Aromatherapy A-Z: Headaches

Aromatherapy A-Z: Headaches

Persistent headaches are not to be over-looked and should always be checked by your GP as they can be related to High Blood Pressure, Thyroid problems, Anaemia or other health issues that need to be checked out. They can also be caused by eye strain – had an eye test lately? Most of us would get the all clear – at which point you can take matters into your own hands and really take note of your body language – and what it is trying to communicate to you! Here are some of the most common causes:

Dehydration - Most of us know excess alcohol intake causes dehydration and headaches, but did you know drinking coffee and tea can dehydrate your body as they have a diuretic effect? Caffeine is a stimulant and can cause nutrient deficiencies in excess too - so drink at least 1 ½ litres of water daily (herbal teas count) – more if you are getting a lot of exercise or have high stress levels.

Tiredness – Many of us quite simply do not get enough sleep. If headaches are regular – try getting an extra hours sleep regularly and see if it helps – everyone's needs are different and you maybe one of those who needs 8 hours instead of 6 or 7. Our need for rest and recuperation can also go up if we are stressed or convalescing.

There are lots of essential oils that can be helpful for tiredness - the ones you chose will depend on the reasons behind the fatigue! For a quick fix - Rosemary, Black Pepper, Ginger, Plai and Peppermint are excellent to help stimulate brain function/circulation. Inhale Rosemary or Peppermint direct from the bottle if tired when out and about or vaporise in an office or home environment. For massage to stimulate concentration, vitality, immunity and circulation try 30ml base oil with 4 drops Rosemary, 5 Bergamot, 2 Plai and 1Black Pepper.

Muscular Tension – If your stress levels are high, your posture is poor – and especially if you get very little exercise – any mental or emotional tension can lead to muscular tension building up – especially in the upper back/neck/shoulder areas. I call it emotional back-packing! This tension can then create pressure which can cause headaches.

Essential oils are fantastic at helping to loosen and release muscle tension – coupled with the massage action itself. Again, the selection of oils depends on the cause – but for a good all-rounder try 30ml base oil with 5 drops Lavender, 4 Marjoram, 3 Clary Sage and 1 Peppermint.

Stress – If your adrenal glands are constantly over-stimulated it leads to a combination of different things happening – including muscular tension, clenching of the teeth/rigid jaw muscles, difficulty in relaxing, hyperventilation – and all of these issues can lead to headaches. Stress related disorders often respond very effectively to regular aromatherapy massage and aromatic baths. Try 15ml of our Bath Oil or SLS free Shower Gel, with 2 drops Neroli, 2 drops Roman Chamomile and 6 drops Lavender.

Poor digestion – constipation. If your body's “waste removal process” is not operating efficiently toxins can be reabsorbed which can cause lethargy, headaches, wind, piles and various other problems. Try Peppermint Tea, plenty of water, and eat liquorice and prunes as a daily snack.

Regular aromatherapy massage with abdominal massage rotating clockwise around the tummy mimics the peristaltic action of the gut. Oils to aid digestion include Sweet Orange, Rosemary and Peppermint. Try 30ml carrier oil with 3 drops Rosemary, 5 Orange, 1 Ginger. If digestion is inflamed substitute the Ginger for Peppermint and the Rosemary for Roman Chamomile or Lavender.

Liver Congestion –high alcohol intake, high fat and sugar intake from a diet low in fresh produce and high in refined foods, and unresolved emotion especially anger can cause what they call “liver stagnation” in Chinese medicine. This can cause a variety of issues, including high cholesterol, and headaches can be one of the side-effects. Various oils can act as liver tonic and aid the detoxification process. Grapefruit is particularly recommended as a liver tonic, and Juniper, Fennel and Cypress are all excellent to help aid a detox process. Use in massage regularly – try 30ml base oil with 6 drops Grapefruit, 4 Juniper, and 3 Fennel.

Misalignment – mild spinal misalignment, caused by uneven muscular tension, minor whip-lash and other accidents can cause cranial compression and/or neck pain – which can lead to headaches. A Cranial Osteopath can identify even very subtle issues and treatment can put your body back in balance – eradicating the headaches and other associated health issues.

Allergies – if you are constantly eating or drinking something that does not agree with you, headaches can often be one of the results. If you get a headache immediately after eating, a food diary can help you connect the culprit with your reactions.  Applied Kinesiology can also quickly and easily help you to see which foods are disagreeing with you.

Nutritional deficiencies - no one specific nutrient is related to headaches – apart from Iron causing anaemia – but a poor nutrient deficient diet will contribute to a variety of health issues including a predisposition to headaches. We really are what we eat!

In general: Neroli, Peppermint and Lavender are 3 of the best oils for headaches – especially if stress related or when they are the result of tiredness. Try inhaling Peppermint direct from the bottle or vaporising. Also, add 2 drops of Neroli and 10 drops of Lavender to 15ml of Aloe Vera Gel and massage into temples and dab onto wrists regularly.

Joannah Metcalfe
Consultant Aromatherapist
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