Essential oils for migraines and headaches

essential oils for migrainesWhile some people may suffer from an occasional headache or migraine, for others, the pain can be chronic and they might not be aware that there are essential oils for migraines.

Most people who get a headache or migraine reach for quick and easy solutions like ibuprofen. Before long, the pain is gone. Sadly, about four million Americans suffer from chronic migraines, and this solution just doesn’t work for most. Research, including anecdotal evidence, suggests that you can use essential oil for migraine relief.


One of the benefits beyond treating the actual pain is that the essential oils for migraines don’t have a long list of side effects

Essential oils for migraines and headache

If you suffer from headaches on a regular basis and want to know which essential oils are good for migraines, then read on. Essential oil can be used in a variety of ways to treat headaches and migraines.

When it comes to essential oil for migraines, it helps to keep the cause of the pain in mind when deciding which oil to use. Headaches and migraines can be due to stress and anxiety, food allergies, hormonal fluctuations, or associated with other chronic conditions such as neck and back problems.

Here’s a look at some of the best essential oils for migraines:


It helps soothe the nervous system and supports a healthy response to stress. Many people apply the oil to their forehead.


This oil has an analgesic action along with a relaxing effect. It can be massaged into the forehead or placed in a room diffuser for inhaling.


A lesser-known oil that is able to lift spirits, which is helpful when you have a headache. It can be applied topically to the forehead and the back of the neck.


It promotes relaxation throughout the entire body, including the muscles, nerves, and the brain. One of the best approaches for this oil is to add it to a warm bath.


This oil is refreshing and helps reduce mental fatigue associated with headache pain. It is also good for the digestive system, which makes it a helpful remedy for gastric-based headaches. Massaging it into the forehead, inhaling it with the use of a diffuser, or using it in a warm bath are all good options.


Known to strengthen brain tissue and help relieve anxiety. It has a warming action, which can relieve tight muscles. Massaging marjoram oil into pain points is the best way to use it for headaches.

Clary sage

This oil comes from a steam distillation of the flowering plant. It is known to be very soothing to the skin. Although it has a reputation for helping women balance hormone levels, it is being used more often now for headaches, especially those induced by hormonal fluctuations. For best results, rub it into the forehead.


It can help people overcome fatigue and depression associated with chronic headaches or migraines. Both fatigue and depression can make headaches worse, and jasmine oil acts as a stimulant. It is best to inhale this oil through a room diffuser.


This is used often in several parts of Europe. It is known to soothe inflammation and curb tension. Helichrysum, which comes from the sunflower family, is often used to support healthy looking skin. For headaches, sprinkle the oil on a cold compress and apply it to the forehead, the back of the neck, or place a few drops on your pillow before you go to sleep.


The analgesic and stimulating properties of rosemary are known to soothe the pain associated with headaches. This oil is also helpful in terms of boosting energy. It is one of the most popular natural headache remedies. Diffuse rosemary oil or add a few drops to a compress. You can also massage a few drops into your chest.


This oil can boost mood, increase energy, and re-balance neurotransmitters to help prevent depression. Lemongrass can be applied topically to the forehead, shoulders, and neck. Some people also consume small amounts.


It quickly improves mood and relaxes the nerves. Sandalwood oil can be added to a bath or used in a room diffuser.


This oil has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is known for relaxing tension in blood vessels and capillaries. It can be applied to the forehead or back of neck and shoulders. It can also be inhaled.


This is oil that comes from a small tree common in southern Italy, France, and Turkey. The fruit on the tree is a cross between a sweet lemon and a Seville orange. The scent can help relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. It can also improve blood circulation. Add a couple drops of the oil to a carrier oil and rub it into the skin. Bergamot oil is sensitive to the sun, so after applying it, avoid exposure to sunlight.


It can help reduce pain and inflammation and supports detoxification of the body when inhaled or applied topically. Birch oil can be added to a carrier oil and massaged into the forehead or the back of the neck. It can also be added to a room diffuser.

Ways to use essential oils for migraines and headaches

As mentioned in the essential oils listed above, there are different ways to use oils for migraines and headaches. Some people find that during a migraine attack, they become sensitive to scents, so treating the pain that comes with a migraine or severe headache can be a little tricky. Before diving right in and trying a specific application, add a single drop of the oil to a cotton ball for a quick smell. If the fragrance doesn’t offend you in any way, then you can try one of the following methods:

Topical application/massage

Dilute 10 to 12 drops of the essential oil from the above list into one oz. of carrier oil. A carrier oil is another oil, such as coconut oil, almond oil, or even olive oil that works well with your other oils and can be gently massaged into the forehead, shoulders, or back of the neck.


In recent years, room diffusers have become very popular. Each diffuser should come with instructions and you should follow those instructions for set-up and use. You can use a variety of essential oils in a diffuser throughout the day or at night to ease or prevent headaches and migraines.


There are different ways to inhale essential oils, including with a diffuser, but you can also rub a couple drops of essential oil in the palms of your hands and then cup your hands over your nose and take four to six deep, slow breaths. You can also add a few drops to a cotton ball, place it in a zip-lock bag, and take it with you wherever you go. Add a few drops of essential oil to a bowl of boiling water, drape a towel over your head, and then breathe in the steam if your headache is related to a sinus problem.


With a compress, the best approach is to dilute five drops of the chosen essential oil in a tablespoon of the carrier oil and then add this to about a quart of cold water in a bowl. Soak a cloth in the bowl and then use it to apply as a compress on the forehead or the back of the neck.

Aromatherapy bath

This is a popular application method for relieving headaches and migraines. You simply add about five drops of the essential oil to half a cup of milk or a tablespoon of carrier oil. For migraines, it is advisable to add a cup of Epsom salt too. This will help replenish your magnesium levels as magnesium deficiency can often trigger an attack.

There are many essential oils for migraines recipes you can choose from. A quick search online or at your local library will turn up a number of combinations that can help soothe pain and eliminate the fatigue that accompanies chronic headaches.

Essential oils for migraines and headaches risks

Essential oils for migraines are generally safe and don’t come with the same side effects that many migraine and headache medications do. The biggest risk associated with using essential oils is skin irritation or an allergic reaction. Your oil should not cause stinging, burning, redness, or a rash. The reason you dilute all essential oils in a carrier oil is to lower the possibility or any irritation. Those who are concerned about a reaction can do a small test spot on the skin before applying a large amount of the oil.

People have a tendency to want to place essential oils on their temples. While this may be effective for some individuals, we caution you—it is important to avoid the area close to your eyes. If essential oils get in your eyes, it can damage your corneas.

There are few essential oils recommended for infants under the age of one or for pregnant and breastfeeding women. We can tell you that lavender and rosemary oil can be dangerous.


When used properly, essential oils can be really helpful when it comes to combating headaches and migraines. One extra bonus is that a little goes a long way, so you won’t have to break the bank in order to use this form of headache treatment.

If you are thinking of including essential oils in your regular headache or migraine treatment routine, you might want to discuss it with a healthcare professional. Some people have other pre-existing conditions that can be complicated by essential oils so talking to a doctor just might help avoid any added aggravation.

Related: Treat chronic migraine headaches naturally at home


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