Headaches. Almost everyone gets them.
Well, that’s an exaggeration, but not a big one. It’s estimated that more than half the adults in the world experience headaches at least once in a while. The “lucky” ones only have occasional stress or tension headaches. People can treat these issues with over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or Tylenol or — if they’re really lucky — with a warm cloth, a cup of caffeinated tea or a cat nap, along with measures to encourage overall stress relief.
Those who suffer with chronic or frequent headaches usually don’t get off so easily.
Normal Approaches to Headache Relief
Different types of headaches often call for different approaches.
Brought on by physical exercise, these head pains (often coupled with an increase in blood pressure) feel much like stress headaches and are treated with the same basic methods.
These are normally treated with a combination of over-the-counter headache relief pills, and decongestants to clear out the nasal passages and ease sinus pressure.
A mix of traditional headache pain relief pills, plus changes in contraception method or hormone therapy, is the usual approach.
Cluster and Hypnic Headaches
These rare headache syndromes are normally treated with specific prescription medications.
These are the “big ones.” Some sufferers are lucky enough to respond to over-the-counter treatments or sleep, but chronic migraine patients often require more serious medication regimens (which may cause complicating side effects) or treatments like regular Botox injections. Some never find adequate migraine pain relief.
When Normal Doesn’t Work
Unfortunately, many headache sufferers are unable to find satisfactory, reliable headache relief treatment in traditional Western approaches. That’s when they turn — because of their own research, after a recommendation from a doctor, or out of a sense of desperation — to alternative medicine for answers.
And one of the most effective natural remedies for headaches is the use of essential oils.
Why Essential Oils Make Sense
Even skeptics now understand that there are major health benefits to the consumption of many plants and their byproducts. Whether it’s simply eating more healthy vegetables (even Popeye realized the benefits of spinach!), or adopting a complete plant-based diet, the Western world has accepted the importance of incorporating plant-based nutrition into daily eating patterns.
It’s not only the actual plants that are good for us, though. Many of the same plants we eat also produce tiny, highly-concentrated amounts of oils. These essential oils can be extremely powerful tools for the proper functioning of the human body — and for the management and relief of pain.
It’s important to understand that we’re not talking about herbal extracts. Many extracts, like the vanilla we bake with or the grapeseed extract sometimes used to treat physical ailments, can be obtained by simply soaking or cold-pressing the plant. Oils, on the other hand, are scientifically distilled from the plants in a painstaking and expensive process.
That quality makes some essential oils considerably more pricey than extracts, but also much more effective. They can also be used in very small doses, so their high price isn’t really that objectionable on a cost-per-dose basis.
The bottom line, though, is this: we all know that eating the right plants can help prevent and treat illnesses and their symptoms. Those same plants’ essential oils are infinitely better at doing it.
Before trying essential oils, it’s crucial to understand that they can’t be used in the same manner as extracts or the other natural products you may have tried. Undiluted essential oils are extremely powerful and can’t be applied topically or ingested, not directly anyway. They must be diluted with a “carrier oil” like sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil or olive oil, with the usual ratio being five drops of essential oil to one ounce of carrier oil.
Essential oils can be used via an aromatherapy oil diffuser, in capsule form, or by topical application (often to the back of the neck for headaches). And they’ve been found to have many health benefits, helping with everything from stress relief to digestion while acting as a strong anti-inflammatory agent. One of the best uses for essential oils, though, is for the relief of headache pain.
Best Essential Oils for Headaches
You wouldn’t just start taking prescription medications for an illness without checking with a doctor or other health professional. In the same way, an aromatherapist is the best person to consult before trying essential oils for the relief of headache pain. After understanding your symptoms and the apparent cause of your headaches, she can choose the right oil (or one of the many essential oil blends available) to help relieve your pain.
However, if you’re the “do it yourself” type of diagnostician, here are the best essential oils to treat headaches.
Peppermint Essential Oil
This is perhaps the most common choice used for headaches. One substance contained in peppermint oil is menthol, which relieves pain by relaxing muscles. Peppermint also constricts the blood vessels to limit blood flow to painful areas, potentially relieving headache pain. The oil is normally diluted and then applied to the temples and forehead. Spearmint oil is similar in its properties but milder than peppermint, and a good second choice.
Lavender Essential Oil
Aromatherapists often suggest lavender oil for overall relaxation, stress relief, depression and sleep issues because of its positive effects on the nervous system. But it can also ease the symptoms of migraines and stress headaches when the scent from the essential oil is inhaled. In one study printed in the journal, European Neurology, it took just 15 minutes for migraine patients to experience major symptom relief.
Chamomile Essential Oil
Just as chamomile tea helps you relax, the major benefits of using chamomile oil are seen in people with depression and anxiety issues who are likely to suffer from stress headaches. Roman chamomile is also an anti-inflammatory and a pain reliever, and its antispasmodic properties make it effective in some patients at fighting off the spasms that lead to migraines. It’s often combined with lavender and rosemary. Speaking of which…
Rosemary Essential Oil
Rosemary oil is another antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and pain reliever that also relieves muscle tension to help treat headaches. It is used either topically on the head or inhaled.
Eucalyptus Essential Oil
The primary use for eucalyptus oil is to treat sinus headaches, as the strong scent clears the nasal passages and relieves the tension causing the headaches.
Lots of Options to Make It Easy, Not Another Headache
Other essential oils used in the treatment of headaches include frankincense oil, sage oil and sweet marjoram. Frankincense is the only one shown so far to be effective in clinical trials.
The method of administering essential oils for headache pain relief can also be crucial. That’s one more reason to consult an experienced aromatherapist, to find the best essential oil for the type of headaches you suffer from.
It’s best to get help instead of going it alone. After all, the last thing you want is another headache from struggling to find the right treatment.
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