Leading up to the Chronic Headache and Migraine Summit, I interviewed acupuncturist Sarica Cernohous about how you can apply essential oils to key acupressure points for migraine relief, stress relief, and hormonal balance. She was a wealth of information!
Sarica explained that acupuncture is commonly used by people with headaches because it can offer so many pain relief benefits without the side effects of other treatments. When someone has a good acupuncture treatment their body goes from a sympathetic override pattern where they’re in a stressed state to a parasympathetic state where they’re in a rest, repose, heal, recover state of our nervous system. It’s no magic medicine, the technique helps to engage the person’s healing response of their nervous system.
Of course, you can’t always get to an acupuncturist so Sarica shared some things you can do at home with essential oils to treat your headaches.
Many people Sarica sees are getting headaches as a result of not getting enough sleep. They then ingest too much caffeine throughout the day because they’re tired and that sets them up on blood sugar imbalances. When someone is really fatigued and it’s causing a bottleneck of stress in the shoulders and neck, the acupressure point that would be beneficial for many people to massage is called gallbladder 21 and is located at the top of the shoulder where it meets the neck. Using a high-quality lavender essential oil on this spot helps to dial down the histamine response and calm the mind and that can be coupled with a little bit of peppermint oil. The peppermint helps diffuse the tension being held in the area. The base of the skull and the area along the scalp would also be great spots to use these oils as well.
If you need to see a picture of each spot try searching for the acupressure point name – like “gallbladder 21” – we didn’t include them here because we use royalty-free images.
How do you evaluate if it is working?
When you use essential oils for pain, it’s important to start by rating your pain before you use any oils. Then you’ll want to apply the oils and rate the pain again a few minutes later. You can re-apply the oils if you’ve seen a moderate improvement. If you’ve applied it a few times and don’t see a shift, it’s not the right oil for you in this situation.
Sarcia also sees a lot of people with sinus headaches and those are tied to gut dysbiosis. That is because in traditional Chinese medicine there is a close relationship between the lung and large intestine. A point that is helpful for sinus issues & related headaches is the webbing between your thumb and pointer finger or LI-4, also known as He Gu. Massage that area and use peppermint, eucalyptus, or tea tree oil on this spot for sinus pressure. You may want to dilute these oils with coconut oil.
Of course, if you have a sinus headache, you probably have sinus pain in your face and may be tempted to use oils there. When using essential oils on your face, it’s important to dilute them before applying. You can use something like oregano oil and peppermint along cheek area but keep it away well from your eyes. You can also use a bowl of steaming hot water with these oils to help drain out the sinuses when you have sinus congestion.
Many women experience headaches due to hormonal issues around the time of their period. For hormonal headaches, you can use essential oils to massage the area at the very top of your head and some good oil choices would include lavender, peppermint, and frankincense.
Anyone who has had a foot massage knows how calming that can be and massaging your feet with magnesium oil and a drop of peppermint can help to calm stress and relieve hormonal headaches. Topical magnesium oil or gel can be used to relax your muscles and if it’s too intense for your skin you can dilute it with some water or other oils.
To summarize the acupressure points for headaches that Sarnica shared with us:
Stress & fatigue – rub peppermint in magnesium gel/oil on your feet
Hormonal headaches – try lavender, peppermint or frankincense on the very top of your head
Sinus pressure – massage eucalyptus, peppermint or tea tree on the webbing between your thumb and pointer finger
Tight shoulders and neck tension – apply lavender and peppermint to the spot where your neck joins your shoulders
Have another favorite? Let us know in the comments!