By Felicity Downes-Casipit
The term “headache” refers to any pain that occurs around the head, face or neck. Headaches are among the most common cause of pain and will effect most of us at some time in our lives. Headaches can be mild and annoying or severe and debilitating.
Headaches can be caused by stress, eyestrain, poor posture, dehydration, not eating enough or skipping meals, hormone changes (periods), alcohol, allergies or infections such as colds, flus and sinusitis. The 3 most common types of headaches are tension headaches, migraines or sinus headaches. Tension headaches might feel like you have a tight band or feel pressure around your head. The pain can be mild to severe and is concentrated at your temples or around the back of your head – extending from the base of your skull down into your neck.
Migraines are another more serious and common form of headache that can be quite debilitating, often seeing you bed ridden for up to a couple of days. They are usually accompanied by nausea and vomiting, blind spots or flashing lights in your eyes. The pain is described as throbbing, one sided and severe. These headaches will usually interfere with, and inhibit your normal daily activities.
If you experience migraines on a regular basis you should see your healthcare practitioner as you may have nutritional deficiencies. Sinus headaches can also be quite painful and debilitating and are usually caused by allergies or an infection. If you have a sinus headache you will notice pain around your eyes, forehead, and across the bridge of your nose.
Generally speaking, the most common way to alleviate the pain of headaches is with pain relief medicine. However, before you reach for the tablets, it might pay to consider some natural alternatives. The underlying cause of most headaches is dehydration, even mild levels of dehydration. So please make sure to keep hydrated by drinking 8 glasses (at least 1 litre) of water per day!
Fresh air and some outdoor time also can reduce the occurrence of headaches. Our eyes need to focus on distant objects rather than just looking at things that are close to us. This can cause strain in the muscles of the eye and face which can lead to headaches. This is most commonly seen in people who work in front of a computer or in an office environment. So try going outside for a short walk.
If these two simple things don’t work, then consider the use of natural essential oils! Essential oils are a popular addition to first aid kits in many homes. From mild anxiety and sleeplessness to stings and scratches, essential oils have been able to provide useful benefits for common ailments for hundreds of years.
The five most commonly used essential oils for headaches are lavender, rosemary, peppermint, eucalyptus and chamomile. As each of the different oils have their own particular actions, they can be used for different types of headaches.
Lavender oil is one of the most common oils found in Australian households, mainly because it has a wide array of uses for you, your pets and your home. Importantly, Lavender is considered to be a soothing pain reliever. It is also very calming to the nervous system which makes it an ideal choice for assisting with tension headaches caused by stress and anxiety.
Peppermint is another oil which enjoys popularity in bathroom cabinets around the country. Peppermint oil contains menthol which helps to decongest the sinuses, ease pain and relax tense muscles. These actions make Peppermint oil a great choice for both tension and sinus headaches.
Eucalyptus oil is invaluable in the treatment of sinus headaches as it has some very powerful decongestant actions. On top of that, Eucalyptus oil can also open up the nasal passages making breathing easier when you are suffering from colds and flus. It is the perfect oil to place in a vapouriser in the home to assist with respiratory conditions.
Rosemary oil can be extremely beneficial to use for headaches as it is a potent pain reliever and decongestant. Rosemary also helps to promote healthy circulation – particularly to the head. This makes it a valuable oil to help alleviate the pain of both sinus headaches and migraines.
Chamomile oil is considered to be anti-inflammatory and soothing for anxiety so it can be a very useful oil to use for tension headaches and stress.
These oils can be used on their own or as a blend depending upon the type of headache you have. Tension headaches can be soothed when the oils are used as part of a relaxing warm bath with added Epsom salts. You will only need a few drops of each oil for the best results, and try to stay in the bath for at least 20 minutes. Tension headaches also respond well when the oils are diluted in a carrier base (such as almond oil) and dabbed or massaged onto the back of the neck and temples. Once again, you will only need 1-3 drops of the oil diluted in about 10-20mLs of the carrier oil. Migraines may also be soothed with topical application such as this. Sinus headaches respond well when the oils are placed (diluted) on the temples and on the lower edge of the cheekbones, or placed on a tissue and inhaled periodically. Infusing the air in your home by placing the oils in a vapouriser or diffuser is also great for painful sinuses and sinus headaches.
When using oils topically, be careful not to get the oils in your eyes, and never place oils directly on the skin as some can cause irritation when used undiluted. Remember too that rosemary and peppermint oils are not suitable for use if you are pregnant. Some headaches however, may need more attention than others. If you are experiencing recurring headaches or your headaches are not being relieved with pharmaceutical medication, it may be best to check with your healthcare practitioner.
Otherwise, essential oils are one of the safest and most non-invasive ways to help soothe the painful and bothersome discomfort of your headache naturally.