Migraine Relief with Lavender Essential Oil

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The researchers determined that rubbing 2-3 drops of lavender essential oil on the upper lip at the first sign of migraine significantly improved headache in 74% of participants.

Approximately 12% of the U.S. population suffers from migraine headaches and women are three times more likely to suffer from the moderate to severe pain caused by migraine headaches than men (2). For the first time, research has shown that inhaling lavender essential oil is a safe and effective option for those who suffer from migraine headaches (1). 

The research included 47 participants with a diagnosis of migraine headaches; the average age was 30 +/- 8.5 years and 72.3% of participants were females (1). Participants were randomly divided to either the lavender group (n=28) or a placebo group (n=19) (1). Participants were followed for six migraine headache attacks. 

Participants in the lavender group were instructed to rub 2-3 drops of lavender essential oil into their upper lip, at the early signs of a headache and inhale the aroma for 15 minutes. Then they were asked to score the severity of their headache at 30-minute intervals for up to 2 hours according to the Visual Analogue Scale (VAS). In the placebo group, the same protocol was used, except participants were given liquid paraffin to place on their upper lip instead of lavender (1). Participants were instructed not to use any pain medications during the first two hours of their headaches, so the results would not be skewed (1). 

The severity of the headache was defined as follows: No pain (VAS score = 0), mild headache (VAS score = 1-4), moderate headache (VAS score = 5-6) and severe headache (VAS score = 7-10) (1). 

The average reduction in headache severity with lavender was 3.6 +/- 2.8 points on the Visual Analog Scale. This was significantly more than the 1.6 +/- 1.6 point reduction with placebo (p<0.0001) (1). 

Not all participants used the lavender or placebo for all 6 headache attacks. The average use of lavender was for 4.6 +/- 1.9 headaches and for placebo was 3.6 +/- 1.8 headaches. From the 129 recorded headaches in the lavender group, 92 attacks or 71.3% of headaches responded totally or partially to lavender. In the placebo group from the 68 recorded headaches, 32 attacks or 47.1% of headaches responded totally or partially to placebo (1). 

In the lavender group, 74% of participants had improvement in symptoms associated with migraine headaches (nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to sound and sensitivity to smells), which was statistically a greater improvement than the 58% of participants in the placebo group that reported improvements (p<0.0001) (1). 

In conclusion, inhaling lavender essential oil at the first signs of a migraine headache reduced the headache severity and symptoms associated with migraine headaches. Further research comparing lavender essential oil to commonly used drugs for migraines are still needed. This was the first placebo controlled, clinical trail, using lavender essential oil in the treatment of migraine headaches at the time of publication.

Abstracted by Jessica Patella, ND on September 2, 2013 from “Lavender Essential Oil in the Treatment of Migraine Headache: A Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trail” from the 67th volume of 2012 in the publication of European Neurology. Posted September 4, 2013. r/bh

Jessica Patella, ND, is a naturopathic physician specializing in nutrition and homeopathic medicine and offers a holistic approach to health.  She earned her ND from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, AZ, and is a member of the North Carolina Association of Naturopathic Physicians.  Visit her website at  www.awarenesswellness.com

References: 

  1. Sasannejad P, et al.  Lavender Essential Oil in the Treatment of Migraine Headache: A Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trail.  Eur Neurol 2012;67:288-291.
  2. Migraine.  Medline Plus.

Fats & Oils-General & Misc., Headaches