15 Amazing Essential Oils for Headaches & Migraines

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Headaches are something that everyone deals with from time to time, while migraines are usually limited to a smaller percentage of people. A headache is defined as pain or inflammation anywhere in the region of the head.  A migraine is more severe than a headache, and typically only affects one side of the head. And essential oils can be used in a variety of ways to treat headaches and migraines, from aromatherapy and topical applications to room diffusers and as ingredients in salves and herbal preparations. Some of the essential oils for headaches and migraines include clary sage oil, eucalyptus oil and peppermint oil.

Some of the causes of headaches include stress and anxiety, tension, hunger, fatigue, dehydration, blood pressure issues, excess noise, and food allergies, among others. With so many causes for headaches and migraines, it is important to understand what your options are for natural treatment with essential oils. Using essential oil for headaches is effective due to their high levels of anti-inflammatory, sedative, antioxidant, expectorant, sedative, analgesic, restorative, stimulant and hormone-balancing compounds and properties. [1]

Best Essential Oils for Headaches

Using essential oil for headaches and migraines has been a practice for thousands of years, and can be used in many ways, including in room diffuser, in aromatherapy treatments, in the bath, as a topical remedy on key pressure points, or sprinkled on a cold compress. Some of the essential oils used for treating headaches include:

Chamomile oil bottle with fresh and dried chamomile flowers next to it

Anti-inflammatory properties in chamomile oil may reduce a headache. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus oil has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, stress-relieving and sinus-clearing properties, making it an excellent oil to help relieve the pain of headaches. [2]

How to Use – This oil can soothe pain and eliminate sinus pressure when applied to the temples or inhaled, even by simply rubbing your hands together with a few drops of oil and breathing deeply.

Lavender Oil

Lavender oil is widely praised for its sedative and central nervous system-calming properties, and is commonly used as an anxiolytic substance. When using this essential oil for headaches, its high content of linalool and linalyl acetate can directly depress the nervous system, so if your headaches are caused by stress and anxiety, this remedy may be able to quickly provide relief. [3]

How to Use – Topically apply this oil to the temples or forehead, or place a cold compress sprinkled with this oil on the back of your neck.

Chamomile Oil

Known best for helping put people to sleep, chamomile essential oil is frequently turned to for headache relief because of its anxiety-reducing powers, as well as its ability to soothe topical inflammation. Sometimes, headaches are caused by a lack of sleep, in which case using small amounts of chamomile oil will bring you swiftly into sleep – and hopefully a morning without a headache! [4]

How to Use – Chamomile is popularly used in room diffusers, aromatherapy treatments, and added to bathwater to relax the body and mind.

Clary Sage Oil

Studies have also shown that this oil is able to balance hormone levels. Since some headaches are induced by hormonal fluctuations, particularly in women, it is wise to keep a bottle of clary sage oil nearby, especially if you are menstruating.

How to Use – For stress and anxiety-related headaches, clary sage oil is often rubbed into the temples or used in aromatherapy practices. [5]

Rose Oil

This essential oil has long been used to soothe muscles and induce relaxation in the body and mind. When it comes to tension headaches, which can often lead to migraines, relaxing the muscles is important. [6]

How to Use – Rubbing a few drops of this oil mixed in with a carrier oil on your neck or shoulders can quickly soothe tension. This oil is also popularly used in massage practice to ease bodily tension.

Melissa (Lemon Balm) Oil

Although not the most well known oil on the market, melissa essential oil for headaches is known to calm the nervous system and interact directly with neurotransmitters. Allowing this oil to be absorbed by the skin directly over the site of pain is a rapid way to get relief. [7]

How to Use – This oil can be topically applied to the temples or the back of the neck for best results.

Jasmine Oil

Some headache sufferers deal with the problem for so long that it begins to depress their mood and sap their energy, particularly when headaches turn into migraines. Jasmine is a stimulant substance, unlike many of the other oils on this list, and it can help to overcome lethargy and depression, two symptoms that can actually make your headache worse. However, if you are suffering from anxiety-related headaches, don’t use jasmine oil. [8]

How to Use – Jasmine oil is best when inhaled via room diffuser or through aromatherapy treatments.

Spearmint Oil 

The refreshing aroma and powerful anti-inflammatory effects of spearmint oil can help to clear up the sinuses and reduce pressure, while also relaxing tension in blood vessels and capillaries.

How to Use – This oil can be applied directly to the temples or the back of the neck and shoulders to reduce inflammation, or inhaled to clear up sinus pressure.

Helichrysum Oil

Commonly used in parts of Europe, this essential oil can quickly soothe inflammation and eliminate tension – two of the most common causes of headaches.

How to Use – This essential oil should be sprinkled on a cold compress and applied to the forehead, temples or the back of the neck, or a few drops can be put on your pillow before you go to sleep. [9]

Rosemary Oil

The analgesic and stimulating properties of rosemary can soothe the pain of headaches, while also boosting your energy levels and improving your focus. This doesn’t have an anxious effect, however, but is rather a calm collectedness caused by inhaling this essential oil for headaches. This is one of the most popular natural remedies for headaches and migraines. [10]

How to Use – Diffusing rosemary oil throughout a room, or adding a few drops to a compress or on your chest can quickly stimulate the sense and relieve anxiety.

Best Essential Oils for Migraines

While the above mentioned essential oils for headaches also help to reduce migraine symptoms, the following oils can specifically address certain symptoms that are unique to migraines, such as nausea and mood swings.

Lemongrass Oil

Lemongrass is an invigorating essential oil for headaches and migraines because it can boost mood, increase energy levels and re-balance neurotransmitter levels to prevent episodes of depression.

How to Use – You can use lemongrass oil topically on the temples, shoulders and neck, while also consuming small amounts to directly boost your mood.

Sandalwood Oil

Despite being somewhat hard to find, the aroma of sandalwood is an excellent remedy for migraines, helping to quickly improve mood and relax the nerves, while also soothing pain and controlling stomach upset. [11]

How to Use – Adding a few drops of sandalwood to your bathwater, or using it in a room diffuser, are effective ways to quickly eliminate migraines.

Peppermint Oil

By stimulating blood flow and eliminating inflammation, peppermint essential oil can quickly relieve the pain of migraines, and is one of the most common essential oils for the treatment of migraines and headaches.

How to Use – You can consume small amounts of the oil, apply it to a cold compress, or use it in aromatherapy for quick and noticeable effects.

Ginger Oil

Nausea is a very common side effect of migraines, and can be caused by rapid movement or exposure to light. Ginger essential oil is well known for soothing the stomach and reducing inflammation when consumed in small quantities. [12]

How to Use – Ginger oil is a powerful analgesic substance when applied to the temples or forehead, and can soothe stomach when inhaled via room diffuser or aromatherapy.

Marjoram Oil

The anti-spasmodic nature of marjoram can help soothe upset stomachs caused by migraines, and prevent symptoms of nausea, while also easing muscle tension and reducing the severity of the pain. [13]

How to Use – Consuming small amounts of marjoram oil mixed with tea or hot water can quickly soothe the stomach.


There are potential side effects for each of these oils, as they do contain powerful active ingredients and volatile compounds. The most common reactions include allergic reactions to the specific source plant/herb, gastrointestinal distress and skin irritation. Excessive use of these essential oils is unnecessary, due to their potency. If severe headaches or side effects persist, see a doctor as soon as possible.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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