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Using Aromatherapy to Relieve Migraine Pain

Aromatherapy is the use of plant extracts to create a healthier body and mind. The extracts, or “essential oils,” can become a medicinal healing agent for various ailments. You can either rub them on the body or digest them for a more natural alternative to stress and pain. Keep reading to find out more.

What Are Migraines?

Migraines differ from regular headaches in the strength of the pain felt and side effects present. With typical headaches, you can usually take an over-the-counter medication and the throbbing will lessen within a few minutes to a couple of hours.

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This often isn’t the case with migraines. Instead, migraines can feel debilitating and cause nausea, sensitivity to light, and muscle numbness. They’re severe, amplified headaches and can last for anywhere from an hour to days at a time.

Over 36 million Americans experience migraines, and approximately 73 percent of them are women. Migraines primarily affect people between the ages of 15 and 55, although 5 to 10 percent of all children experience migraines, too. Migraines can run in families. You’re more likely to experience migraines if you have a genetic history of them.]

What Are the Symptoms of a Migraine?

The symptoms of migraines can include the following: 

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  • People with migraines often report auras, which are similar to what you see after a camera flash, in their vision. The aura often becomes sizeable enough to block the ability to see. This usually lasts from 20 to 60 minutes.
  • Unlike the all-over pain of a regular headache, the pain of a migraine is usually limited to one side of your head or in the frontal lobe.
  • A sensation of pins and needles may be present in your arms and legs. The overall feeling is similar to a muscle “going to sleep” when you haven’t moved it for a while.
  • You may experience aphasia, or difficulty in your speech and communication skills. This generally disappears soon after the migraine stops.

What Can Cause a Migraine?

Migraines may be caused by:

  • stress
  • sunlight
  • diet
  • dehydration
  • low blood sugar
  • hormonal changes, especially in women
  • poor sleeping habits
  • jet lag

Read more: How to avoid a migraine before it happens »

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How Are Migraines Diagnosed?

Unfortunately, doctors can’t use blood tests to determine if you are or will be affected by migraines. You should make an appointment with your doctor if you’re experiencing unexpected or frequent migraines. They can give you an official diagnosis and make sure that your migraines aren’t the result of an underlying medical condition.

Your doctor will assess your family history and your symptoms in order to give a diagnosis. It may be beneficial for you to keep a log of your symptoms, which can help you doctor understand your condition.

How Can Aromatherapy Be Used for Migraine Relief?
Although no conclusive evidence has shown that essential oils will treat migraines, some research demonstrates a potential positive effect.

Lavender Oil

In a study published in the European Journal of Neuroscience, 47 people with migraines were divided into case groups and control groups. People in the case group inhaled lavender essential oils for 15 minutes. People in the control group inhaled paraffin wax for the same amount of time. All participants recorded how severe their pain was every 30 minutes for two hours.

Out of a total of 129 migraine headaches, 92 responded to the smell of lavender whereas the control group had less than 50 percent respond to the wax. Researchers concluded that inhaling lavender may be a safe treatment for managing migraines.

You can use lavender oil to provide relief in a number of ways. For example, you can keep a bottle of lavender essential oil in your cabinet and with you in a purse. This will allow you to have easy access to it when you feel a migraine coming. You can also spray lavender oil on your pillow. Poor sleep can trigger a migraine, and the lavender scent may keep you relaxed and allow you to get a better night’s sleep.

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil can also serve as a valuable remedy. According to Essential Oils Natural Living, peppermint is one of the top oils for minor migraines due to its calming qualities.

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Other top oils for headaches are basil, wintergreen, and ylang-ylang.

You can incorporate peppermint or other essential oils by:

  • placing a few drops of these essential oils in your tub and taking a bath in a dark bathroom
  • dabbing a couple of drops to your two index fingers and massaging it into your temples and back of your head
  • adding a few drops to a humidifier and letting it diffuse the oil into the air

When taking a bath or running a humidifier, you may want to keep the space you’re in enclosed. This will help keep the air that’s infused with essential oil from escaping.

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Learn more: Home and natural remedies for severe migraines: Understanding your options »

Other Ways to Limit or Reduce Migraines

As with any headache, it can be difficult to determine when a migraine will return. All you can do is try to alleviate as many of the symptoms as possible and avoid the triggers.

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Try these methods to keep migraines at bay:

  • Keep a journal of what you were doing, what you’re eating, and how you were sleeping when the migraine occurred. This will help you start to narrow down what causes it.
  • Start incorporating essential oils regularly into your daily routine before a migraine even starts. This may help calm your body and lessen your stress in general, not only when a migraine occurs.
  • Stay on a regular sleep schedule.
  • Stay hydrated
  • Keep a healthy diet.

You should schedule an appointment with your doctor if you’re unable to find relief. Together, you can come up with a personalized treatment plan that can reduce or alleviate your symptoms. 

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