Aromatherapy for Headaches
Headaches have been the bane of my life for as long as I can remember. As a child I would often wake up in the night with a pounding head, and my mum would apply a cold compress to my forehead. It always worked but as I grew older I found myself relying more on over-the-counter pain medication. To be honest, I was busy and felt I didn’t have the time to wait for a natural remedy to work. Now, I should mention my headaches were checked out by a doctor and nothing untoward was discovered. As awful as they are headaches are a part of life and can be used constructively as an early warning system that something is out of balance with our body. However if you do suffer from constant headaches or migraines it is important to speak with your GP to help identify the underlying cause. In many cases though headaches are the result of us not ‘listening’ to our bodies.
There are many reasons why we get headaches including getting too much sun, allergies, being dehydrated or hungry, working in a stuffy environment, chemical smells, eye strain, being overtired, sinusitis, menstrual cycle, poor posture and muscle tension especially in the neck and shoulders. Stress is also a huge factor. Just think about the last time you were held up in traffic, or your 3-year old had a tantrum in the supermarket or maybe a work colleague took credit for something you did. You may not have realized at the time but most likely your muscles, including your jaw were clenched, you may even have started grinding your teeth! Did you talk with anyone about how you were feeling, or did you repress and hold onto the anger and frustration you felt?
We live in a fast-paced world and I completely understand the quick fix approach to headaches. For many years pain medication was a must have item in my bag, but I wasn’t thinking about how these pills were affecting the rest of my body. Yes, they gave me what I needed to push through my day but I know realize this was not what was best for my overall health and wellbeing. Unlike over the counter headache remedies Aromatherapy works on different levels to bring a holistic and balanced approach to effective pain relief. Lavender essential oil is the new must have item in my bag. Powerful and versatile it’s analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties are hugely beneficial when it comes to headaches. It is rare in that it is one of two essential oils that can be applied ‘neat’ or directly to the skin, but do check first to make sure you don’t have sensitivity to the oil. Use 1-drop on your finger and rub gently into your temples, avoiding the eye area.
Posture, muscle tension and neck strain are largely to blame for tension headaches, which due to increased computer work, are definitely on the rise. Try 2-drops of Peppermint, 3-drops Lavender and 3-drops Roman Chamomile in 30ml of sweet almond oil and massage your shoulders, neck and forehead. Not only will the oils work on relaxing and releasing the muscles but Lavender and Chamomile work to soothe and calm emotions while Peppermint helps to clear the mind. It’s also worth noting that busy offices and public transport are ideal locations to pick up colds and flu, which can make you feel heavy-headed, essential oils like Eucalyptus, Rosemary and Lavender have antiseptic, antiviral and immuno-stimulant properties so can assist the body in fighting off germs. Occasionally colds, flu (and even hay fever) can turn into painful sinusitis or catarrh. The resulting headaches can be excruciating and certainly annoying! Place 1-3 drops of either, Eucalyptus and Lavender, or Rosemary and Lavender on a tissue or cotton ball and hold about 3 inches away from your nose. Breathe in slowly and deeply several times; repeat approximately 2-3 times per hour, or as often as you feel necessary. Alternatively place the oils in a purpose-made Aromatherapy burner.
Even after all these years I still find using a cold compress beneficial when I have a headache. Soak a washcloth in 500ml of ice-cold water with no more than 2-4 drops of essential oil added to it. I like using 1-drop Lavender, 1-drop Rosemary and 1-drop Neroli, which help me feel relaxed and uplifted. When it comes to headaches don’t rely solely on essential oils. Take active responsibility for your own health and wellness. Practice deep breathing, get plenty of fresh air, take regular breaks from your computer, eat healthfully and drink plenty of water. If you need to talk find a sympathetic friend or support group so you don’t hold onto negative feelings. Aromatherapy works wonders on the mind, body and spirit, but remember you and the essential oils need to work together as a team!