Migraines are a throbbing headache on one side of the head, often accompanied by nausea and impairment of vision. If you suffer from recurring migraines you know how debilitating they can be. The causes of migraines vary, but the good news is that information is available to help and there is hope for long-lasting solutions. Essential oils are an important part of the healing process, and can rid you of your migraine while providing you added physical and mental benefits.
Causes of Migraines
Although people with long-standing migraines may think that their condition is a natural but regrettable part of their lives, there is usually a logical reason for the pain. The most dramatic reason for a migraine is trauma suffered to the head. This category does not only include professional boxers and rugby players. Even falling on an icy road is a risk to your head. The older we get the more vulnerable we are to slipping and falling, and injuring our head.
Sudden changes in weather may also trigger a migraine in some people. Hot, dry winds and thunderstorms are usually the worst culprits. Unfortunately, there is very little we can do to change the weather, so prepping our minds and bodies to react differently to weather changes is important.
Something we can influence is the frequency that we eat. Skipping meals and letting your blood glucose levels fall too low is a known cause for a migraine attack. If you notice that your head starts hurting after a longish fast, you may find that a proper meal will take care of the headache.
Some women are prone to having migraines once a month, coinciding with their menstruation cycle. This is due to a drop in oestrogen levels just prior to menstruation.
Stress is also a common cause of migraines. Emotional, mental and physical stress all play a part and may originate within us or may be the result of difficult or challenging circumstances around us. As the mind and the body are intimately connected, a negative emotional state, whether caused by worry, grief or anger, can manifest in clenched teeth and jaws as well as reduced muscle movement which can also lead to a migraine, if it continues for too long. Noise, glaring lights and other disruptive phenomena are also stress-inducing and may cause migraines.
5 Essential Oil Treatments for Migraines
Essential oils are an excellent aid in treating migraines. Their uplifting, pain-reducing, calming, stimulating effects hit at the root cause of the pain, in your muscular and nervous systems. Their added benefit is that they also work on the stress and anguish associated with migraines. Here are 5 essential oils, that are very valuable in treating migraines and that we recommend as part of a holistic solution.
Lavender Essential Oil is used to treat migraines caused by anxiety and stress. The anti-depressant and nerve-calming qualities of Lavender Essential Oil act to pacify the mind and relax the body, loosening the migraine’s grip on the head.
Lavender Essential Oil also has a slightly sedative effect. It helps to reduce blood pressure and calm the mind. The primary action of Lavender Essential Oil, both mentally and physically, is balancing and regulating. It will reduce muscular pain, bring down inflammation and make it easier to tolerate the pain caused by migraines. The effect of lavender is thus soothing and calming.
A study published in the European Neurology Journal found that inhaling Lavender Essential Oil has a statistically significant effect on migraine pain. In this study, 92 of the 147 study subjects with “definitive diagnosis of migraine” had a reaction to lavender. The researchers’ conclusion was that Lavender Essential Oil “may be an effective and safe treatment modality in acute management of migraine headaches.”
APPLICATION: For a soothing migraine treatment, steep a compress in cold water with a few drops of Lavender Essential Oil and apply on the forehead and the temples.
Peppermint Essential Oil is a wonderful cure for headaches, including migraines. It has a stimulating effect on the brain and it reduces pain considerably. Peppermint is a cephalic and will clear your thoughts, along with your sinuses.
Peppermint Essential Oil increases blood flow to the head and relaxes tense muscles, which can often be an underlying cause of migraines. It has a cooling effect on the body and will refresh the mind. Peppermint acts on the pain by numbing it and often brings immediate relief.
Not everyone can tolerate the smell of Peppermint Essential Oil once the pain has started. If you are one of these people you may want to look at using an alternative essential oil treatment. Another option is to combine Peppermint Essential Oil with Lavender Essential Oil and so reduce the offending smell.
Peppermint and lavender also complement each other. While peppermint is a stimulant, lavender acts as a sedative. Combining these two opposite effects in one treatment is an effective way to bring the pain down, as the pharmacological industry well knows, having used stimulating and sedative ingredients side by side in many headache drugs.
APPLICATION: As soon as the pain starts, apply a cold compress with Peppermint Essential Oil on its own, or mixed with Lavender Essential Oil, to the forehead and the temples.
Rosemary Essential Oil is a stimulating, analgesic which has an invigorating effect on the Central Nervous System. It reduces pain without being sedative and can be used when alertness is needed, in spite of the headache.
Rosemary Essential Oil relaxes stiff, tired muscles and can be massaged in a carrier oil onto the neck for a soothing restoring effect on the head. Rosemary is anti-inflammatory. It improves memory and reduces stress. It may help to minimise the underlying condition of emotionally charged migraines.
APPLICATION: For a migraine caused by hard mental work, use Rosemary Essential Oil in a cold compress and apply on the forehead and the temples. You can also add a few drops of Rosemary Essential Oil in your tea or coffee. For a reviving massage oil, blend a couple of drops of Rosemary, Peppermint and Lavender Essential Oils into a carrier oil and massage onto the forehead, temples and the neck.
Marjoram Essential Oil is a vasodilator that helps migraines by opening up veins and capillaries and thus facilitating freer blood circulation. Apart from bringing extra oxygen into the musculature, the increased circulation carries out toxins, which, if left to accumulate, will lead to headaches and other painful conditions.
Marjoram, with its warming qualities, has a calming effect on both the mind and the body. It reduces nervous tension while also strengthening the nerves. It may help with migraines caused by intense emotional stress as it can induce a temporary numbness on emotions.
The analgesic, or painkilling, qualities of Marjoram Essential Oil eases muscular pain and lessens physical sensation on the whole.
Added to bath water with Lavender Essential Oil, Marjoram Essential Oil helps with insomnia, bringing much-needed relief to the migraine patient. (You may wish to take marjoram’s sedating property into account if you need to be alert for work, to drive, or for another reason.)
APPLICATION: For a simple first aid to migraines, rub Marjoram Essential Oil undiluted onto your temples and your forehead.
Eucalyptus Essential Oil is a fresh, invigorating migraine reliever that works by opening up sinuses and clearing up congestion in the head and the chest.
70-85% of Eucalyptus Essential Oil consists of eucalyptol, also known as cineole. According to the Respiratory Medicine Journal (2003) eucalyptol controlled “hypersecretion” of mucus, and had an effect on asthma.
In another study conducted in 2004, cineole was discovered to be effective against rhinosinusitis, or the inflammation of paranasal sinuses and the nasal cavity. According to The Laryngoscope Journal (2004), as a result of the eucalyptus treatment, the patients experience less headache on bending and less forehead headache.
Eucalyptus Essential Oil is an analgesic and an antineuralgic. It relieves muscular as well as nervous pain. It is also an expectorant and acts to rid the body of toxins and dangerous microorganisms.
APPLICATION: To clear the air passages in the head, throat and chest, add a few drops of Eucalyptus Essential Oil in hot water and inhale the eucalyptol-rich steam. Alternatively, mix a similar amount of Eucalyptus Essential Oil in carrier oil and rub on your temples, forehead, chest, throat and back of the neck.
For all migraine types, and regardless of which essential oil is applied or what other treatments you may use, it is better to apply the remedy as soon as the first migraine symptoms appear. It is always easier to prevent a budding headache than to turn a full-blown migraine assault around.
Migraines require a long-term plan, however. Reacting to the symptoms will never eradicate the underlying cause. To do that, you may need to make some important lifestyle changes, and this, together with essential oil treatments, can become a preventative rather than reactive cure to migraines.
Here are some lifestyle changes that may assist in your long-term migraine treatment plan.
All bodily and mental functions require sufficient sleep. Most adults make do with less sleep than their bodies actually require. Catching up on weekends is not enough. To prevent migraines, ample and regular sleep is absolutely needed.
Regular exercise is necessary to eliminate chemical waste products, tone muscles and nerves, and allow the body to achieve a calm, relaxed state. Moving your body also makes it so much less probable for your mind to stew on stress or worries.
Yoga, meditation and contemplation as well as a satisfying family and social life will act together to release tension in your body and mind, making it possible for you to lead a migraine-free life.
A low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet is a lifestyle change you can make which allows your body to burn fat for energy and thereby balance your blood sugar levels. They will remain steady for longer periods of time thereby reducing headache or migraine episodes.
Keep a food diary and mark down foodstuffs that especially bring on a migraine attack. Known triggers behind migraines are foods containing the following chemicals:
- Amines – this organic compound appears naturally in avocados, cherries, dates, mangos, mushrooms, spinach, ham, liver, salami, sausages
- Histamines – this compound is found in chocolate, cheese, beer and red wine
- Nitrates – this ester of nitric acid can be found in aspirin, any foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG), as well as bacon, ham, hot dogs
You may also want to avoid cold snacks or cold foods, such as ice creams and iced drinks.
A Holistic Approach
Curing a migraine is not always easy. It is a matter of dedication, detective work and commitment. Developing a daily health routine and implementing some basic good lifestyle changes can deal a death blow to this exhausting illness.
In the fight against migraines, essential oils are an important natural weapon that should not be ignored.