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People can use essential oils as home remedies for a variety of ailments. But is using essential oils an effective way to relieve headaches, and if so, which essential oils are best?

Essential oils are concentrated liquids extracted from plants. Aromatherapy is a type of alternative medicine based on the use of these oils. Aromatherapists believe that each essential oil offers a different set of health benefits.

Research does support some of the health benefits of certain essential oils. This article explores five of the best essential oils for treating headaches, according to supporting scientific evidence.

More than half of the adult population worldwide experiences occasional headaches, with the most common type being tension headaches.

Many people treat their headaches with over-the-counter or prescription medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Others may seek the help of natural treatments, including essential oils.

Several studies show specific essential oils may be beneficial for headaches. These include the below.

1. Lavender oil

People often use lavender to improve sleep and reduce stress, anxiety, or depression. Many individuals also believe it can help relieve migraine headaches triggered by stress.

One older study suggests that inhaling lavender as an essential oil can be a safe and effective treatment to manage migraine headaches. More recent research also supports this finding.

2. Rosemary oil

Practitioners have traditionally used rosemary oil to treat a variety of ailments. A 2015 systematic review of essential oils suggests that rosemary oil may have some anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.

Another study suggests that rosemary oil may have pain-alleviating properties and may be more effective in easing pain when individuals combine it therapeutically with analgesic drugs.

The above research indicates that rosemary oil may help reduce the pain associated with a headache. However, more studies on humans are necessary before scientists can confirm this finding.

3. Peppermint oil

People have been using peppermint as medicine for thousands of years. It is one of the most popular essential oils for treating headaches.

The review of published studies on essential oils states that applying peppermint oil to the temples and forehead helps ease tension headaches.

The active ingredient in peppermint oil is menthol — research shows this substance also may be effective in treating migraines when a person applies it in gel form to the head.

4. Chamomile oil

People traditionally drink chamomile tea to relax, unwind, and soothe symptoms of discomfort, pain, or congestion from allergies or a cold. Chamomile oil may have a similar effect in helping reduce a range of inflammations throughout the body.

Older research shows that chamomile oil might improve some symptoms of anxiety and depression. Since some headaches can be due to anxiety or stress, relieving stress with chamomile oil may help alleviate the headache.

However, the anti-inflammatory properties of chamomile themselves may also reduce a headache, though more research is necessary to investigate its health benefits.

5. Eucalyptus oil

People also traditionally use eucalyptus to clear sinuses and reduce inflammation throughout the body.

Individuals with a respiratory illness or asthma can sometimes benefit from inhaling eucalyptus, which may ease their symptoms.

Additionally, there is evidence it may help treat muscle and joint pain and regulate the nervous system to reduce headaches. One older study found that inhaled eucalyptus oil was effective for relieving pain and lowering blood pressure.

There are several different ways that people can use essential oils to treat a headache, including:

  • Applying oil to the temples or forehead: A person needs to dilute essential oils with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, before applying them to the skin. Once diluted, the individual can massage the oil into their temples and across their forehead.
  • Inhaling oil: People can inhale essential oils by adding a few drops to a tissue, holding the tissue under the nose, and breathing deeply.
  • Using a compress: A person can create a compress by soaking a towel in cold water with a few drops of essential oil. They can then apply the compress to the forehead or neck.
  • Adding oil to the bath: An individual can add a few drops of essential oil to a hot bath.

Essential oil brands that come with medical recommendations include:

Snow Lotus Essential Oils

Floracopeia Essential Oils

Mountain Herbs Essential Oils

As with many alternative remedies, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate essential oils. For this reason, it is important to buy a reputable brand.

Essential oils are generally safe when a person uses them properly. If an individual does not dilute an oil into a carrier oil before application, it could cause skin irritation.

Some people are also allergic to essential oils, even in their diluted form, so it may be helpful to put a small amount on a patch of skin to test for any allergic reaction first. If there is no reaction within 48 hours, then the oil is safe to use.

It may be helpful to review a safety guide on best practices for using essential oils. If an individual has any existing health conditions, it is a good idea to speak with a doctor before using these substances.

People have used essential oils for generations, both for relaxation and for treating a variety of ailments. Some scientific evidence suggests that specific essential oils might be particularly beneficial for reducing headache symptoms. These are lavender, rosemary, peppermint, chamomile, and eucalyptus oils.