Essential Oils for Migraine Relief: What the Research Says

Essential Oils for Migraine Relief: What the Research Says


Dealing with migraine attacks can be a challenging experience, causing frequent and debilitating headaches. Many individuals are seeking natural remedies to complement conventional treatments. In recent years, essential oils have gained popularity for their potential benefits in relieving migraine symptoms. In this article, we explore what the research says about essential oils and their effectiveness in migraine relief.

What are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts that capture the natural aromatic compounds responsible for a plant’s scent and flavor. They are obtained through various extraction methods, such as steam distillation or cold-pressing. Essential oils have a long history of use in traditional medicine, dating back centuries. They are known for their therapeutic properties and are commonly used in aromatherapy for their potential health benefits.

The Science behind Essential Oils and Migraine Attacks

Several studies have investigated the effects of specific essential oils on migraine symptoms. Here are some key findings:

Lavender Oil

Lavender oil has shown promise in reducing headache intensity. In a study published in the European Journal of Neurology, inhaling lavender oil for 15 minutes significantly reduced headache severity compared to a placebo group. The potential mechanisms of action include its calming and analgesic properties, which may help alleviate migraine symptoms.

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil is known for its cooling and analgesic properties. It has been shown to be effective in relieving tension headaches, which commonly coexist with migraine attacks. The menthol component in peppermint oil provides a soothing sensation and may help ease headache discomfort when applied topically.

Rosemary Oil

Rosemary oil exhibits anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. These properties make it a potential candidate for reducing migraine frequency and severity. Although more research is needed, preliminary studies suggest that rosemary oil may offer relief to individuals suffering from migraine attacks.

The mechanisms of action through which essential oils may provide migraine relief are still being investigated. However, two potential mechanisms have been proposed:

  • Activation of the trigeminal nerve: Essential oils may interact with the trigeminal nerve, which is involved in the initiation of migraine attacks. This interaction could help modulate pain perception and reduce headache intensity.
  • Inhibition of inflammatory pathways: Migraine Attacks involve inflammation in the cranial blood vessels. Essential oils may possess anti-inflammatory properties, potentially helping to alleviate migraine-related inflammation and associated symptoms.

How to Use Essential Oils for Migraine Relief

There are various methods of using essential oils for migraine relief. Here are some common approaches:


  • Direct inhalation from the bottle: Simply open the bottle of essential oil and inhale deeply for a quick relief option.

  • Use of a diffuser: Add a few drops of essential oil to a diffuser and let it disperse the aroma throughout the room, creating a calming environment.

  • Steam inhalation: Add a few drops of essential oil to a bowl of hot water. Cover your head with a towel and inhale the steam for around 10 minutes, allowing the aroma to provide relief.

Topical Application

  • Dilution with carrier oils: Essential oils are highly concentrated and should be diluted with a carrier oil, such as coconut or jojoba oil, before being applied to the skin. This helps prevent irritation or sensitization.

  • Massage on temples and forehead: Gently massage the diluted essential oil onto your temples and forehead, focusing on areas of tension or pain.

  • Application to pulse points: Apply a small amount of diluted essential oil to pulse points, such as the wrists or behind the ears, allowing the aroma to be absorbed into the bloodstream.

Oral Consumption

  • Safety considerations and proper dosage: Not all essential oils are safe for oral consumption, and dosage guidelines should be followed strictly. It is important to consult a healthcare professional before ingesting any essential oils.

  • Incorporating essential oils into foods and beverages: If deemed safe for consumption, essential oils can be added sparingly to dishes or beverages for an alternative method of intake. However, caution should always be exercised.

Potential Risks and Side Effects

While essential oils offer potential benefits, there are some risks and side effects to consider:

  • Allergic reactions: Some individuals may be allergic to specific essential oils, leading to skin rashes, respiratory issues, or other allergic symptoms. It is important to perform a patch test before using a new oil.
  • Skin irritation: Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause skin irritation if not properly diluted. Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil before applying to the skin.
  • Interaction with medications: Essential oils can interact with certain medications, including anticoagulants and anticonvulsants. Consult a healthcare professional before using essential oils if you are taking any medications.
  • Not recommended for pregnant women or children: Some essential oils are not safe for use during pregnancy or in young children. It is essential to seek guidance from a healthcare professional before using essential oils in these populations.

Research Limitations and Areas for Future Study

Although initial research suggests the potential benefits of essential oils for migraine relief, it is important to note the limitations:

  • Small sample sizes in existing studies: Many studies exploring essential oils and migraine attacks have involved small sample sizes, making it difficult to draw definitive conclusions.
  • Lack of standardized dosages and protocols: The lack of standardized dosages and protocols in essential oil studies makes it challenging to compare results accurately.
  • Need for placebo-controlled trials: Placebo-controlled trials are necessary to determine the true efficacy of essential oils for migraine relief.
  • Exploration of potential synergistic effects: Further research is needed to investigate the potential synergistic effects of combining different essential oils for migraine relief.


While essential oils show promise in providing relief for migraine attacks, it is important to approach their usage with caution. To ensure safety and effectiveness, it is recommended to consult with healthcare professionals before incorporating essential oils into your migraine management routine. They can provide personalized guidance and help you navigate the best options for your specific needs.

Jenny from Migraine Buddy

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