Headaches are one of the most common health complaints, with nearly everyone experiencing them occasionally. While over-the-counter medications are the go-to for many, Essential oils have emerged as a natural alternative for headache and migraine relief. When inhaled, applied topically, or used in massage, essential oils can help reduce pain, nausea, and other symptoms associated with headaches.
Certain essential oils contain analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and relaxing properties that can provide safe, effective relief without the side effects of medications. Here are 10 of the best essential oils for headaches and migraines, along with their benefits and uses.
Best Essential Oils for Headaches and Migraines
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender essential oil is one of the most popular and versatile oils used in aromatherapy. It contains potent analgesic and sedative properties that make it ideal for treating tension and migraine headaches.
Studies show lavender oil decreases sensitivity to pain while inducing relaxation. The refreshing floral aroma and calming effects of lavender can significantly reduce headache pain and help you unwind.
- Reduces sensitivity to pain
- Relieves tension and promotes relaxation
- Improves sleep and eases anxiety
- Inhale lavender oil directly from the bottle or diffuse it in a room
- Massage diluted lavender oil on temples, neck and shoulders
- Add a few drops to a warm compress and apply to the forehead
- Use lavender oil in a bath or body lotion for all-over relaxation
Peppermint Essential Oil
The sharp, menthol aroma of peppermint essential oil triggers an instant cooling sensation on the skin. This helps restrict blood vessels in the head to relieve the throbbing pain of vascular headaches like migraines.
Peppermint oil also contains anti-inflammatory properties that prevent headaches stemming from tense muscles in the neck and shoulders. The invigorating scent can boost energy levels while easing nausea.
- Has a cooling effect that relieves migraine pain
- Reduces inflammation and tension
- Energizing aroma improves alertness
- Soothes nausea associated with headaches
- Massage diluted peppermint oil on temples, forehead, and back of the neck
- Add a few drops to a cold compress and apply to the head
- Inhale the oil directly when a headache strikes
- Drink peppermint tea or add a drop to your water bottle
Eucalyptus Essential Oil
The sharp, camphoraceous aroma of eucalyptus has powerful pain-relieving abilities. When applied to the temples during a headache, eucalyptus oil creates a cooling, numbing sensation that reduces pain sensitivity.
It also improves circulation in the brain to provide oxygen and blood flow to tense, aching muscles and tissues. Eucalyptus oil contains anti-inflammatory properties as well, further easing muscle and headache pain.
- Has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties
- Creates a cooling, numbing sensation
- Improves circulation and oxygen supply to the brain
- Soothes muscle tension associated with headaches
- Massage diluted eucalyptus oil on temples, forehead, and back of neck
- Add a few drops to a hot or cold compress and apply to the head
- Diffuse the oil or inhale directly from the bottle
- Add to bath or body lotion and massage all over
Rosemary Essential Oil
Rosemary essential oil is a potent pain reliever and muscle relaxant. It contains anti-inflammatory compounds that ease tension headaches caused by stiff, contracted muscles in the neck, shoulders, and scalp.
When massaged into the head during a headache, rosemary oil warms and relaxes muscles to provide immediate relief. The herbaceous, camphor-like aroma also helps stimulate blood circulation in the brain.
- Soothes muscle tension and relaxes contracted muscles
- Stimulates circulation to relieve vascular headache pain
- Anti-inflammatory compounds reduce inflammation
- Energizing scent relieves fatigue
- Massage diluted oil onto temples, forehead, neck and shoulders
- Add to a warm compress and apply to sore muscles
- Diffuse rosemary oil or inhale directly during a headache
- Drink rosemary tea or add a drop to your water bottle
Chamomile Essential Oil
Chamomile is well-known for its mild sedative and calming effects, making it excellent for treating stress and anxiety that often trigger tension headaches. The light, fruity aroma relieves nausea, irritability, and overstimulation which can lead to head pain.
Applying chamomile oil during a headache induces relaxation, while the anti-inflammatory compounds relieve swollen blood vessels and muscles. The soothing oil is safe and gentle enough for children as well.
- Relieves stress, anxiety, and irritability
- Sedative, relaxing properties ease tension
- Anti-inflammatory compounds reduce swelling
- Soothes nausea and overstimulation
- Massage diluted chamomile oil on temples, neck and shoulders
- Add to bath, diffuser, or inhale directly
- Drink chamomile tea, add honey for added benefits
- Apply to pillow before bed to promote relaxation
Marjoram Essential Oil
Marjoram essential oil contains powerful pain-relieving abilities comparable to NSAIDs, according to research. When massaged onto the temples and forehead, marjoram oil provides almost instant headache relief by soothing inflammation and relaxing tense muscles.
The rich, woody aroma also calms the nervous system to relieve anxiety-related headaches. Marjoram oil strengthens the adrenal glands and improves circulation to prevent recurring pain.
- Analgesic compounds relieve pain as effectively as NSAIDs
- Eases muscle tension and stiffness
- Calms the nervous system and anxiety
- Strengthens adrenal glands and boosts circulation
- Massage diluted marjoram oil onto temples, forehead, neck, and shoulders
- Inhale directly from the bottle or add to a room diffuser
- Combine with Epsom salts in a bath for full body relaxation
- Apply to the bottom of the feet with a carrier oil
Basil Essential Oil
The refreshing, energizing aroma of basil makes it ideal for relieving headaches associated with fatigue. Basil oil improves circulation to the brain and reduces muscle tension and pain through its analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.
Applying diluted basil oil to the back of the neck and temples also stimulates blood flow to clear the mind and provide mental clarity. The oil’s soothing properties additionally help ease nausea.
- Boosts circulation and blood flow to the brain
- Reduces muscle tension and stiffness
- Stimulating scent relieves mental fatigue
- Eases headaches caused by nausea
- Massage diluted oil on the forehead, temples, and nape of the neck
- Add to a room diffuser or inhale from a bottle
- Combine with a carrier oil for a muscle massage
- Add a drop or two to herbal tea
Helichrysum Essential Oil
The potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic compounds in helichrysum oil make it effective for severe migraine and tension headaches. It inhibits inflammation while stimulating circulation in the brain to relieve throbbing, aching head pain.
Helichrysum also contains regenerative properties that help repair blood vessels and nerve damage that may contribute to chronic headaches and migraines. The rich, herbal aroma is energizing as well.
- Powerful anti-inflammatory compounds
- Relieves migraine and tension headache pain
- Regenerates nerves and blood vessels
- Restores circulation to the brain
- Energizing aroma boosts mood
- Massage diluted oil on temples, forehead, and nape of the neck
- Add to a cold compress to cool down inflammation
- Use in a room diffuser to energize and uplift mood
- Add a few drops to a glass of water or herbal tea
Frankincense Essential Oil
Frankincense oil has been used since ancient times to treat pain and illness. Clinical studies show the potent anti-inflammatory boswellic acids in frankincense inhibit inflammation in the brain that causes tension headaches and migraines.
When applied topically during a headache, it provides cooling analgesic effects to soothe and relieve throbbing head pain. The earthy, uplifting aroma also induces relaxation.
- Boswellic acids potently reduce inflammation
- Analgesic compounds relieve sensitivity to pain
- Relaxing aroma calms the nervous system
- Improves anxiety and uplifts mood
- Safe for regular, long-term use
- Massage diluted oil on the head, neck, and shoulders
- Inhale directly or use a room diffuser
- Add a few drops of oil to a warm bath
- Drink as herbal tea by adding oil to hot water
Ginger Essential Oil
Ginger oil contains anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols that inhibit headache-causing inflammation in blood vessels and muscles. When massaged into the temples or added to a warm compress, ginger oil helps relieve migraine pain and tension headaches.
The spicy-sweet aroma also soothes feelings of nausea associated with migraines. Ginger oil stimulates circulation as well to prevent recurrences of vascular headaches.
- Gingerols potently reduce inflammation
- Relieves migraine and tension headache pain
- The warming effect increases circulation
- Settles nausea and vomiting
- Massage diluted ginger oil on temples, forehead, and neck
- Apply to a warm compress and inhale deeply
- Add to carrier oil for a full body massage
- Mix with honey and sip slowly as tea
Clove Essential Oil
Clove oil provides instant headache relief when applied to the forehead and temples. The potent pain-numbing compounds reduce sensitivity to head pain while improving blood circulation to clear the head.
Clove also contains antimicrobial and immune-boosting properties to prevent headaches stemming from illness and infection. The sweet, spicy aroma helps relieve nausea as well.
- Potent analgesic and pain-relieving properties
- Improves blood circulation in the brain
- Antimicrobial compounds prevent illness-related headaches
- Settles nausea and aids digestion
- Massage diluted clove oil onto the forehead, temples, and neck
- Add to a room diffuser or inhale directly
- Mix with coconut oil for a muscle and neck massage
- Add 1-2 drops to tea or water for internal benefits
How To Use Essential Oils For Headache Relief
Using essential oils to treat headaches requires proper dilution and application for quick, effective, and safe relief. Follow these guidelines when using essential oils for headaches:
Mix oils with carrier oil – Essential oils are very concentrated and can irritate skin when applied directly. Mix 2-3 drops of essential oil per 1 teaspoon of carrier oil like coconut, jojoba, or almond oil before use.
Do a patch test – Rub a diluted oil mixture onto a small skin area to check for allergic reactions or sensitivity before full application.
Apply to specific areas – Temples, forehead, upper neck, and shoulders absorb the oils well for headache relief. Use a massage or acupressure technique to enhance absorption.
Inhale the fragrance – Directly inhaling essential oil molecules during a headache provides instant effects. Can also diffuse oils in a room.
Use a warm or cold compress – Add diluted oils to a warm or cold cloth and apply to the head and neck muscles to ease tension and pain.
Take an oil-infused bath – Add a few drops of essential oils to a warm bath then soak to absorb the aroma and properties.
Use rollerball applicators – Fill a rollerball container with diluted oils for easy headache relief on the go. Can roll onto temples as needed.
Essential Oil Precautions
While essential oils are generally safe and natural, take these precautions when using them for headaches:
- Perform a patch test before first use to check for allergic reactions
- Dilute oils properly with a carrier oil to prevent skin irritation
- Avoid getting oils in the eyes, nose, and mouth
- Test on a small skin area before using it on children
- Consult a doctor before use if pregnant, nursing, on medication, or with health conditions
- Store oils properly in dark glass bottles out of sunlight
- Do not ingest essential oils unless under the guidance of an aromatherapist
Using high-quality, pure essential oils as directed can provide safe, effective headache relief without medication side effects. Pay attention to your body and discontinue use if any irritation develops. With proper usage, essential oils can be an excellent addition to your pain relief toolbox.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I choose high-quality essential oils?
Choose a reputable brand that sells 100% pure, therapeutic-grade oils. Avoid oils labeled “fragrance oils” or “perfume oils” as they are likely synthetic. High-quality oils will have the botanical plant name and extraction method on the label.
What are the best carrier oils to dilute essential oils?
Some of the best carrier oils are coconut, jojoba, almond, avocado, grapeseed, olive, or sweet almond oils. Avoid heavier oils that could clog pores. Use organic, unrefined oils. Test for skin sensitivity.
What are the best essential oils to use for migraine relief?
Some of the best oils for migraine relief are peppermint, lavender, chamomile, basil, and frankincense. They reduce inflammation, ease nausea, relax muscles, and increase circulation in the brain.
How much diluted essential oil should I use at one time?
Use sparingly – 1-3 drops of essential oil diluted in 1 teaspoon of carrier oil is enough. Only need a small amount to massage into the temples, forehead, and back of the neck.
How often can I use essential oils for headache relief?
Essential oils can be used as needed for headaches. Use up to 1-2 times per day. Taking breaks prevents any skin sensitization. Always dilute oils properly before each use.
Essential oils are a fast-acting, effective remedy for headaches and migraines. Their anti-inflammatory, analgesic, relaxing, and stimulating properties can provide safe, natural relief without medication side effects or risks.
Oils like peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus, and rosemary ease muscle tension and head pain when applied topically. Chamomile, frankincense, and marjoram relieve anxiety and stress that trigger headaches.
Be sure to dilute essential oils properly with carrier oil and use sparingly on the temples, forehead, and neck. With aromatherapy and mind-body relaxation, essential oils can help you say goodbye to debilitating headaches.
Mustafa Al Mahmud is a passionate medical writer and health enthusiast. He is excited to share his knowledge and make reliable health information more accessible through Quick Medico. Mustafa aims to write about common diseases, medications, wellness topics, and the latest health research in easy-to-understand language. He believes clear and accurate health communication empowers readers to take charge of their well-being. In his free time, Mustafa enjoys hiking, cooking, and spending time with his family.