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Essential Oils for Six Types of Headaches & Migraines

Essential Oils for Six Types of Headaches & Migraines

Everyone has experienced a headache at some point in their life.  No one likes to feel pain, especially in their brain. There are six main types of headaches. Each requires different approaches to bring you some much needed, effective relief. These six types of headaches are tension, hormone, sinus, vasodilative, vasoconstrictive and migraines. When you match up the right remedies to a specific headache type, you will get effective results in a timely manner.  Knowing what kind of headache you have is the first question. Let’s look at each type of headache in more detail.


Tension Headache

Tension headaches usually occur in the forehead (above the eyebrows) and can effect the neck, upper back, into the occiput area and sometimes behind the(upper) eyes. It can feel like pressure in the head or a stiff neck. Tension headaches typically stem from daily stress, sitting at a computer or in a car for an extended period of time, using smartphone devices (looking down), over-extending yourself during exercises that strain muscles, and poor posture.  Suggested essential oil remedies that can offer relief have properties including antispasmodic, relaxants, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic.

  • Bergamot – Citrus bergamia
  • CinnamonCinnamomum zylancium
  • Helichrysum – Helichrysum italicum
  • Lavender – Lavandula angustifolia
  • Marjoram – Origanum marjorana
  • Neroli – Citrus aurantium var. amara

Tension headaches can also be found in children who are growing and developing.  Mineral, vitamin, amino acid and protein deficiencies can be a contributing factor, as well as teething, getting overheated (in sun, on playground too long or with sports) and eye strain.


Hormone Headache

Hormones headaches affect not only women, but men also. An imbalance in hormone levels, whether a form of estrogen, progesterone and/or testosterone can cause severe and sometimes debilitating pain over and/or behind one eye (usually the right eye).  This is also considered a cluster headache. It stings, may throb, pulsate or feel like a stabbing pain. You will want to look at essential oils and carriers that offer relaxing yet stimulating, hormone balancing, emmenagogue, analgesic and nervine properties.  These can offer support to the nerves that are responsible for cellular messaging and communication, which control proper hormone identification, delivery and processing.

  • Clary Sage – Salvia sclarea
  • FrankincenseBoswellia carterii
  • Geranium – Pelargonium graveolens
  • Lavender – Lavandula angustifolia
  • LemonCitrus limonum
  • Marjoram – Origanum marjorana
  • Spearmint – Mentha spicate

A study using essential oils of lavender (Lavandula officinalis), clary sage (Salvia sclarea) and marjoram (Origanum majorana) in an aromatic massage oil provided relief for outpatients with primary dysmenorrhea and reduced the duration of menstrual pain in the essential oil group. The blended essential oils contain four key analgesic components that amount to as much as 79.29%; these analgesic constitutes are linalyl acetate, linalool, eucalyptol, and β-caryophyllene. This study suggests that this blended formula can serve as a reference for alternative and complementary medicine on primary dysmenorrhea.


Sinus Headache

When the sinuses become inflamed and/or infected, it can cause severe pressure in the sinus cavity, nasal area, behind the eyes and sometimes extends to the ear canal. This will contribute to a sinus headache. Beneficial essential oils would be expectorants, decongestants, anti-inflammatory and lymphatic movers that enhance circulation.  Culprits can be over-exposure to irritating chemicals, poor bowel movements (constipation), low immunity and allergies. When I formulate a blend or aromatherapy concoction, I try to find a couple essential oils that possess all of the properties, then round out the essential oil team with others that possess strong properties in one or two of these properties.  In my blending methodology, I like to have some well-rounded oils coupled with niche, specializing oils. This allows you to attack an issue from multiple directions with a variety of sources. For sinus headaches, this includes the following oils.

  • Black pepper – Piper nigrum
  • Eucalyptus – Eucalyptus globulus
  • Frankincense – Boswellia carterii
  • Peppermint – Mentha x piperita
  • Ravintsara – Cinnamomum camphora; Ravensara aromatic
  • RosemaryRosmarinus officinalis
  • Niaouli – Melaleuca viridiflora; quinquinervia
  • Tea Tree – Melaleuca alternifolia


Vasodilative Headache

With a vasodilative headache, your head feels like it is exploding. The blood vessels are over-expanded which present excess heat and  feels like your head is erupting with a strong, throbbing pain. Thus cooling, constrictive, febrifuge and anti-inflammatory essential oils would provide the best benefit.  You need thing calm and constrict the blood vessels with relaxants. Some issues that can lead to a vasodilative headache are high stress with poor circulation and oxygen flow, high exposure to a toxic environment putting the liver into overdrive, and nerve impingements in the spine and other parts of the nervous system. 

  • Peppermint and/or Spearmint – Mentha x piperita and/or Mentha spicata
  • Chamomile – Anthemis nobilis; Chamaemelum nobile; Matricaria recutita
  • Lemon – Citrus limonum
  • LemongrassCymbopogon citratus; flexuosus
  • Parsley – Petroselinum sativum
  • Ylang Ylang – Canaga odorata
  • Vetiver – Vetivera zizanioides


Vasoconstrictive Headache

With a vasoconstrictive headache, your head feels like it is imploding or being squeezed really hard in a vice. There is decrease blood and oxygen flow with restricted circulation. Thus heating, dilating and expectorant essential oils would provide the best benefit. Poor circulation, like varicose veins, lymphatic congestion and holding your breath often during stress can be a few culprits.

  • Black Pepper – Piper nigrum
  • Oregano – Origanum vulgare; compactum
  • Rosemary – Rosmarinus officinalis
  • Sage – Salvia officinalis
  • Thyme – Thymus vulgaris



Migraines are in a class all on their own.  They are usually severe, debilitating and affect one side of the face. You’ll be more sensitive to light and smells, may be nauseous and have vision issues (like flashes of light at the onset). In my experience, they have two common denominators that they are related to – enhanced stress level that infuriates the nervous system and poor elimination of toxins (i.e. constipation), which affect the liver, colon, kidneys, lungs, lymph and blood. Liver gets overheated, kidneys are not hydrated which contribute to electrolyte imbalance, the colon gets overwhelmed, the lymph and blood seizes up which affect respiration. So ultimately, for me, I incorporate essential oils that reduce and manage the stress level such as relaxants, analgesics, cephalic and nervines, while supporting elimination channels with stimulants, depurative, hepatoprotective and cholagogues.

  • Chamomile – Anthemis nobilis; Chamaemelum nobile; Matricaria recutita
  • Eucalyptus – Eucalyptus globulus
  • Grapefruit, cold pressed – Citrus paradise
  • HelichrysumHelichrysum italicum
  • Lavender – Lavandula angustifolia
  • Lemon – Citrus limonum
  • Peppermint – Mentha x piperita


Other Types of Headaches

There are several more types of headaches. Typically, they are triggered by something more chronic and traumatic such as injury or disease.


Thunderclap Headache

According to Dr. Jen Ashton, a thundercloud headache is the most serious and requires immediate attention. There is a sudden, excruciating pain that effects the top of the head. It comes quick and fierce.


Cervicogenic Headache

This headache is triggered by 1. sedentary position of the neck or 2. sudden movement in the neck (source). When the neck stays in the same position for an extended period of time, it can manifest into this type of headache. You might feel like it is “locked up”. Also, when there is a sudden, swift or forceful jerking of the neck. Sudden movements could be a cough, sneezing, dancing, standing up too fast after bending over, and/or whiplash. Either way, both pertain to something happening to the neck, which triggers this headache. You could have a steady pain on one side (not throbbing) that last for hours. It might make you feel nauseous, sensitive to bright lights and loud noises, pain in the arm and shoulder (on one side), and/or blurry vision.  These might sound like symptoms associated with all headaches, but note some specific characteristics and trigger.  Your olfactory system may be sensitive so smell a couple oils to see what you are resonating to – camphor (eucalyptus), citrus (lemon), flowers (lavender), spices ginger), herbal (lemongrass), or woods (pine). Remedies should be analgesic, anti-inflammatory and relaxants. You may alternate between heat and cold remedies.



  • Rebound Headaches: caffeine induced
  • Caffeine Withdrawal Headache
  • Blood Sugar Headache: protein deficient
  • Blood Pressure Headache: mineral deficient, circulation imbalances
  • Occipital Neuralgia Headache: occipital nerves are irritated or agitated causing pressure, burning with throbbing sensation, sharp jabs with certain movements, pain on both sides, pressure behind the eyes,  sensitivity to light, and a tender scalp, all at the same time. I have experienced these, especially after sitting for ours in front of a computer. To get short-term relief, I got a neuromuscular massage followed by a chiropractic adjustment and ice. Long-term, I got a new office chair, desk with adjustable height and changed the height and position of my monitor, along with some aromatherapy (diffused during day & evening) & herbal solutions (minerals, enzymes, anti-inflammatory, probiotics and nervines).


Bottom line, here are some headache management lifestyle tips for supporting your head, heart and gut.

  • Manage your stress by finding ways to release tension and have fun (i.e. hobbies, laughter)
  • Move your body with some form of exercise
  • Nourish your mind and body with proteins, essential fatty acids, enzymes, minerals and fiber
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Mind your bowels.  If you get constipated, get those bowels moving.




Disclaimers: Information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prescribe. It is recommended that if serious health issues exist, you consult a licensed medical provider. JennScents does not assume liability or responsibility for the use and/or misuse of this information.

References: This blog may contain excerpts from JennScents Aromaversity Certification Courses and the JennScents Holistic Aromatherapy Comprehensive Guide.


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