Aromatherapy Headache

For thousands of years aromatherapy headache treatments have been used for migraine and tension headache. You may have heard of it before this but wondered how aromatheray and headache go together. Indeed, until modern medicine discovered the pills and pharmaceuticals that would treat headaches, scents of oils and plants were about the only things used. Now, we have purified essential oils to use.

The lack of treatment was so profound that stories in literature talk about people trying to sleep off a "sick headache" by putting a wet cloth on their heads that was scented with lavender.

Let's get one thing straight first of all: aromatherapy has not been shown to stop an acute headache like a migraine. But remember, one of the things that accompanies migraine is anxiety, so part of the treatment of headaches in general is to practice stress reduction techniques such as biofeedback techniques, and to use aids that may reduce stress and anxiety.

How Does Aromatherapy Work?

One of the official terms used in aromatherapy headache work is aromachology which is the study and use of essential oils to promote well being.

One of the main theories is that certain scents may have an effect on the limbic center of the brain (see diagram). Aromatherapy headache effects The limbic center of the brain is responsible for emotions that are common to all humans, and certain basic behaviors such as the one that induces the females to nurse and protect their toddlers, or the one which induces these animals to develop ludic behaviors (playful moods).

Emotions such as fright, love, hate, passion, and sadness all originate in the limbic system in addition to some personal identity and memory.

An article a few years ago in Contemporary OB/GYN stated:

"The exact method by which essential oils work is unknown. The relaxation effects attributed to many of these oils may be due to the chemical property of the essential oil or the method of administration. Is it the smell of an essential oil that simply makes the recipient feel good, bad, happy, or depressed? Could the essential oil work directly on the central nervous system or affect immune function? Again, the mechanism of action may be unknown but it is likely that essential oils are metabolized in ways similar to other drugs. Therefore, like other drugs, essential oils have the potential for drug-drug interactions and possibly overdose."

This is something to keep in mind if you are on daily medications and particularly if you have asthma as many of these preparations are inhaled.

Cautions With Aromatherapy Headache Treatments

As mentioned above, discuss with your doctor if you have asthma before using any type of aromatherapy.

Other considerations are:

  • Do not use if pregnant unless your doctor approves
  • Do not use if you have seizure disorder
  • Best not to use on children as they are more sensitive to some odors
  • Use only organic essential oils
  • Keep oils in a cool dark place and discard if separating
  • DO NOT ingest essential oils!

How Do I Use Aromatherapy Headache Treatment?

There are several different ways to use aromatherapy for headache treatment, such as a few drops in a warm bath, in a diffuser, and the old fashioned way of a few drops rubbed into the temples.

For more complete information on exactly what to buy and how to use it read this article on aromatherapy treatment for headaches.

Trying to figure out what aromatherapy is and how it can help your headaches can be quite confusing.

Aromatherapy treatment for headache If you have never used aromatherapy treatment or don't know what it is, you might want to read a little more about aromatherapy headache treatments and how this can impact the lifestyle of a migraineur.

When a headache hits, no matter if it is a migraine or a severe tension headache, it is important to find a quiet place and try to relax. Of course you should take your medication as soon as possible as having scented oils around will not stop the pain.

Learn some meditation techniques and use them during this time as a type of biofeedback. This will not only relax you, but help reduce the pain. Aromatherapy can be used as an adjunct here to assist with relaxation.

One of the things to remember when exploring the world of aromatherapy is that pure organic essential oils are always the best. In fact, if you can find organic oils, those are even better. Organics tend to be consistent from bottle to bottle.

I have used essential oils in a diffuser when doing yoga and it does create a sense of calm. I prefer lavender but lemon is nice too! These oils can be mixed into massage oil and you can give it to the massage therapist to use just for you. A few drops in a hot bath is excellent when trying to relax during a headache.

Which Aromatherapy Oils Are Best For Headache?

Aromatherapy essential oils
  • Lavender
has been used for stress reduction for hundreds of years and is a pleasant scent. It generally results in calming the mood.

  • Eucalyptus
has been used for headache by rubbing it on the skin, but quite frankly it doesn't work! Like menthol, it may open the nasal passages if used as an inhalant, so if you are congested with a headache this use may help.

  • Peppermint oil
has shown to have some effectiveness in treating a tension headache. The oil is mixed 10% to 90% ethanol, and rubbed lightly across the forehead. The mechanism is unknown but The American Academy of Family Practice has noted in a study by Drs Kligler and Chaudry that it most probably does work as an aromatherapy headache treatment.

  • Sandalwood
is supposed to help with mental fatigue, which can be a part of the recovery after a bad headache. Note, that although much is written about sandalwood for headaches, no studies have shown yet that it can effectively treat a headache.

Make Your Own

There are many books on the market to help you make your own oils and rubs for home use. Here is a simple one that is easy to use. Almond oil is the base that is used in all remedies of this type.

Buy a small roll on bottle and remove the roller. Fill 2/3 full with the almond oil. Add 6 drops of lavendar and 12 of peppermint oils. Clary sage oil, orange or clove oil may also help if you have anxiety during a migraine. Add a few drops of one of those too. Replace the roller and use at the onset of a headache. You can rub a little on your wrists or at the temples.

In summary, aromatherapy headache treatment can be and effective relaxation tool when it comes to treating different types of headaches.

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Kligler,B. and Chaudry S., Peppermint Oil. Am Fam Physician. 2007 Apr 1;75(7):1027-1030.

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