Stop the Throb! Can essential oils halt a headache?

Got a sore head? You’re not alone.

More people globally complain about headaches than any other medical affliction. Yet despite them being so common, the treatment options are much the same. They’re filled with chemicals and often come with nasty side effects - and they don’t always offer much relief…

Stop the Throb! Can essential oils halt a headache?

If you’ve grown weary of popping pills, are done with lying in a dark room or simply prefer all-natural remedies to pharmaceuticals, essential oils are the answer.

Read on to find out how to get rid of headaches the natural way.


1. Cluster headaches

woman touching forehead with cluster headache

If you’ve ever been struck by an agonising pain in or around one of your eyes or on one side of your head, you’ve had a cluster headache. These headaches usually strike while you’re asleep and wake you up in the most unpleasant and painful way.

What causes cluster headaches precisely is unknown, but their patterns indicate that the hypothalamus, your biological clock, may play a role.

The recommended pressure point for a cluster headache is LI-4 or Hegu, and it’s located on the back of your hand between the base of your thumb and index fingers. Massage here for one to two minutes and you may find your pain lessening. You can even massage some essential oil combined with a carrier oil into the pressure point for extra relief.

Top essential oils for cluster headaches:


2. Exertional headaches

woman experiencing exertional headache after working out

Also referred to as exercise headaches, this type of headache occurs either during or just after physical exertion. While it comes on quickly, it may take hours to dissipate, with certain people reporting days of suffering from an exertional headache that simply doesn’t subside.

Exertional headaches are not commonly linked to underlying diseases or disorders. Scientists believe that they may be caused by a sudden expansion in our arteries and veins to allow for increased blood flow during strenuous activities. This leads to higher blood pressure which impacts our skulls, and pain is the result.

The pressure points for headaches in this category are the same as for cluster headaches (Hegu). Massage the skin between the base of your thumb and index fingers for one to two minutes.

Top essential oils for exertional headaches:


3. Migraines

woman suffering from migraine

If you’re struggling with crippling pain or a pulsing ache, sometimes on just one side of your head, you may have a migraine. A migraine is a type of headache. You may also be nauseous, vomiting and unduly sensitive to bright light and loud noises. Migraines can last for hours and even stretch out to several days, and the pain they cause can be severely debilitating.

It’s not known what causes headaches of this type, although certain experts posit that migraines are the result of fleeting changes in the blood vessels, chemicals and nerves in our brains. Genetics and hormones may also play a role.

The LI-4 is the pressure point for headaches of this type. It’s on the back of your hand between the base of your thumb and your index finger. Massage this spot for one minute and then break for a minute, alternating for five minutes.

Top essential oils for migraines:


4. Sinus headaches

woman with sinus headache

Very similar to sinusitis, sinus headaches present as pressure around your cheeks, eyes and forehead, and you may find that your head throbs. They’re an indication that your sinuses are infected, and you may suffer from these types of headaches more frequently during allergy or cold season.

If you want to try pressure points for headaches like this, focus on GV24.5, or Yintang. Occasionally referred to as the third eye because of where it’s located on the body, this acupressure point is believed to help relieve runny, stuffy noses and lessen the pain of sinus headaches.

Top essential oils for sinus headaches:


5. Tension headaches

woman with tension headache

Tension headaches are characterised by mild to moderate pain, with people sometimes describing them as the feeling of a tight band around their heads. What causes tension headaches isn’t quite understood but treatment is relatively straightforward.

These headaches happen when the muscles in our scalp and neck tense up or contract. Interestingly, they tend to run in families and are most often experienced by women.

If you’re interested in pressure points for headaches, what works for those caused by tension is the skin between your forefinger and thumb. Massage this spot for between 20 and 30 seconds for relief.

Top essential oils for tension headaches:


Peppermint oil

volant peppermint essential oil

The menthol that peppermint essential oil contains will help to open your airways and clear your nasal passages of mucus. This oil also fights bacteria, one of the triggers of sinus congestion. This makes it ideal for sinus headaches.

Peppermint’s potent anti-inflammatory properties will soothe swelling should it occur around your eyes and nose in the case of a cluster headache. Just be sure to dilute it with a carrier oil and be sure not to get it in your eyes or nose! The vapours may irritate your eyes a little if you apply it to your face, but this should wear off fairly quickly.

The cooling properties of peppermint also make it ideal for migraines and tension headaches. Dilute it in carrier oil and apply it to your neck, shoulders and/or scalp to help reduce inflammation and relax the muscles.

Because peppermint is also a great muscle relaxer and pain reliever, using it post-exercise for exertional headaches is a no-brainer. Either apply it to your skin or diffuse and inhale it to help you relax.



Eucalyptus oil

volant eucalyptus essential oil

Long used by our ancestors to clear the sinuses, open up the nasal passages and relieve us of the sinus tension that underpins all headaches, eucalyptus essential oil is great for sinus headaches. This is because its powerful antimicrobial properties will help kill any germs infecting your sinuses. This is why eucalyptus is often used in steam rooms!

Either add some to a carrier oil and massage it into your pressure points, neck and face (did we mention it's also great for the skin?), especially your sinus area, or diffuse it and inhale it to help it penetrate your sinuses and clear them out.



Rosemary oil

calendula essential oil

With pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties, has been the go-to aromatherapy option for many people looking to destress and get some pain relief for many years now.

Rosemary essential oil has been shown to help relieve muscle pain and reduce depression, stress and anxiety. This makes it ideal for helping relieve migraines, tension headaches and even cluster headaches. It’s also great for your skin and hair if you use it on your face and scalp.

Rosemary oil has even been shown to improve your alertness, brain function and memory, which you’re sure to benefit from when you’re suffering from a headache while trying to go about your day!

Rosemary oil is not recommended for an exertion headache, however, as its ability to increase alertness may also increase your blood pressure, which is the last thing you want with an exertion headache



Lavender oil

volant lavender essential oil

Due to its calming, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, lavender essential oil may be what you’re looking for when searching for how to get rid of headaches.

Lavender is a top essential oil for reducing stress and anxiety and improving sleep. So if your headaches are the result of a lack of sleep because of anxiety and stress, you might be able to nip the problem in the bud by using this oil around bedtime.

Lavender oil can be massaged into your skin before bed, helping you to relax, or it can be diffused all night long, helping you fall asleep and stay asleep.



Chamomile oil

volant Roman Chamomile essential oil

Chamomile is another top oil famous for its ability to relax the body and soothe muscles. Chamomile essential oil is also an excellent sleeping tool, so you may find it easier to get the rest you need after using it to recover from the pain of a headache.

Bathe with chamomile oil, massage it into your skin or pressure points, or diffuse it before bed to help you relax, unwind and get a better sleep. It will also help reduce stress and anxiety, making it ideal for tension headaches. Chamomile has also been clinically shown to improve migraine symptoms when applied topically. 



Organic Sleep Blend

volant sleep essential oil blend

Volant’s Sleep Blend delivers all the headache-soothing properties of lavender alongside those of frankincense and palma rosa. Frankincense may alleviate your anxiety and ground you as it stimulates your immune system, and palma rosa can improve your mood and help you relax. Reducing stress and anxiety and getting a better sleep are all part of reducing your risk of headaches.



Organic Focus Blend

volant Organic Focus Blend essential oil blend

Treat yourself to the wonderful aroma of clementine, cinnamon, rosemary and vanilla bean when you try Volant Aroma’s Focus Blend. Clementine is great for your metabolism, cinnamon is good for relieving pain, and vanilla bean may help you banish the blues. And of course, the rosemary helps relieve stress, anxiety and muscle tension and pain, and it boosts your brain function to boot, making it a must for trying to get things done in the midst of a headache.

Organic Unwind

volant Organic Unwind essential oil blend

If you’re wondering how to get rid of headaches, Volant’s Organic Unwind Blend may be just the thing. It is a wonderful relaxant, combining bergamot, clary sage, and Roman chamomile essential oils. As the chamomile soothes your aches and pains and helps you relax and even get a better sleep, bergamot oil will refresh and revitalise you, and clary sage will soothe you. 



Apply essential oils topically

essential oil  drop in fingertip to apply topically

You’ll need to dilute your chosen essential oil before it comes into contact with your skin. Choose a carrier oil you like to do this, and when you’ve finished mixing your solution, massage a drop or two into your temples, forehead, neck, scalp and/or your pressure points.


Add oil to your bath

woman enjoying aromatherapy bath with essential oil to relieve headache

Add a few drops of either a single essential oil, a premade blend or a mixture you’ve come up with yourself to a hot bath. Just be sure to dilute your oils properly first. The warm water will soothe and relax your muscles, the steam will open up your airways, sinuses and blood vessels, and the oils will get to work doing everything they do best at once!


Create a hot or cold compress

compression cloth

Compresses can offer great relief when you’re struggling with a headache. Add a few drops of essential oil to your hot or cold damp towel and lay it across your face or neck. Remember to dilute whatever oil you’ve selected beforehand with a carrier oil.


Inhale the scent

woman drinking tea while enjoying the aroma scent from essential oil diffuser

Once you know what essential oil is good for headaches, one of the most effective ways to use these oils is to inhale them.

You can do this easily by adding a few drops to a diffuser and filling whatever room you’re in with the scent.

Alternatively, get an essential oil inhaler, inhale it directly from the bottle, add it to a bowl of hot water, or add a few drops to a tissue or piece of cotton wool and hold it under your nose or place it in the vents of your car.


Lavender essential oil in the treatment of migraines

A 2012 clinical trial found that, along with being an effective anti-anxiety, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, mood stabiliser and sedative agent, lavender oil may also help people who suffer from migraines.


Effect of peppermint oil on headaches

Sensitivity to the pain of headaches may be reduced by applying peppermint oil topically. In one study, a combination of ethanol and peppermint oil was applied to participants’ forehead and temples. It was found that there was a boost in cognitive performance. Subjects also felt more relaxed physically and mentally when eucalyptus oil was used in combination with peppermint oil.


Rosemary essential oil for increased well-being

Many people report that they feel better overall when using essential oils, and research is showing us how. A study of mice found that, after they’d been exposed to rosemary oil, the animals experienced increased mobility and their physical well-being was replenished.

Topical rosemary combined with menthol (found in peppermint) also reduces muscle pain, according to a human study.

And rosemary oil has been shown to help relax smooth muscles, which include blood vessels, making it ideal for relieving certain types of headaches.


Eucalyptus efficiency for treating headaches

Eucalyptus oil has long been used to activate and regulate our nervous systems due to its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant and proliferation-resistant properties. Historically, it’s been used for respiratory infections, aches and pains, headaches and for skin wounds. Researchers have also proven its efficacy in the treatment of infectious, metabolic and multifactorial diseases and its ability to lessen headache pain.

Even just inhaling eucalyptus oil can help reduce your pain, according to one study in adults.


Effect of chamomile oil on migraines

Chamomile is still a popular ingredient in ethnomedicine and it’s also been shown to be an effective treatment for migraines without aura for some people. In a double-blind, crossover, clinical trial performed on 72 patients, it was revealed that topical chamomile gel may help with migraines. It also had a positive effect on common symptoms of migraines, including the increased sensitivity to bright light and loud noises, nausea and vomiting that sufferers report.


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