Relieving headaches with aromatherapy | Essential oils for tension headaches
There are several different kinds of headache, and various ways to relieve the pain without using medicine. The two methods for achieving this are to either expand the blood vessels around the head or contract them, as either way will attack the causes of the pain. Today, I’ll be looking at essential oils that help alleviate tension headaches, and the best way of using them.
Tension headaches and remedies
A tension headache is a headache caused by excessive contraction of the head and neck muscles. Often caused by working for too long on smartphones or computers, or from conditions like tension or stress, the pain is characterised by a tightening across the back of the head leading – as we know! – to extreme discomfort. In many cases it will be accompanied by stiffness of the shoulders and neck, or the eye strain known as asthenopia.
This type of headache can often be relieved by warming the shoulders and neck, thus dilating the blood vessels there and relaxing the nerves. Bathing, as well as putting a warm pad on the neck and shoulders, can also have a good effect.
Also, massage is known to have analgesic effects, especially on the shoulders, neck, back, head, and around the eyes and temples.
Research results show that peppermint could be an effective agent for alleviating tension headaches. There is also data to suggest that the main ingredient, menthol, while having no anti-inflammatory properties, has an antinociceptive action. This is thought to be effective against headaches by a mechanism that causes a local paralysis effect, thus minimising the pain. It is reported that the dilution ratio of the essential oil doesn’t change in effectiveness between 0.1% up to even 10%, and it is the scent of mint that works to relieve pain.
Methyl salicylate also shows an analgesic action by the same mechanism as that seen with menthol. In addition, blood vessels located near the painful area are dilated, promoting blood flow. The essential oil called wintergreen contains more than 98% of methyl salicylate as its natural component, and is considered to be an effective essential oil to help relieve tension headaches. However, it’s best to use it at a low concentration, because the scent is stimulating and has a strong action. Pregnant women should take care before using it. Also, as a contraindication, those who have an aspirin allergy should avoid using it to excess too.
For marjoram, studies have shown that the sympathetic nerve is suppressed, the parasympathetic nerve is activated, and the function to dilate blood vessels is increased.
Relaxing the muscles may lead to alleviation of tension type headaches. As far as the relaxation effects are concerned, reports suggest that lavender has a strong function for relieving mental stress, and its essential oil is effective for headaches.
From my own experience, I think that lavender and marjoram can be expected to have a positive effect on headaches induced by mental or emotional factors such as stress, depression, irritation, anxiety and tension.
Finally, clove, cinnamon leaf, ginger, thyme and copaiba oil are also recommended as essential oils to relieve pain inflammation. For more information, please see this article. From my personal experience again, I have noticed the positive effect of gradually softening unpleasant headache pain using copaiba oil.
In the next blog I’ll be showing you how to make a bath salt and aromatic gel effective for resolving tension headaches. Join me then!