Could Using Peppermint Oil For Headaches Be The Answer?

Ending The Pounding With An Essential Oil...

The Short Answer –

Peppermint oil has been proven in a number of clinical trials to be effective in the treatment of headaches. With care and attention, you can use peppermint oil for headaches with great success.

But like all claims made for essential oils, we will never accept the rumours without testing for the truth. In this article, we were pleasantly surprised…

The Theory Behind Using Peppermint Oil For Headaches…

Peppermint oil itself comes from the peppermint plant, a native that thrives across Europe and the US.

Using peppermint oil for headaches is said to be effective due to the high concentration of menthol present (44%). This is thought to relax the mind, while delivering an analgesic effect, neutralizing the headache at the same time.

This theory further rests on 3 technical assumptions –

That local application of peppermint oil creates a cooling effect on the skin

That peppermint oil inhibits serotonine (non-competively 5-hydroxytryptamin) and substance P induced smooth muscle.

That peppermint oil significantly increases blood flow to the forehead.

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The Evidence Behind Using Peppermint Oil For Headaches…

Key Study One

There are two key trials that establish the credibility of peppermint oil in the treatment of headaches.

The first compared a 10% peppermint oil infusion with ethanol against Acetylsalicylic acid (paracetamol), as first published in Schmerz.

Paracetamol is the gold standard for most normal headaches and this trial measured the effectiveness of peppermint oil against paracetamol in treating tension-type headaches.

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, so this offered a really good test. The trial concluded significant benefits over placebo (fake treatment) and comparable results to the efficacy offered by paracetamol (Acetylsalicylic acid).

Key Study Two

The second key trial that provides real proof of peppermint oil’s ability to treat headaches naturally comes from Phytomedicine. This trial studied combinations of peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil and used ethanol as a carrier.

The combination of all three noted considerable improved cognitive performance, but no analgesic effect on the pain sensitivity of the sufferers involved.

However, when the eucalyptus oil was removed, peppermint oil’s ability to provide headache relief actually greatly improved.

This proved two key things –

  1. Firstly that peppermint oil was definitely effective in the treatment of headaches and
  2. Secondly that mixing oils does not automatically give you the benefits of both.

Key Learning Points…

This second point is particularly interesting because it flies in the face of other so-called ‘knowledge’ that always seeks to mix oils and create ‘ultimate headache cures’ etc.

The theory behind doing so is that you can pick the attributes you want from each and the combined oil will give you the full array of benefits. Clearly from the trial, the addition of eucalyptus oil actually nullified (greatly reduced) the analgesic effect of the peppermint oil.

How Best To Use Peppermint Oil For Migraines

Pure peppermint essential oil is a powerful liquid and it is vital you use the right doses for your own safety. I have covered much more about how to use peppermint oil for headaches and a range of other ailments here.

However, in short summary, you should be considering using peppermint oil either with a carrier oil and applied gently on your forehead or through the use of an electronic diffuser.

A third option is to add it to a hot bath, but local application to the forehead is likely to be the fastest treatment for a throbbing tension headache.

The Final Word –

The biggest issue I have in ever recommending essential oils is the number of sellers that try to claim (without evidence) that they can achieve a whole list of wonderful things.

This is made worse by the fact that with so many different oils and so many different ailments that each one is supposed to be able to help with, it would take thousands of clinical studies to get a complete picture.

However, in the case of peppermint oil and headaches, there actually is clear evidence through properly conducted genuine clinical trials to support their use.

There is also data that suggests peppermint oil works well with migraines too, but knowing how different migraines are to headaches, I have covered this in another article (‘peppermint oil and migraines’).

So adding all that up, it is big thumbs up for peppermint oil when it comes to treating headaches!

Side Effects/ Cautions

Potential side effects of peppermint oil include allergic reactions and heartburn. Most arise from using the wrong dose (see how to use peppermint oil for details).

You should not use peppermint oil during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Similarly, avoid use in infants and small children. You should always consult your family doctor before changing your medical routine.

Please see our article on ‘side effects of peppermint oil’ for more detail.

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References Used –

1. H Göbel, A Heinze, K Heinze-Kuhn, A Göbel, C Göbel. (June 2016). Peppermint Oil in the Acute Treatment of Tension-Type Headache. Schmerz
2. H Göbel 1, G Schmidt, M Dworschak, H Stolze, D Heuss. (Oct 1995). Essential Plant Oils and Headache Mechanisms. Phytomedicine.

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