My introduction to essential oils almost seemed clandestine. I had been hearing a lot about them for quite some time but really hadn’t looked into them enough myself. My interest had been piqued so I reached out to a friend I knew was using them.
I originally was looking for a holistic solution to my seasonal allergies. I started using them and loved them. I was instantly on the bandwagon and haven’t looked back. It felt very fated since it was only a few months until I was struck with chronic migraines and later diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
When traditional treatment options were not working for me I was lucky to have already been using oils and able to easily incorporate them into my holistic health plan. They are now a huge part of my daily illness management and I am so happy to have a natural way to deal with many symptoms.
I have not found any abortive treatment, holistic or otherwise, that will completely stop a migraine in it’s path. My migraine-free months have been due to preventive measures, which include diet, supplements, and essential oils. However, I would never want to go through a migraine without my oils ever again. The oils make such a huge difference in my ability to cope when an attack hits. – Emily
(Above: Emily’s stash of essential oils from her favorite company, Young Living)
Our Favorite Essential Oil Blends
Below are some of the oils we use during an attack along with a few that can help prevent.
Managing mental health is an important part of preventing attacks. For this we use the following:
- Lavender and Tangerine: I use these two oils together for anxiety. They smell delicious and are quite calming and grounding.
- Christmas Spirit Blend (main notes: Cinnamon Bark, Orange, and Black Spruce): This blend lives up to it’s name, it smells just like Christmas! I use it for when I’m feeling depressed. It is incredibly uplifting and invigorating.
- Valor Blend (main notes: Black Spruce, Blue Tansy, Frankincense): This blend is great for emotional strength. I use it when anxious, depressed, or just having an overall tough day. It also happens to be great for TMJ. Because of this, I also use Valor during attacks. A couple drops along my jawline will release the tension in my jaw and keep me from unconsciously clenching and grinding my teeth. It is a reflex of mine when in an attack which will only make matters worse.
- Cedarwood, Orange, Patchouli, Vetiver: I love this blend of oils because of its earthy aroma–it reminds me of being in nature, which is one of the most calming experiences for me personally. The orange notes are energizing, while cedarwood relaxes. It’s a great blend for relaxation and uplifting spirits.
- Ylang Ylang, Lemongrass, and Bergamot: This blend is perfect for anxiety. I use it in my diffuser often for calming and relaxing myself, and even better, it smells wonderful!
- Geranium, Cypress, and Grapefruit: A VERY energizing and uplifting blend. This is a blend that really just makes me think of joy and happiness–great for those down days.
Our MVPs during a migraine attack:
- Tranquil Blend (main notes: Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Cedarwood): This is the oil I will not go without. I use it every single day for many reasons. I use this for insomnia, anxiety, muscle tension, migraines, and more. This is the oil that really gets me through an attack. I will use this at the base of my skull and on my wrists to inhale during an attack. It helps to release tension and relax overall. It’s the only hope I have for getting to sleep during an attack and just the aroma has a way of calming my whole nervous system and really reducing pain levels.
- Deep Relief Blend (main notes: Peppermint, Helichrysum, Wintergreen, Clove): The name speaks for itself, this is a huge pain reliever. I use it all over all the time for Fibro pain. I use this in a layering technique with Tranquil on the back of my neck during an attack to reduce pain and muscle tension.
- Peppermint and Lemon: I use these two oils together for nausea during an attack. I typically have this running in my diffuser the whole time and makes a HUGE difference in my nausea levels.
- Stress Away (main notes: Lime, Vanilla): This smells as heavenly as it sounds. It is certainly good for reducing stress but the what I really use this for in relation to my migraines is brain fog. Lime oil is great for focus and mental clarity. When I’m lost in the fog this is often what I reach for.
- Peppermint, Rosemary, Lavender, Eucalyptus, Spearmint, Ginger Root, and Helichrysom: This is my favorite blend to use for my migraines because it targets both the pain and the nausea while relaxing me. Many of the oils in this blend work double duty on migraines (e.g. peppermint is great for pain and nausea) so this makes it even more effective.
- Clary Sage, Lavender, Geranium, Bergamot: This blend is newer in my arsenal, and while not used for migraines directly, is perfect for my hormonal imbalances that often trigger migraines. Clary Sage is known for its help in reproductive health, something that is often a huge issue among female migraineurs.
- Turmeric, Ginger Root, Camphor: I love using this blend for arthritis and joint support and as an anti-inflammatory. Its soothing medicinal aroma mixed with the spicy notes of turmeric are very energizing, but work well for inflammation.
We both use many other oils for a variety of purposes but these are the handful that are our personal go-to’s. It is important to note that everybody’s chemical makeup is different and it will affect which oils are more helpful for you. It took some trial and error to find the ones that were best for us but luckily there are a ton available and almost all have a myriad of uses.
(Above: Some of Jorie’s stash from her favorite essential oil companies, clockwise from top left: Mountain Rose Herbs, Blue Ridge Hemp Co., Eden’s Garden, and doTERRA)
The Effect of Essential Oils on Migraine
It is important to note that essential oils cannot cure or abort a migraine. We migraineurs simply use them because they give us relief from many of our symptoms and make enduring the attack much easier.
Essential oils can reduce symptoms of our migraines such as:
- Pain or muscle aching
- Difficulty sleeping
- Mental clarity,
- and more!
Aromatherapy has been around for thousands of years, and thought to have originated in 3000-2500 B.C. Records have been found from all over the world about essential oils, from India to China, Greece to Egypt, and many places in between. The benefits have been felt throughout the centuries.
For migraines, essential oils are most often used topically and aromatically. These two methods really target the symptoms well, especially in the blends we mentioned above. We discuss how to use essential oils safely a little later in this article. Applying to the temples, forehead, and back of the neck can be very relieving as well as falling asleep with a diffuser or a few drops on a pillow.
One aspect to be cautious of being a migraineur is watching out for scent triggers. Test essential oils before using them all over a room or your body. You may find that certain essential oils are irritating to you or actually exacerbate your migraine rather than helping it. This is why we can’t stress enough–essential oils are a very subjective and personal treatment.
Using Essential Oils Safely
When it comes to using essential oils, being knowledgeable of safety and precautions are a MUST. There is a common misconception among newer essential oil users that because they are “all natural” they must automatically be safe right off the bat, right?
Wrong. There are many interactions that can happen in your body while using essential oils so it’s important to know how to use them properly as well as what to look out for in your body, and it’s also imperative to know what oils are safe for children, pregnancy, certain medical conditions, and more.
Firstly, there are basic safety measures to take before you even begin using the oils. According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) and the Herbal Academy, these are a few of the most rudimentary precautions to take before use:
- Keep all essential oils out of reach of children and pets.
- Choose a high quality essential oil.
- Keep all oil bottles tightly closed, cool, and away from direct sunlight.
- Do not use photosensitizing essential oils prior to going into a tanning booth or the sun.
- Avoid prolonged use of the same essential oils unless they are being used under the guidance of a qualified health professional.
- Avoid the use of undiluted essential oils on the skin, unless otherwise indicated.
- If you suspect you may be sensitive to specific essential oils or if you have known allergies or sensitivities, it may be wise to perform a skin patch test.
- Know the safety data on each essential oil and place into context of use and knowledge.
- Use caution if you are a female and suspect you may be pregnant or have been trying to become pregnant.
- Keep essential oils away from the eyes and other mucous membranes.
- Essential oils are highly flammable substances and should be kept away from direct contact with flames and high heat.
- Make sure your treatment room has good ventilation.
- Do not use essential oils internally unless properly trained in the safety of doing so.
That’s a lot of information to know, right? Each of those steps are incredibly important when using essential oils if you want to be safe and receive the full benefits essential oils can offer.
It is imperative to know that there are also some oils that should NEVER be used around children. A list and further information may be found here. Along the same line, pregnancy and essential oils often don’t mix well. Read here for more information regarding pregnancy and breastfeeding with essential oils.
There are three primary ways to use an essential oil: topically, aromatically, and internally. Each differs from the other, and each delivers an array of benefits to your body. I’ll go over each one briefly below.
Topical use of an essential oil begins with a carrier oil. A carrier oil is a vegetable-based oil that dilutes the potency of the essential oil, making it more comfortable to use on the skin. A carrier oil, however, does not dilute the benefits of the essential oil. Popular carrier oils include jojoba oil, coconut oil, and grapeseed oil, to name a few.
Dilution is based on each specific oil and there is no set guideline for universal dilution. There are some exceptions to the dilution rule where you may apply an oil “neat,” meaning with no carrier oil. Be sure to research safe dilution techniques and recommendations for each oil you plan to use.
The biggest precaution to take with using oils topically is photosensitization. A photo-sensitive oil is one that will cause burning or skin pigmentation changes with exposure to sun or UV rays. The most common oils that are photo-sensitive are those of the citrus family. However, always do your research.
Benefits from topically using essential oils include quick absorption, skin health, pain and muscle relief, lymphatic release, and more. Oils applied to the soles of the feet tend to cause the least sensitivity, so if you are sensitive to oils even with a carrier, your feet may be the place to try!
Perhaps the most popular way of using essential oils, aromatherapy is beneficial through inhalation of oils through the use of a diffuser, inhaler, warmer, steaming, baths, diffuser jewelry, and more.
According to NAHA, aromatherapy may aid with:
- Environmental ambiance,
- Stress/anxiety reduction,
- Insomnia or sleep disorders,
- Mood or motivation enhancement,
- Increasing alertness,
- Purifying and improving air quality, and
- Reducing airborne pathogens
It is important to note that with using essential oils aromatically, to use a smaller amount (a little goes a LONG way when you aren’t diluting an oil), and remember that certain oils can be nasal irritants, especially in young children and pets. However, aromatherapy is considered the safest transmission of essential oils to children of all the methods.
Internal use, or ingesting, essential oils is by far the trickiest way of using them and often the most dangerous as well due to the high risk of toxicity. Much care should be taken with internal use of essential oils.
Essential oils taken internally are processed by the liver. Some oils contain compounds that can damage the liver or are metabolized into a toxic waste. We will not be giving any tips on taking essential oils internally here, as it is extremely important to be guided by a health professional with this method.
The Big Picture
Overall, essential oils can be a huge asset to migraine treatment if used correctly. The benefits are numerous not only for migraines, but for many other ailments as well. Remember to always do your research and use common sense with essential oils–they can be tricky and often expensive, but ultimately worth every penny.
(Above: Jorie enjoys making her own essential oil infused personal products. Her recipe blends include roll-on topicals, bath scrubs and soaks, and room or pillow sprays.)
(Disclaimer: The content of this article should not be considered as or replaced by medical advice. Always discuss possible interactions with your doctor or a professional first.)