How to Use Essential Oils to Manage Migraine
I remember my reaction when someone would suggest a natural remedy for my debilitating migraine disease.
“They were one of those people who thought a migraine is just a headache,” I would quickly assume. They clearly had no idea on just how debilitating migraine can be – the sensitivity to every light and sound, nausea and vomiting, and the pain.
Like many others, migraine often landed me in the emergency room. But I got to a place of realization that despite my doctor’s best efforts, I was still experiencing debilitating migraine attacks. I was still on board with his plan for care, but I realized I needed to be proactive in preventing migraine attacks.
That’s when my eyes were opened to a world of holistic care and natural remedies – yup, the ones that I had been dismissing. To my surprise, food, yoga, and essential oils ultimately became my best strategies for reducing both the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks.
Essential oils seem to be the least understood, but can be extremely effective remedies, in the context of holistic care. So I’d love to shed some light on them for the migraine community.
- What exactly are essential oils
- How to select the oils best for you
- How to use them to manage migraine
What are Essential Oils?
Essential Oils are oils found in various parts of plants – bark, stem, flowers, rind, resin, etc. – that have the ability to support our body’s overall health. We already know that plants in nature produce food that supports our overall health. Well, these same plants also produce essential oils that can support our physical, mental and emotional health.
The biggest difference in the food that a plant produces versus the oil is that the oil is produced in such microscopic (but highly concentrated) amounts, so it’s not seen by the naked eye. That’s where a sophisticated process called distillation comes into play. It gently extracts the oils from the plants – often through steam or cold pressing – and bottles it up for use. Because essential oils are so highly concentrated, one drop goes a long way. That’s why bottles of essential oils are rather small.
Did you now that essential oils are 50-70% more concentrated than their herbal counterparts?
A single drop of peppermint essential oil is equivalent to 28 cups of peppermint tea.
And essential oils, like foods, have unique properties to support health.
Continuing on with peppermint, we know a cup of peppermint tea is often suggested to support digestive health, boost energy and even alleviate migraine pain. Peppermint essential oil has the same properties, just in a more concentrated form. So, a drop of peppermint oil can deliver those same benefits and perhaps in a faster and more powerful way.
How to Select Essential Oils
Although they’re plant-based, it’s important to understand how to select and use essential oils correctly. Quality is the most important place to start. It’s critical when you’re talking about using essential oils for therapeutic purposes. One may think that all essential oils are the same, but unfortunately, many oils on the market are diluted and adulterated (mixed with synthetic fragrances) to make their price tag more appealing.
I personally only use and recommend certified pure therapeutic grade essential oils.
Why are Oils so Expensive?
Because of their high concentration, essential oils appear to be expensive for what you’re getting. You may spend anywhere from $10 to $100+ on a single bottle of oil. But that single bottle likely contains 250 drops of oil and a typical application is approximately 1-2 drops. And what if just a few applications of that oil took away a migraine or at least cut the edge of it? I don’t know about you, but in my opinion that bottle has then paid for itself 10 times over.
Again, keep in mind that some companies try to make their oils look more appealing for the purpose of sales, so they will dilute the oil with synthetic fillers. This then takes a pure essential oil that can support health and turns it into a concentrated bottle of artificial fragrances that can be harmful to your health.
How to Use Essential Oils
Okay, now we know what they are and how to select quality, therapeutic-grade oils, now what do you do when you get the oils home?
Essential oils can be used in one of three ways: aromatically, topically or internally.
- Aromatically: Just smelling the aroma of an oil can create a response in the brain that will elicit emotions and internal benefits. Some will create an invigorating or uplifting effect. Others will create calming or soothing feelings. This empowers you to be able to choose the oil for your desired health outcome.
- Topically: Essential oils easily penetrate the skin and offer benefits not only to the area applied but once they’re absorbed into the bloodstream, they can have therapeutic benefits to your body overall.
- Internally: Some essential oils can be taken internally via veggie capsules, a drop under the tongue or on the roof of the mouth, or even in beverages and in cooking. Before taking essential oils internally, I strongly suggest connecting with someone who is familiar with essentials oils and can properly guide you on internal use.
The Best Essential Oils to Manage Migraine
So, what does all of this mean in the context of eliminating or at least reducing migraine headaches?
First, see if you can identify some of your biggest migraine triggers. Then you can select the oils that are most supportive in overcoming those triggers. For example, stress has always been a big trigger of mine. I would experience let-down headaches, so after the stress would pass and my body would begin to relax, it was like clockwork – an instant migraine. That’s when I started working with lavender essential oil during times of heightened stress. I would apply lavender oil on the soles of my feet before I went to bed. This not only helped to manage stress in my body but it also improved my quality of sleep – another benefit for managing migraine.
One study on essential oils and migraine concluded that, “Inhalation of lavender essential oil may be an effective and safe treatment modality in acute management of migraine headaches.”
Another study on lavender and the nervous system discovered that, “lavender reported to be useful in the treatment of acute as well as chronic or intractable pain.”
Muscle tension is another trigger for me, so I use a blended oil called Deep Blue which helps me to get ahead of the tension before it builds up to trigger a migraine.
And when the inevitable persistent migraine bypasses my best efforts, I use essential oils to “cut the edge.” If I can catch it soon enough, sometimes the oils will ward it off, but on the stronger ones, I can at least gain some relief through them.
How to Get Started?
It’s important to work with someone who is educated about essential oils and ideally migraine. If you need someone to guide you through the process, I’m happy to do so. I support people with the selection of oils as well as the education on how to use them once they receive the oils – that’s important to have!
Above all, always listen to your body and be consistent with the habits that are most effective for you.
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MEET THE AUTHOR
Alene Brennan is a certified Health Coach, Yoga Instructor and Natural Food Chef. Graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute’s Chef Training and Food Therapy programs in New York City and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Alene’s mentor and teachers include world-leading nutrition and health experts such as Annemarie Colbin, Mark Hyman and Andrew Weil.
In addition to these certifications, Alene has great insight in the food and healthcare industry having lead a 12-year corporate career working for Fortune 500 Companies such as Campbell Soup Company and Aramark and well as Virtua.
She unites her training and expertise to support busy women in creating their recipe for a healthy, fulfilling and migraine-free life. Her step-by-step plans support individuals in identifying the best foods for their bodies, using food as a form of medicine and incorporating simple strategies to effectively manage stress.
Alene has been featured in USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer and Mind Body Green. Check out her blog, tips and recipes at www.alenebrennan.com.