Peppermint oil uses and benefits include its long-lasting cooling effect on the skin, ability to inhibit muscle contractions and role in stimulating blood flow in the forehead when applied topically.
Applying peppermint essential oil topically across the forehead and on the temples effectively alleviates a tension headache. In a 1996 study, 41 patients (and 164 headache attacks) were analyzed in a placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover study. The peppermint oil was applied topically 15 and 30 minutes after a headache began.
Participants reported pain relief in their headache diaries, and peppermint oil proved to be a well-tolerated and cost-effective alternative to usual headache therapies. There were also no adverse side effects reported after peppermint treatment. (1)
Another important study was conducted in 1995 and published in the International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology. Thirty-two healthy participants were evaluated, and essential oil treatment was investigated by comparing the baseline and treatment measurements. One effective treatment was a combination of peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil and ethanol.
Lavender essential oil has a variety of therapeutic and curative properties. It induces relaxation and relieves tension and stress — working as a sedative, antidepressant, anti-anxiety, anxiolytic, anticonvulsant and calming agent. There is also growing evidence that lavender oil serves as an effective treatment of neurological conditions and disorders.
According to researchers, aromatic and topical use of lavender oil affects the limbic system because the main constituents, linalool and linalyl acetate, are rapidly absorbed through the skin and are thought to cause central nervous system depression. For this reason, lavender oil can be used to treat headaches caused by anxiety disorders and related conditions.
Eucalyptus works as an expectorant — it helps cleanse the body of toxins and harmful microorganisms. It also opens the nasal airways and eliminates sinus pressure that can lead to a nasty headache, all while promoting emotional balance and boosting mood.
A clinical trial published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine states that inhaling eucalyptus oil can decrease a person’s pain and blood pressure. The study involved 52 patients who recently underwent total knee replacement surgery. Eucalyptus oil treatment promoted emotional stability in the patients, reduced edema formation and had anti-inflammatory effects. These pain-reducing and relaxing effects can be beneficial to people suffering from tension headaches. (5)
A 2011 study conducted in Israel evaluated the efficacy of eucalyptus oil when used on patients with respiratory conditions that can lead to cough, sore throat and tension headaches. Patients reported that eucalyptus oil improved breathing and reduced runny nose.
Rosemary essential oil has been used in folk medicine to treat headaches and poor circulation because of its stimulating, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. It has a calming effect and improves personal orientation and alertness.
Rosemary oil also reduces stress and emotional triggers that can cause headache attacks. It also aids digestion and soothes an upset stomach, which can be a symptom of a severe headache. (7)
An interesting 2013 study published in Addiction and Health evaluated the efficacy of rosemary oil as a form of herbal therapy for the alleviation of withdrawal syndromes in patients with a history of opium abuse. Some opium withdrawal symptoms consist of dysphoric mood, nausea, muscle aches, headaches, fever and insomnia. Rosemary treatment proved to reduce these symptoms when taken internally for four weeks. It reduced tension and muscle jerks, alleviated pain, improved sleeping patterns, and treated convulsions.