Tag Archives: pain relief

Essential Oils for Headaches

Essential Oils for HeadachesHeadaches are one of the most common medical complaints; they can be caused by stress, muscle tension, hunger, eye strain from too much screen time, or deeper medical conditions. Luckily, there are many essential oils for headaches that can help reduce pain and tension. What’s more, using essential oils to treat headaches is often as easy as dabbing some oil on a cotton ball or inhaling some from the bottle. In this article, we explore some of the most popular essential oils for headaches and how to use them effectively.

Please note that this article is not a substitute for trained medical advice. Headaches may be an indication of a more serious medical condition. You should consult a physician if you suffer from headaches that are severe and/or chronic. Many severe, chronic headaches such as migraines and cluster headaches require treatment by a doctor. This article is intended to be an overview of essential oils to treat headaches that are minor and infrequent.

How Essential Oils Can Reduce Headache:

Essential oils containing menthol or 1,8-cineol have cooling properties that can directly numb the pain and discomfort of a headache [1]. Many essential oils also have vasodilating properties that increase circulation [1], may reduce muscle tension, and can even treat emotional stress at the root of some headaches [3]. Essential oils with hormone-balancing properties, such as lavender and clary sage, may be especially effective at reducing headaches caused by hormonal imbalances during a woman’s menstrual cycle [3]. As you can see, as many causes as there are for headaches, there is also an essential oil to combat them!

The Essential Oils – Peppermint:

One of the most popular essential oils for headaches, peppermint contains cooling menthol that can directly numb tissues while also increasing nourishing blood flow to the painful area. People commonly use peppermint oil for tension headache and muscle ache [2]. However, peppermint oil can be stimulating and may interfere with sleep, so we recommend against using it right before bed. You can also use spearmint oil if you prefer the aroma, since it contains many of the same compounds [2].

Essential Oils for Headaches

Peppermint oil is considered one of the best home remedies for headaches and migraines.

Lavender: With its high linalyl acetate content, lavender oil is sedating and can soothe inflammation [2]. The oil also contains phytoestrogens which may help reduce headaches caused by an imbalance of female hormones. Lavender oil’s calming properties can be perfect for treating any underlying emotional stress as well. This oil can be used before bed without keeping you awake, and in fact, lavender aromatherapy is actually recommended for treating sleeplessness[2].

Roman Chamomile Oil: This lovely, apple-scented oil possesses similar properties to lavender oil due to its high ester content [2]. Roman chamomile oil is sedative, reduces tissue inflammation, and may also have direct relaxing effects on the nerves [2].

Essential Oils for Headaches

Roman chamomile oil is one of the gentlest essential oils. Its common name comes from its wide use in medicine since Roman times.

Eucalyptus Oil: This oil is especially effective for sinus headaches caused by congestion. Packed with 1,8-cineol, eucalyptus has powerful expectorant properties and direct analgesic properties similar to menthol [3]. Note that eucalyptus oil should not be used on children younger than 12 (for older children, consult a physician), because it can cause respiratory spasm, especially in larger quantities [2].

Basil Oil: A muscle relaxant similar to peppermint oil, basil oil can be used to reduce tension headaches, as well as aches and pains in the surrounding neck and head muscles [1].

Ginger Oil: This slightly spicy-smelling oil is a powerful vasodilator and circulatory stimulant. Commonly used for painful, aching joints, a little bit of ginger oil can also go a long way toward wiping away that irritating tension headache [2]. Ginger oil is best used sparingly in a blend with another oil such as lavender. Anecdotal evidence suggests ginger oil may be somewhat effective against more severe chronic headaches such as migraines [3].

Essential Oils for Headaches

Ginger oil is an invigorating circulatory stimulant that works on circulatory problems and muscle pain as well as headaches.

How to Use Essential Oils for Headaches:

As with any essential oil treatment, dilution is the rule. Always dilute a few drops of your chosen essential oil (or blend) in 1 fluid ounce of a gentle carrier like jojoba oil. The general ratio is 10-12 drops of essential oil (6-8 drops if using peppermint, spearmint, or eucalyptus, as these oils are stronger) in 1 fluid ounce of carrier oil. Place your blend in an amber or blue glass bottle with a stopper. 1-4 drops of this blend may be massaged into the painful area—back of the neck, temples, forehead, and so on. You can also dilute a few drops of essential oil in water in a spray bottle to create a room spray, or use the inhalation method: place a few drops of undiluted oil into a diffuser or cotton ball and inhale the vapors. When using this method, use only one drop of essential oil at first until you know how your body reacts to it [2].


Always use any essential oil for headache sparingly and in dilution (unless using the diffusion method above). Using more of an oil will not necessarily be more effective, and may cause a reaction or sensitivity to the oil. We always recommend consulting a physician when considering treating children with essential oils, as they may have sensitivities to certain oils. For instance, oils high in menthol or 1,8-cineol, such as peppermint or eucalyptus, can cause breathing difficulties in children. Furthermore, while this is rare, a few essential oils can actually cause headaches! Ylang ylang oil in particular is a headache trigger for some people, especially when used in excess [2].

Other Headache Treatments:

Certain foods rich in phytochemicals are thought to reduce the frequency of headaches: particularly flax seed (which is high in healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids), and buckwheat, which contains the phytochemical rutin [1]. The pith (white part) of citrus fruit is also a source of rutin. Conversely, people suffering chronic headaches and migraines should consider keeping a food diary to identify foods that may be headache triggers. Common “trigger foods” include caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, chocolate, red wine, foods high in tannins, MSG, red or processed meat, and aged, fermented or pickled foods [1]. Eliminating these foods and then slowly adding in one at a time can be one way to identify foods that may be headache triggers [1].

Even more severe forms of headaches such as migraine and cluster headache may respond to do-it-yourself remedies. At the onset of a migraine, massaging the occipital nerve at the base of the skull can sometimes reduce the severity of an attack, or even prevent it in some cases [3]. This treatment’s effectiveness may be increased by warming the hands about 15 degrees (by soaking them in warm water); researchers think this increase in temperature may treat vascular headaches by regulating circulation [3].

Finally, some people find relief from chronic, severe headache such as cluster headache by use of capsaicin cream [3]. Derived from the compound that makes chili peppers hot, when rubbed into the spot where headaches occur 4-5 times per day for about 4 weeks, capsaicin cream is thought to reduce and even prevent severe headaches by depleting nerve endings of substance P, the neurotransmitter that sends pain impulses to the brain [3]. Capsaicin cream works best as a headache preventative because of the more extended treatment required.

Nature has created many plants with compounds that can aid us in our quest to rid ourselves of headaches and other sources of chronic pain. With a little research and dedication, it is possible to naturally treat headaches and live a more comfortable life!


1. Calabro, Sara. “Home Remedies for Headache and Migraine”. Everyday Health. Accessed January 27th, 2015. http://www.everydayhealth.com/headache-migraine-pictures/8-home-remedies-for-headaches-and-migraines.aspx.

2. “Aromatherapy for Headaches”. Aromaweb. Accessed January 27th, 2015. http://www.aromaweb.com/articles/aromatherapy-essential-oils-for-headaches.asp.

3. Keville, Kathy. “How to Get Rid of a Headache With Aromatherapy”. HowStuffWorks. Accessed January 27th, 2015. http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/natural-medicine/aromatherapy/how-to-get-rid-of-a-headache-with-aromatherapy.htm.

Pure Birch Oil and Its Traditional Use as a Muscle Liniment

Pure Birch Oil and Its Traditional Use as a Muscle LinimentPure birch essential oil is almost 100% methyl salicylate—the same therapeutic compound used in liniments to soothe muscle aches and painful joints—which may be why birch oil was a popular folk remedy for sore joints, sprains, and muscle aches caused by overexertion [1]. All parts of this beautiful tree have been used by people living in temperate Europe and North America—as a textile material, medicine, perfume, and even a food!

Several species of birch (genus Betula) can be found in temperate regions of the world; Betula alba is the species typically used to extract birch essential oil. Birches are small to medium-sized trees or shrubs with serrated leaves and characteristic smooth, shiny bark marked by horizontal oval strips called lenticels [2]. Birch bark can be white, yellow, silver, or black depending on the composition of essential oils in the bark tar; common names for different species of birch often use the color of the bark as a distinguishing characteristic.

The name “birch” is thought to derive from an Indo-European root meaning “to shine”, in reference to birch bark’s beautiful sheen [2]. The tough outer bark of the birch tree can be peeled off the trunk in papery sheets, and was used as a durable natural paper by people in continental Europe for hundreds if not thousands of years. In fact, the bark’s tar content makes it so resistant to decay that birch bark drawings dating from 1240-1260 CE have been recovered at archaeological sites near Novgorod, Russia [2]!

Besides being a valued paper analogue, the bark of the birch tree has been used by humans in fragrancing, medicine, and even food—the soft inner bark of the birch tree is edible and was eaten as a starch in times when other starch sources were scarce [1]. Interior birch bark may also have been used as the first “aspirin” in Europe and North America: the soft bark was steeped into a methyl salicylate-containing tea that was taken to treat headaches and congestion [1]. In Russia, birch oil was a jealously guarded fragrance and key component in “Russian Leather”, a perfume so-named because it was once rubbed into book bindings to keep the leather soft, water-resistant, and pliable, as well as to repel insects that could cause damage [1]. Ladies also scented their kerchiefs with a scent called Iceland Wintergreen that contained birch oil [1].

Today, aromatherapists use birch oil in many of the same applications as wintergreen oil: as a topical liniment for sore muscles, joints, and sprains, and in diffusion to treat headache and sinus congestion [3]. In Europe, birch essential oil is also one of the few essential oils approved to treat arthritis and other joint conditions in horses. Pure birch essential oil contains mostly methyl salicylate (the same active compound found in wintergreen oil), as well as creosol and guaiacol [1], which combined give pure birch oil an enchantingly fresh, minty scent!

Aromatherapists also use a drop or two of birch oil in a warm bath to soothe sore muscles, promote circulation and encourage menstruation, especially when the latter has been delayed due to stress or emotional issues [1]. Some people also find relief from the dry rough skin that accompanies eczema or psoriasis when birch oil is added to a lotion [1]. A small amount of birch oil may also be added to a shampoo or conditioner to combat dandruff [3].

Like wintergreen oil, birch oil is an oral toxin due to its high methyl salicylate content [3]. Birch essential oil should never be taken internally or used over large areas of the skin [3]. Birch oil is best used in diffusion from an oil burner or diffuser, or topically in extremely limited quantities. The oil’s refreshing, minty aroma blends exceptionally well with woody or floral oils such as jasmine, rose, benzoin, rosemary, and sandalwood.


1. Keville, Kathy. “Aromatherapy: Birch”. HowStuffWorks. Accessed September 12th, 2014. http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/natural-medicine/aromatherapy/aromatherapy-birch.htm.

2.“Birch”. Wikipedia. Last modified September 9th, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birch.

3. “Health Benefits of Birch Essential Oil”. Organic Facts. Accessed September 12th, 2014. https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/essential-oils/health-benefits-of-birch-essential-oil.html.

Wintergreen Oil is a Natural Pain Relief Alternative

Wintergreen Oil Is a NAtural Pain Relief Alternative

Wintergreen essential oil is a natural pain remedy, with anti-rheumatic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, diuretic, antitussive, carminative, emmenagogue, stimulant and galactagogue properties.

Wintergreen Essential Oil


Indigenous peoples have spent centuries acquiring the knowledge of how to take care of their bodies using natural remedies found in nature. These traditional healing techniques have been fine tuned through the centuries, and the herbal wisdom acquired is passed from generation to generation. One such piece of wisdom is the usage of wintergreen essential oil for natural pain relief and other natural healing benefits; traditionally achieved through chewing the leaves [7]. The oil is derived from the wintergreen plant, scientifically known as Gaultheria Procumbens of the Ericaceae family. It is sometimes referred to by the name “checkerberry” or “teaberry” [2].

In less traditional methods of extraction, the oil from the wintergreen leaves is extracted through steam distillation. First, the leaves are macerated (softened) in warm water.  The maceration process is what enables the formation of methyl salicylate (responsible for the pain alleviation) – formed from a glycoside compound, which takes formation while the leaves are being warmed [5]. The pure essential oil is then obtained through the steam distillation of the softened leaves [8].


Methyl salicylate is the beneficial compound found in wintergreen essential oil – the benefit of methyl salicylate is probably what accounts for wintergreen’s precursory use to pharmaceutical aspirin [2].  Once applied topically to the area of inflammation or pain, the salicylates enter the cells through the external tissues and inhibit the formation of prostaglandins [9] – a group of cyclic fatty acids responsible for swelling and pain reception [12]. This salicylate action then is responsible for the reduction of inflammation and pain that wintergreen oil is so fondly known for [2].

Winter green oil is used to alleviate the pain of arthritis and other joint conditions, acute pain and sensitivity.  Due to having similar pain relief properties as that of aspirin due to its methyl salicylate content, wintergreen oil is also used to help with headaches and pain caused by injury [2].  The synthetic version of methyl salicylate is also found in several over-the-counter pain remedies aside from aspirin, such as rub-A535 [11].  These effects are generally acquired through the external application of the oil in a diluted formula [7].


Wintergreen essential oil is also used in formulas or blends that open breathing passages or provide sinus relief, such as the Tei-Fu blend which contains safflower oil, menthol, wintergreen oil, camphor and other essential oils [1]. Often essential oils are blended with other oils for added or enhanced benefit.  The oils can also be added to facial oils or facial massage formulas, perfumes, skin creams and other body formulas.  However, with all oils used in blends it is important to understand the intricacies of each oil – essential oils are highly concentrated and some can be toxic if used inappropriately [3].


It is incredibly important to understand the proper use of wintergreen essential oil, since it can be toxic if used incorrectly [2].  The oil must be used in modest amounts just like aspirin and other synthesized or organic pain remedy methods that are high in salicylates. Salicylates are a blood-thinning agent that are found in many over-the-counter painkillers and natural foods known for their blood-thinning properties – such as garlic or onions [6]. Wintergreen essential oil can be absorbed transdermally (through the skin) and can enter the blood system in this way [2].  As a result it is very important to ensure that it is not overly used or used in the wrong quantities.  For illustrative purposes, in a teaspoon of 98% methyl salicylate (the compound primarily found in the wintergreen plant) there are 7 grams of methyl salicylates [10] – 4.7 grams of methyl salicylate can be dangerous [4].

Some authors on the proper usage of wintergreen and other essential oils suggest that it only be used externally on unbroken skin and that it not be used on wounds or open sores or ingested [9]. Although wintergreen essential oil is used in candies and food in very small micro measured quantities as a flavouring agent, these are scientifically calculated and produced so as  to be certain of safety and it should never be used for such purposed at home  [2].  In any case, a health practitioner’s advice should always be sought before using something like wintergreen essential oil, which could have toxic effects if used incorrectly.

It’s rare to find folks chewing on wintergreen leaves these days, but extracted wintergreen essential oil is an excellent alternative to this more traditional method and probably a whole lot easier to use as well. The oil provides an easily accessible method of preparing the body for the day’s adventures or getting some relief after a hard day’s work!


1. Aromatherapy for the respiratory system: online http://www.naturalhealthschool.com/respiratory_aromatherapy.html

2. Balch A. Phyllis CNC. “Prescription for Herbal Healing”.  Penguin Putnam INC, 2002: p. 142.

3. Dodt, Colleen K. “The Essential Oils Book: Creating Personal Blends for Mind and Body”. Pownal, Vt: Storey Communications, 1996. p. 64.

4. Ellenhorn, M.J. and D.G. Barceloux. “Medical Toxicology – Diagnosis and Treatment of Human Poisoning”. New York, NY: Elsevier Science Publishing Co., Inc. 1988., p. 562: online http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@term+@DOCNO+1935

5. Ingrid Petrus. Essential Oil Profile – Wintergreen. Cheryl’s Herbs, 2012: online http://www.cherylsherbs.com/Essential%20Oil%20Profiles/wintergreen.htm

6. Isaacs, Tony.  “Nature Offers Safe and Effective Blood Thinning Alternatives”.  June 25, 2012: online http://www.naturalnews.com/036286_blood_thinners_natural_remedies_alternatives.html

7. Lerner K. Lee and Lerner, Brenda Wilmoth. “Winter Green”. The Gale Encyclopedia of Science.  Detroit: Gale, 2008. Vol. 6. 4th ed. p. 4709.

8. Mulvaney, Jill. “Essential Oils and Steam Distillation”. Australian Journal of Herbal Medicine: National Herbal Association of Australia, 2012.  Vol. 24. 4th ed. p. 140.

9. The International Journal of Aromatherapy. Elsevier Science Publishing CO., INC. 2000. Vol. 10. 1st ed. p. 16 – 29.

10. Waseem, Muhammad MD, MS.  “Salicylate Toxicity”.  Last Modified, March 5, 2013: online http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1009987-overview

11. Wikipedia. Rub-A535. Last Modified: March 14, 2014: online http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RUB_A535.

12. Wikipedia. Prostaglandin.  Last Modified: February 22, 2014: online http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostaglandin.