My wife often gets throbbing headaches in the afternoon or evening. They seem to appear out of nowhere, leaving her huddled on the couch in intense pain. Although we’ve spent significant time trying to identify the cause, it remains a mystery. Painkillers don’t do much for her. Up until recently, her preferred method of treatment has been a long shower and a nap.

My wife isn’t alone. Many Americans suffer from headaches and migraines without understanding the cause of their pain. To make matters worse, painkillers are often ineffective. Migraines are especially debilitating. For some reason, these painful headaches are 3 times more common in women than in men.[1] They can be accompanied with nausea and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. My grandmother used to get migraines that knocked her out for days.

On a recent vacation, my wife and I were introduced to the idea of using lavender as a treatment. She decided to give it a try. The next time she had a bad headache, she rubbed some lavender oil on her temples. Within a few minutes she felt much better. The headache didn’t miraculously disappear, but it did significantly improve.

Lavender and Migraines

In 2012, the first study of the effects of lavender oil on migraines was published. Researchers asked participants to use lavender oil during the onset of a headache and record their pain levels at 30-minute intervals for 2 hours.[2] They were not allowed to use any painkillers during this time. To use the lavender oil, participants put 2 to 3 drops on their upper lips and inhaled the vapors for 15 minutes.[3]

Seventy-four percent of participants who used the lavender experienced reduced migraine symptoms. The symptom reduction was much more pronounced in the lavender group than in the placebo group. The researchers concluded that “Inhalation of lavender essential oil may be an effective and safe treatment modality in acute management of migraine headaches.”[4]

How does lavender compare to other migraine treatments? Let’s take a look.[5]

  • A high dose of Tylenol is 52% effective (it helps 52% of people who take it).
  • Ibuprofen is 57% effective.
  • Sumatriptan (the most commonly prescribed headache medicine) is 59% effective.
  • Sumatriptan injections (used in emergency rooms) is 70% effective.[6]

Compared to these meds, lavender’s 74% effectiveness is very impressive. Besides being at least as effective as other (more conventional) treatments, lavender is safe, natural, and easy to use. It probably smells a lot better too. So next time you or someone you love has a headache, give lavender oil a try.

 

References:

[1] “Migraine.” Text. Accessed January 15, 2015. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/migraine.html.

[2] Sasannejad, Payam, Morteza Saeedi, Ali Shoeibi, Ali Gorji, Maryam Abbasi, and Mohsen Foroughipour. “Lavender Essential Oil in the Treatment of Migraine Headache: A Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.” European Neurology 67, no. 5 (2012): 288–91. doi:10.1159/000335249.

[3] “Migraine Relief with Lavender Essential Oil.” Natural Health Research Institute. Accessed January 13, 2015. http://www.naturalhealthresearch.org/32475/.

[4] Sasannejad, Payam, Morteza Saeedi, Ali Shoeibi, Ali Gorji, Maryam Abbasi, and Mohsen Foroughipour. “Lavender Essential Oil in the Treatment of Migraine Headache: A Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.” European Neurology 67, no. 5 (2012): 288–91. doi:10.1159/000335249.

[5] “Lavender for Migraine Headaches | NutritionFacts.org.” Accessed January 13, 2015. http://nutritionfacts.org/video/lavender-for-migraine-headaches/.

[6] Ibid.

 


About the Author

Jonathan Ewald

“If man thinks about his physical or moral state he usually discovers that he is ill.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe