Trialing The Effectiveness Of Peppermint Oil For Migraines

Can Peppermint Oil End The Thunder In Your Mind?

The Short Answer –

The menthol in peppermint oil gives it great qualities when it comes to treating migraines. Here we review the clinical evidence for using peppermint oil for migraines and find another realistic option for migraine sufferers…

One Of The Oldest Medicines…

Peppermint oil comes (not surprisingly) from the peppermint plant. It thrives across Europe and America (so is never in short supply) and has been described as somewhere between spearmint and water mint when it comes to taste/ aroma.

Many sources discuss the benefits of peppermint oil for migraines, but then somewhat arrogantly band them together with headaches.

Although they are similar, to anyone that suffers with a migraine, they are also very different. An aversion to light or sound, temporary vision loss, nausea and pain behind one eye are among a number of symptoms not seen in headaches.

Essential oils and the plants they come from were among the very first treatments for many ailments used long before the pharmacy-led medicine that we know today.

Indeed many of the ingredients are used in the medicines that we treasure most today.

So it should be no surprise that many essential oils can still offer considerable pain relief today.

But the real question, as anyone can write something that is opinion, is what clinical evidence is there that you can successfully apply peppermint oil for migraines?

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The Evidence Behind Using Peppermint Oil For Migraines…

The main clinical evidence behind using peppermint oil for migraines comes from the International Journal Of Preventative Medicine. This studied Lidocaine (a local anesthetic) vs A Peppermint Oil Dilution vs A Placebo.

By including a non-active substance that patients though was a medication but actually isn’t (the placebo) it added what is known as a ‘control group’, so we can assess the real impact of the tested elements.

In this particular trial, both lidocaine and peppermint essential oil outperformed the placebo (non-medicine), and both made a clinically significant difference.

Looking further in to the data and we see that peppermint oil both reduced the frequency and the severity of migraines.

Not only that, but it also marginally outperformed lidocaine, the more established pain relief – and one with a considerably larger side effect profile.

The other main trials used to support the use of peppermint oil for migraines focus on the treatment of headaches.

However, the data is robust enough to assume that, while the treatments for headaches and migraines are similar but differ, so too will the impact of peppermint oil.

Certainly the trial by Göbel et al in Phytomedicine commented on peppermint oil’s ability to provide mental relaxation was noted. This is universally likely to impact migraines just as much as headaches. 

As the study commented,

“peppermint oil induces a significant increase of the skin blood flow of the forehead after local application, measured by laser doppler”

The other interesting finding in that study was that the initial mix of peppermint with eucalyptus oil and ethanol provided no analgesic effect.

However, on removing the eucalyptus oil, the results showed ‘a significant analgesic effect’.

The reason this is interesting is that it shows that just adding combinations of essential oils together and assuming you’ll get the best of each oil’s benefits is not true.

Simply mixing without scientific knowledge, can actually reduce or even nullify the benefits you are trying to promote.

This casts into question some of the oil suppliers who mix numerous oils together into ‘sleep’ potions and so on.

How To Use Peppermint Oil For Migraines.

Typically there are three basic ways to use peppermint oil for migraines –

  1. One is as a pleasant scent dispersed while you sleep/ study or work through an electronic diffuser.
  2. The second is to dilute peppermint oil with a carrier oil (such as ethanol) and put on cotton wool before gently massaging into your forehead.
  3. A third way is to add a few drops to your bath.

For more detailed information check out our article on ‘how to use peppermint oil’

The Final Word –

The only other major trial on peppermint oil was conducted on tension-type headaches and revealed further positive outcomes – but was not conducted on migraines. (Schmerz

Although it is frequently quoted in association with migraine relief, it shouldn’t be. A migraine is not a headache.

However, all the data does point to one outcome – you should seriously consider using peppermint oil to treat migraines.

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. Mahmood Rafieian-kopaei, Ali Hasanpour-dehkordi,1 Zahra Lorigooini, Fatemeh Deris,2 Kamal Solati,3 and Faezeh Mahdiyeh. (July 2019). Comparing the Effect of Intranasal Lidocaine 4% with Peppermint Essential Oil Drop 1.5% on Migraine Attacks: A Double-Blind Clinical Trial. International Journal Of Preventative Medicine
2. H Göbel 1, G Schmidt, M Dworschak, H Stolze, D Heuss. (Oct 1995). Essential Plant Oils and Headache Mechanisms. Phytomedicine.
3. H Göbel, A Heinze, K Heinze-Kuhn, A Göbel, C Göbel. (June 2016). Peppermint Oil in the Acute Treatment of Tension-Type Headache. Schmerz

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