The nose knows, or at least that is what supporters of aromatherapy are always trying to tell us. It turns out that they are mostly right, but people who live with migraine conditions triggered by certain scents have every right to be skeptical of these claims. Since aromatherapy is mostly based on the symptomatic healing power of essential oils, migraine patients may derive pain and stress relief from some scents.
There is a certain complexity to aromatherapy that can be simplified if you think about it in terms of the migraine condition. Think about how medical researchers have not yet pinpointed the exact cause of migraines; we know it is more than just a vascular condition, and we know that it involves a neurochemical process. We also know that behavior modification can go a long way when it comes to treating certain migraine conditions.
Why do some people get chronic migraines with auras and scent triggers? A similar question can be made in relation to how some people react to essential oils; for example: The culinary herb coriander, also known as cilantro, is an amazing source of vitamins A, C and K as well as minerals and amino acids. We can safely say that cilantro is good for everyone; many people find it delicious and love its scent, but others hate it. We just don't know why this preference exists.
How Essential Oils Are Used in AromatherapyThe use of plant extracts for medicinal purposes dates back to ancient times, but essential oils and the word aromatherapy were formalized by a French chemist before World War II. Essential oils are powerful concentrates of plants, herbs and minerals. These oils are usually bottled or placed in diffusers; the idea is to be exposed to the rich aroma and benefit from its therapeutic properties.
As its name implies, aromatherapy is therapeutic and not curative. It can provide relief for some migraine symptoms, but it cannot stop migraines. To this effect, aromatherapy can be described as a symptomatic approach to migraine relief. The scents emitted by essential oils tend to have a comforting effect on the senses, which in turn can relieve the underlying stress and negative excitability that so often triggers migraine episodes.
If you only suffer migraine episodes occasionally, there is a very good chance that essential oils will help you deal with the attack by bringing almost immediate comfort. Peppermint, lavender and eucalyptus are often recommended in this regard. For chronic migraine patients, the choice of essential oils may require a bit of trial and error.
Dealing with Scent TriggersSome chronic migraine patients will feel an aura upon being exposed to certain scents. Roasted coffee beans, perfume and industrial cleaners are often cited as migraine scent triggers. Interestingly, most scents believed to trigger migraines are chemical, except for coffee.
If you have one or more known migraine scent triggers, you may want to consult an aromatherapist before using essential oils. Some oils are considered safe for just about everyone, including:
- Orange blossom
Essential oils are typically sold at herbal shops. They tend to be pricey and come in very small bottles, but you will only need a few drops. Carrier oils made from coconut, apricot and sweet almond can be used to mix the essential oils and make them last longer.
If you are under the care of a migraine specialist, you should ask for his or her opinion before trying any of the essential oils mentioned before.
Image courtesy of Naomi King