According to the World Health Organization, up to three-fourths of the global adult population will experience a headache at least once a year. While headaches may be a common glitch in the nervous system, the pain and disability they cause is anything but ordinary. In fact, frequent or severe headaches can greatly impact quality of life. The use of peppermint oil offers a natural approach to help relieve headache pain for those who are sensitive to or simply wish to avoid pharmaceutical medications.
Use Quality Peppermint Oil
The oil should be pure essential oil extracted from the peppermint plant and not a fragrance oil adulterated with synthetic ingredients. Note, there is no regulatory agency that certifies or grades essential oils in the United States, so terms on the product like, “therapeutic grade” or “aromatherapy grade” are just marketing words. If, however, you choose an essential oil that displays the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified organic seal, you'll know it was produced without synthetics, pesticides or industrial solvents.
Dilute if Necessary
Most essential oils, including peppermint, can irritate or burn the skin when applied “neat.” To make a dilution, mix together three to five drops of essential oil with a tablespoon of coconut oil or sweet almond oil in a small bowl. Dip a cotton ball into the mixture and apply to the forehead and temples, using long, slow strokes. Then enjoy a period of rest while lying down with eyes closed and a focus on slow, rhythmic breathing.
Disperse With a Diffuser
There are several different types of essential oil diffusers, but a nebulizer is the most effective to introduce a continuous fine mist into the air without the need for heat or water. On the other hand, an ultrasonic diffuser, which does use water, provides the added benefit of increasing the humidity in the environment, which is helpful for sufferers whose headache pain is driven by sinus inflammation. Choose the type that best fits your needs.
Rub it In
Tension headache, one of the most frequently occurring primary types of headache is literally a pain in the neck due to muscle tightness in this area. There's evidence that the menthol in peppermint essential oil counters tension headache when applied topically due to an analgesic effect on the peripheral and central nervous systems comparable to acetaminophen and aspirin. To make a peppermint-infused massage oil, blend one ounce of carrier oil, such as sweet almond or jojoba oil, with three to five drops of peppermint essential oil and massage the oil onto the base of the skull, the back of the neck and the tops of the shoulders.
- World Health Organization: Headache Disorders
- Valença, Marcelo M. "Commentary: Acute Tension-Type Headaches Are Associated with Impaired Cognitive Function and More Negative Mood." Frontiers in Neurology 2016; 7: 103.
- St. Cyr, Andrea; Chen, Ashley; Bradley, Kathleen C.; et al. "Efficacy and Tolerability of STOPAIN for a Migraine Attack." Frontiers in Neurology 2015; 6: 11.
- Göbel, H; Heinze, A; Heinze-Kuhn, K; et al. [Peppermint oil in the acute treatment of tension-type headache]. Schmerz. 2016 Jun;30(3):295-310.