhaling vetiver essential oil, at this point in your pregnancy too. Stick to roman chamomile.
4. Sweet Basil Essential Oil
If sweet basil could speak, she would shout in your ear like a Sergeant Major “Get Out of Your Head”. Basil likes action, clear-headedness, decisiveness, and bold, strong action.
If you are avoiding ringing the phone company about your outstanding bill or telling your nagging best friend where to get off, Sweet Basil essential oil has your back. Be aware though, thoughts don’t tend to stay in your mouth when you’re using Basil. It is one of the best essential oils for headaches that come from you avoiding things or biting your tongue. Think of yourself strapped to a parachute doing your first skydive, peering out of a plane. Sweet Basil will be the one who pushes you into free fall so just enjoy that great adrenaline rush of free fall.
“Get out of Your Head” and deal with it, which is why she is one of the best essential oils for migraine headaches.
The ice queen. Loud, proud, incisive, bright, strong, using peppermint essential oil for headaches gives you clear thinking, bold action, and an invigorated outlook.
It will however keep you awake at night.
Use peppermint essential oil for headaches in the morning till lunchtime, then start relying upon the more relaxing ones, like vetiver (which is also good for helping you concentrate) and start investing in the evening’s sleep.
However, do not use peppermint essential oil for headaches in children. Leave it until they really hit the hard exams. Peppermint has large amounts of menthol which can slow respiration, so only use peppermint essential oil on children's backs. To be honest, though, who wants invigorated toddlers...peppermint of two-year-olds guarantees nothing left in cupboards and no sleep at all.
Rosemary essential oil has an affinity for nerve pain. So not only is it one of the best essential oils for headaches, aromatherapists choose it for conditions like neuralgia, in particular trigeminal neuralgia, in the jaw, and for sciatica.
But when an essential oil is good for the nerves, it also relates to the nervous system on an emotional level too. Often, headaches are a symptom of our bodies speaking our minds, but sometimes, we also speak our bodies. Consider the phrase “I do wish she’d stop going on about it. It’s really starting to get on my nerves.”
This is a perfect example of when you would choose rosemary as one of your best essential oils for headaches.
Like peppermint and basil, rosemary essential oil focuses the mind and clears thoughts.
However, rosemary essential oil can be a bit unpredictable with blood pressure, epilepsy, and also for people who suffer from psychosis. Under any of these conditions, I would give rosemary a wide berth, unless you are working with a qualified aromatherapist, and stick to one or more of the others.
Again, safe after 16 weeks of pregnancy, and energetically, like peppermint might not be a great fit for children.
Using Essential Oils for Sinus Headaches
Sinus headaches need to be treated slightly differently. Whilst essential oils like lavender and chamomile will ease sinus pain, they don’t deal with the actual problem of congestion.
Peppermint, rosemary, and basil essential oils are all strong enough to be able to send volatiles up the nose to penetrate through the congestion, however again this is a temporary release.
With consistent problems, the best essential oils for sinus headaches are potentially Myrrh (Commiphora myrrh), Benzoin (Styrax benzoin), and Frankincense essential oils.
Frankincense acts in a similar manner to Lavender and Vetiver, in that it is soothing and calming. It slows the breath and releases stress. However, it also opens the airways in the chest cavity but also in the nasal cavity too to reduce the sinus congestion
Myrrh and benzoin essential oils are both wonderful decongestants. They break down the blockages in the sinus passages, making the nose run and removing the congestion inside of the head.
To use these essential oils one is best to make a massage treatment to be rubbed over the forehead and the sinus tracts. Also consider massaging it into the upper back, the neck, and the top of the head, where there is easy access to the sinuses which run through the entirety of the skull.
Using Essential Oils for Migraine Headaches
Migraine headaches are a bit different because they can have so many triggers.
Migraine Headaches and Food Triggers
You can try using the list of essential oils for headache relief, however, also consider making a food diary to log down everything you eat each day to see if there is a pattern that could be causing the migraines.
Often it might be a combination of different foods that might be causing a problem so document carefully.
For example: perhaps a person has a 30% intolerance to sausages, 30% intolerance to tomato ketchup, 30% intolerance to the flour improver in white bread.
If they have bangers and mash for tea, potentially they will escape the headache.
However, if they have a sausage sandwich with red sauce on a different day, all of their allergens come together, to create90% intolerance reaction and thus a mega migraine.
It's worth documenting very carefully, for a month, to see where the headache triggers may be.
Skeletal Misalignments and Migraines
If you visited an aromatherapist for your migraines they would likely also send you to see a chiropractor.
Often there may be skeletal misalignments where neck bones rest on nerves in the neck so regardless of which essential oils they choose, with that nerve being trapped the pain will still continue.
Hormonal Imbalance and Migraines
One of the key catalysts for migraines can be hormone imbalance. Migraines often accompany menstruation and menopausal symptoms. If that’s the case, consider using rose, geranium, or ylang ylang essential oils. These are not specifically designed to be the best essential oils for headaches, but to support the hormonal imbalance.
Essential Oils and Vitamin Deficiency
Lastly, one of the main actions that stress causes in the body, is to exhaust the liver. Many aromatherapists will suggest you take a supplement of vitamin B complex and vitamin C as well as a supplement of magnesium to support the best essential oils headaches.
The liver is fuelled by vitamin B and needs vitamin C to absorb it. If the body runs under stress for extended amounts of time, the body runs out of vitamin B, so supplementing with B and C helps to fuel the liver.
Rosemary, Peppermint, and Roman chamomile essential oils are all hepatic oils, which means they support the liver. If you suffer from migraine you should specifically try to use these essential oils supported by perhaps something like eucalyptus or carrot seed essential oils which also have hepatic qualities.
Magnesium balances glutamate and GABA. Glutamate is the body’s excitatory transmitter. If it gets out of control, you feel pain, anxiety, and jitteriness, amongst other things. GABA is the calming neurotransmitter that keeps it in check. Magnesium naturally forms in fruit that ripens on the trees and in green leafy vegetables. Since most fruit is now picked early to avoid it soiling on its way to the supermarket, very few of us now have the right amount of magnesium.
Magnesium can be taken as an oral supplement but is best absorbed through the skin. The best way to supplement is to add Epsom salts to the bath or to add essential oils to magnesium oil. (Epsom salts are a magnesium supplement)
How to Use the Best Essential Oils for Headaches Properly
You know what?
I’d be most inclined to blend a few of them together, into a rollerball and just apply them together.
There are four great ways to apply whichever the best essential oils for headaches you choose.
- Use light pressure to massage them into the temples. This indentation at the side of your face, just to the sides of your eyes, is an efficient acupressure point, but also a swift way to get the oils into your bloodstream and brain.
- You can also massage them into your forehead and onto the back of the neck and the base of the skull.
- Lastly, there is also an acupressure point to your temples on your hand. This is a super way to feel like you are really taking control of your headache.
You can locate the union valley or hegu pressure point by pinching the loose skin between your thumb and index finger. Hold the union valley pressure points on both hands using the thumb and fingers of the other hand, then massage your oils into by moving your thumb in small circles You’ll be amazed how tender this can be, and the guideline for how long to do this for is around two minutes or until it stops hurting, whichever is less. Be careful not to overstimulate this point. It’s better to do it for a short amount of time, several times than to do one long go that can make you feel quite odd.
Essential Oil Diffuser Blend for Headaches
- 1 drop Lavender essential oil (Lavandula angustifolia)
- 1 drop Roman Chamomile essential oil (Anthemis nobilis)
- 1 drop Sweet Basil Essential Oil (Ocimum basilicum
Safety: Do not diffuse for too long. Turn off and take a break for half an hour or so, every two hours.