Five Best Essential Oils for Headaches

I hate headaches. I hate them probably even more than I do flu and colds.


Because I find that headaches can incapacitate me in a way that sniffs, sneezes and even a fever won’t.

When I get a bad headache, the forehead throbs and I can’t keep my eyes opened. Even walking is a pain, literally.

It doesn’t always get that bad. But when it does I feel worse than when I’d pricked my finger on my cross-stitch needle…. six times in ten minutes.

Woman with a headache, 600px


When I was young(er) and (more) impatient, my automatic response to a headache was to pop an aspirin, but now I try to deal with it with more natural methods, such as essential oils.

Favorite essential oils to relieve headaches

Here are five essential oils which I’ve found especially effective for dealing with headaches of all kinds. Depending on the time of day and the kind of headache I have, I like to use different oils/ blends.

  1. Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia)
  1. Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
  1. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
  1. Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus)
  1. Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)

Type of headache

All five oils are anti-inflammatory and will help with most headaches. But some work better for certain types of headaches than others. So it helps if you know what kind of headache you have.

For instance, sinus headaches occur when the sinus cavities at the back of your throat are congested, which often happens when you’re down with a cold or flu.

Tension headaches are usually caused by stress, contracted muscles or bad posture. According to World Health Organization (WHO), they’re the most common headache in the world.

Sidenote: Also per WHO, more women than men get tension headaches. Does that mean we’re more stressed than men, or do we have worse posture, I wonder?

Time of day

Another point to consider is the time of day when the headache occurs.

If a headache crops up in the daytime, try Rosemary, Eucalyptus or Peppermint. These are stimulant oils that will increase mental clarity and alertness as well as help relieve the pain from headaches.

If the headache happens at night (or in the daytime but you can take a nap), sedative oils such as Lavender and Roman Chamomile will be great because they encourage relaxation and sleep too.

Does that mean using stimulant oils at night will cause you to stay stubbornly awake at 2am in the morning? Or that dabbing on sedative oils in the daytime will make you fall asleep at the wheel?

Of course not. If you like, you can also blend the oils so that the sedative and stimulant effects offset each other. The net effect depends on how much of each oil you use.

Suggested blends and uses

If I get a tension headache or migraine, I’ve found a blend of Lavender, Rosemary and Peppermint to be especially wonderful.

Eucalyptus is great for sinus headaches because it’s also an expectorant. So not only will it relieve the pain of your headache, it’ll help clear the congestion in the sinus cavities that is the cause of the headache. Peppermint will work too.

I’m also very sensitive to sunlight (which makes me sound like a vampire), and often get a headache simply from being out in the sun without sunglasses. For such headaches, my savior is a blend of Lavender and Rosemary. Works super well for relieving the throbbing pain.

If I have had a hard day, have a headache and really want a good night’s sleep, I use a blend of Lavender and Roman Chamomile.

And here’s one for fellow women: If you get migraines due to hormonal changes (read: before or during your period), I’ve read that Clary Sage is good at tackling that. Try a blend of Lavender, Roman Chamomile and Clary Sage.

Full disclosure: I haven’t tested this blend yet because I don’t get such headaches. If you try out this blend, do let me know how you find it.

A few cautions

1. Don’t apply the essential oils neat (undiluted) on your skin. Mix your essential oil(s) of choice with a carrier oil. Try 2 to 3 drops of essential oil for every 5 ml of carrier oil. This will give you roughly a 2% to 3% concentration that is safe for most adults.

2. Don’t use eucalyptus and rosemary on children younger than 10 years old, nor peppermint on children younger than 6 years old.

3. Half the dilution rate to 1% for children between 2 to 10 years old (remember #2!).

4. Some books suggest that rosemary should not be used by people with high blood pressure.

Shall we chat?  What other oils or blends do you love for treating headaches?  

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