Scientific progress in the formulation of medication has brought us immense benefits in pain management, control and prevention. New treatments emerge all the time, as migraine and its causes are more thoroughly understood.
Given the complex nature of the condition, drug medication isn’t the only answer, however. Not only are commonly prescribed drugs often habit forming, incorrect use can actually make the condition worse, causing, for instance, rebound headaches and over-dependency.
A healthy lifestyle, that illusive standard we all search for, is often just out of reach in today’s fast-paced world. We know we ought to eat better, avoid migraine triggers like processed foods and alcohol or stressful situations, but it’s not easy. Juggling working lunches, kid’s outings, social gatherings and household routines often mean we don’t get time to draw breath, let alone slow down and smell the roses. Women still shoulder the majority of child and home care alongside breadwinning, and this possibly contributes to the statistics at show migraine is more common among women than men.
While not suggesting women lead exclusively stressful lives, ways of incorporating migraine relief in ways that don’t interfere with normal daily routines are popular. This is especially true if those ways also give an alternative to increasing current medication.
Essential oils, natural, convenient, pleasant to use, safe and with no side effects are just such an alternative. While much of the evidence is anecdotal, so many enthusiastic users can’t all be wrong. Even traditional medical practices often use aromatherapy to encourage relaxation and change the ways we perceive pain.
Common Essential Oils Used for Migraine Relief
If you want to try essential oils and gauge their effectiveness for yourself, here are the most commonly used oils:
- Rosewood. This oil is thought to ease stress and tension, two big contributors to migraine pain. It also has properties that aid blood circulation.
- Lavender. The fresh, invigorating fragrance of lavender is not only refreshing, its anti-inflammatory properties are soothing and relaxing. It also has sedative and antidepressant qualities and there is some evidence it is effective in the treatment of neurological conditions. You can use it throughout the day to give the senses a boost and help you stay functional.
- Peppermint. This is an ancient treatment, not only for headache relief but also for stomach problems, colds and flu. Some people are sensitive to peppermint oil, but it’s possible to dilute the effect by mixing it with olive or coconut oil.
- Eucalyptus Oil. This has expectorant qualities as well as being anti-inflammatory. Many migraine sufferers find it brings quick and lasting relief from sinus pressure, which can combine with other conditions to produce migraine. Beneficial qualities include a reduction in blood pressure, antibacterial and anti-viral properties.
- Rosemary. With anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, rosemary essential oil has long been a popular remedy in folk medicine. It is thought to aid digestion and soothe upset stomachs, have a calming effect on emotions and improve alertness.
Using Essential Oils for Migraine Relief
Essential oils can be either massaged directly into the skin, or inhaled. Some, such as Lavender, are also pleasant when added to hot bathwater. One of the best ways to inhale essential oils is either to put a few drops in hot water and inhale the steam, or for a portable method try adding a drop or two to a tissue or small cotton ball. It is best to dilute oils before using them, and do a small patch test on your skin if you’ve never used essential oils before.
For Migraine Headaches — Peppermint oil or lavender oil is massaged into the temples or the back of the neck and can help relieve pain and other symptoms such as feelings of nausea or anxiety.
For Tension Headaches — Many migraine sufferers also have tension-type headaches that, if left untreated, can develop into full-blown migraine episodes. Treating these headaches with essential oils may help to abort a possible migraine development. Eucalyptus, peppermint or lavender massaged gently into forehead, wrists or temples can give relief. Adding a few drops of lavender oil to bathwater at bedtime can aid relaxation and promote more restful sleep.
Low Blood Sugar Headaches — missing meals can trigger migraine and bring on other symptoms like dizziness and feelings of sickness when blood sugar levels drop. The combination of equal parts rosemary, coconut oil and lavender can help when it’s applied topically to the back of the neck, temples or forehead. Rosemary oil can be taken internally, so it’s easy to add one drop to a suitable drink.
If you try essential oils to treat your own migraines, remember to note down what you used, and if it helped, in your migraine diary. This way you can quickly refer back, and always choose the right oil to get the fastest relief depending on your circumstances.