Aromatherapy for Headaches

Headache-Be-Gone Compress

  • 5 drops lavender or eucalyptus oil
  • 1 cup cold water

Add essential oil to water, and swish a soft cloth in it. Wring out the cloth, lie down, and close your eyes. Place the cloth over your forehead and eyes. Use throughout the day, as often as you can.

Migraine Headache Hand Soak

  • 5 drops lavender oil
  • 5 drops ginger oil
  • 1 quart hot water, about 110°F

Add essential oils to the hot water, and soak hands for at least 3 minutes. This therapy can be done repeatedly.

How to Get Rid of a Headache With Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy really proves its worth with headaches. Peppermint, eucalyptus, and lavender are especially helpful in reducing headache pain. A tincture of lavender called “Palsy Drops” was recognized by the British Pharmacopoeia for more than 200 years and used by physicians to relieve muscle spasms, nervousness, and headaches until the 1940s, when herbs and aroma preparations fell out of favor and chemicals became more popular. In a 1994 U.S. study by H. Gobel, the essential oils of peppermint and eucalyptus relaxed both the mind and muscles of headache sufferers when the oils were diluted in alcohol and rubbed on their foreheads. Essential oils can be also used to make a compress to place on your forehead whenever a headache hits.

Most people find that their headaches respond best to a cold compress, but you can use a warm or hot compress -- or alternate the two -- for the result that works best. You can also place a second compress at the back of the neck. When you do not have time for compresses, dab a small drop of lavender, eucalyptus, or peppermint oil on each temple. For some people, a hot bath only makes their head pound more. However, if bathing does ease your pain, add a few drops of relaxing lavender or chamomile to your bath water.

Migraine headaches can be especially painful. Raising the temperature of the hands 15°F by soaking them in warm water seems to short-circuit a vascular headache such as a migraine by regulating circulation. Adding a couple drops of essential oil to the water increases the effect. Migraines often respond best to a blend of ginger and lavender.

Cluster headaches can also be quite severe and require special treatment. In addition to the headache compress, try a cream made from capsaicin, the active compound in cayenne peppers. Spread it on your forehead, temples, or any other area where you experience pain, but not too close to the eyes. Capsaicin blocks a neurotransmitter called substance P (which stands for pain), stopping pain impulses from registering in the brain. The cream works best as a preventative, to keep the headache from forming in the first place. Available for sale in drug and natural food stores, it needs to be applied four to five times a day for about four weeks to do much good, yet it is well worth the trouble for those who suffer these headaches.

Essential oils for headaches: chamomile, cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, ginger, jasmine, lavender, lemongrass, marjoram, patchouli, peppermint

To learn more about Aromatherapy and other alternative medicines, see:
  • Aromatherapy: Here you will learn about aromatherapy, how it works, what part essential oils play, and how to use aromatherapy.
  • Essential Oils Profiles: We have collected profiles of dozens of plants that are used to produce essential oils. On these pages, you will learn the properties and preparations for the most popular essential oils.
  • How to Treat Common Conditions With Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy can be used to treat a number of conditions, from asthma to depression to skin problems. Here you will learn how to treat some common medical problems with aromatherapy.
  • Home Remedies: We have gathered over a hundred safe, time-tested home remedies for treating a wide variety of medical complaints yourself.
  • Herbal Remedies: Herbal remedies and aromatherapy can be very similar, and they stem from similar historic roots. On this page, you will find all of our herb profiles and instructions for treating medical problems with herbal remedies.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kathi Keville is director of the American Herb Association and editor of the American Herb Association Quarterly newsletter. A writer, photographer, consultant, and teacher specializing in aromatherapy and herbs for over 25 years, she has written several books, including Aromatherapy: The Complete Guide to the Healing Art and Pocket Guide to Aromatherapy, and has written over 150 articles for such magazines as New Age Journal, The Herb Companion, and New Herbal Remedies.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.