Headaches and Essential Oils

Posted by Gritman Corporation on

Headaches commonly occur. In fact 90% of all headaches are tension based. Headaches can be a common reason for missing work or school. They can be severe enough for the person to lie down. 

Stress causes tension which causes muscles to contract. So how can essential oils help? Mental stress alone can elicit muscle contraction through the limbic system. This is the system that is most responsive to essential oils. The sense of smell is directly connected to the limbic system. Just inhaling essential oils can make a difference.

What oils help to dissolve tension? Lavender is the most popular oil for tension. The chemical associated with this calming action is an ester called Linalool Acetate. This chemical is also found in Clary Sage and in some years this oil has a higher amount of Linalool Acetate than Lavender. Orange Bergamot also has a high percentage of Linalool Acetate, and so does Red Mandarin. 

There are also the chamomiles Roman and Blue. Roman Chamomile has a high percentage of esters so it is antispasmodic and calming. Roman is especially good if the stressor is external such as school or work pressures. Blue chamomile is also antispasmodic but from a different chemical group called sesquiterpenes. The Blue color comes from chamazulene, a very effective antispasmodic. The Blue oil works especially well if the stressors are coming from within. "I will never make it., Will I be good enough?, or I have to pass this test or my life is over." This kind of internal thinking can put vast amounts of pressure on yourself and you get a headache.

Roman is good for external pressures and Blue is good for internal pressures. Once you understand the differences you can apply more successfully.

Peppermint can also help with a headache. Peppermint cools and sometimes has a freezing effect. This lessens pain or the body to feel pain. The cold also relieves inflammation. Often a cold cloth to the back of the neck is helpful. With peppermint in the water, the effectiveness is increased.  Because of peppermint's special properties, it is also recommended for migraines. Peppermint Midwest has more menthol or cooling properties than Peppermint Northwest which has more esters. Both are good for headaches but through different actions. Some headaches especially if there is heat at the back of the head and shoulders will respond better to a colder oil and if the headache is more about tension, the high ester oil will be better. They both work just in different ways.

The old traditional aromatherapy treatment for headache is lavender and peppermint. Many aromatherapists love to use cotton balls. You can pull a ball in half putting one drop of lavender and peppermint on each half. Then stick the cotton into your ears. This bathes the head in oil vapors while your nose is breathing it in. After 10-20 minutes take the cotton from the ears, the headache should be gone or greatly improved.

Relaxing in a hot bath with peppermint and lavender is also helpful. You may just want to use the lavender as peppermint can cool the water no matter how hot it is.  Make sure you test your tub and know that it can with stand the oils. Most oils will dissolve plastic coating on some fiberglass tubs. Cast iron or enamel tubs are best. Blue Chamomile will leave a blue ring around the tub and may take several washings before it goes away. 

Massage with the oils noted above can also be very helpful in relieving headaches especially when the massage focuses on the neck, shoulders, and temples. 

You can play around with these oils and see which ones are most effective for you. Here is a place to begin

10 drops Lavender

10 drops Clary sage

10 drops Bergamot

05 drops Roman Chamomile

05 drops Peppermint

Add to 1 oz carrier or bath water




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