America is a migraine nation. Approximately 37 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches. It’s estimated that there are 2-3 million chronic migraine suffers and about 5 million have a minimum of one migraine attack per month.
Even worse, 11 million Americans are moderately to severely disabled by migraines. Ninety-one percent can’t work or function during an attack, while 24% wind up in the emergency room because of severe pain.
A migraine is a debilitating type of headache with one or more symptoms including: nausea (73%), sound sensitivity (76%), vomiting (29%), vision anomalies (44%), pulsating or throbbing head pain (85%), pain on one side of head (59%), and sensitivity to light (80%).
Some migraine sufferers experience warning symptoms about 30 minutes prior to a migraine attack called an aura (36%). An aura is described as odd body sensations in various parts of the body and/or visual disturbances.
Lavender oil clinical trial for migraines
In 2012, for the first time, a placebo-controlled clinical trial confirmed that lavender essential oil aromatherapy is effective in relieving migraine headaches. The study was conducted by the Department of Neurology, School of Medicine, Mashad University of Medical Sciences, Mashad, Iran.
The trial included 47 participants diagnosed with migraines who were randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group of migraine sufferers was instructed to apply “two to three drops of lavender essential oil onto their upper lip and inhale its vapor for a 15-min period, then score the severity of their headache for the next two hours.”
The control group followed the exact same protocol, but, instead of lavender essential oil, they rubbed drops of liquid wax on their upper lip. No other interventions were allowed.
The lavender group not only reported a 74% improvement in the severity of their symptoms, they also reported significantly fewer migraines than the placebo group. In other words, lavender helped migraine sufferers about three quarters of the time.
The researchers concluded that the inhalation of lavender essential oil may be a safe and effective treatment for acute migraine headache management. Although this was a small study and claims that more studies need to be done, others have been done.
Lavender essential oil has been demonstrated in other scientific studies to have analgesic (pain-killing) properties, nervine properties (calming nerves), sedative properties for mood and anxiety disorders, and spasmolytic reduction properties (relieving spasms or convulsions) in addition to being antihypertensive (dilates blood vessels).
It’s also an excellent antimicrobial, antifungal, and effective antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. Many aroma therapists routinely recommend lavender essential oil for insomnia and calming the nervous system as well as relieving headaches.
Comparing pharmaceutical pain killers to lavender oil
Tylenol (high doses) helped migraine sufferers about 50% of the time. Ibuprofen worked about 57% of the time. The number one prescribed prescription drug, Imitrex, had a 59% rating.
In severe cases at hospital emergency rooms where doctors inject migraine patients with powerful drugs, the rate of effectiveness is 70%. Remember the clinical trial discussed above – 74% effective as aromatherapy.
Here is a short list of pharmaceutical pain-killer side effects:
Tylenol (acetaminophen) can cause liver damage and liver failure with large or chronic dosages. There are roughly 80,000 acetaminophen overdose ER visits annually.
Ibuprofen can cause rash, ringing in the ears, headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, abdominal pain, nausea and may cause ulceration of the stomach or intestine and bleeding ulcers.
Imitrex side effects include anxiety, chest pain or tightness, trouble breathing, abdominal or stomach pain, sometimes vomiting blood and blindness.
Lavender essential oils used for aromatherapy are GRAS (generally regarded as safe) by the FDA. Just make sure they are essential oils and not merely fragrances.
Sources for this article include: