Updated with new items 11 Aug 2019
Disclaimer: This article is not medical advice: this is my experience only. The items listed here should not be used to diagnose, treat, or manage any condition. If you are on medication, you should not stop it without your physician’s knowledge and approval. Do not use any of these essential oils or aromatherapy products if you are allergic to any of the ingredients.
I was first diagnosed with migraine disorder when I was five. Although virtually all the women in my family had the neurological disorder, everyone called it “sick headaches” because of the nausea and crippling head pain that often accompany the attacks. When I was 9, a doctor noticed that I was having seizures during a migraine, but it would be another 30 years till a physician specializing in migraine told me I had hemiplegic migraine as well as migraine with and without aura. The recent crackdown on migraine and chronic pain patients, which involves some doctors’ refusing to write new prescriptions, as well as pharmacies and insurance companies’ refusing to fill (or refill) legitimate prescriptions, has been crippling many chronic pain and migraine patients. Recently, I detailed all the natural supplements and vitamins I’ve been using for the past two years that have helped reduce some of my chronic pain, even the excruciating pain of migraine attacks or neuropathic facial pain (formerly called trigeminal neuralgia). I’ve also found a few pre-mixed essential oil aromatherapy products that reduce this disabling nerve pain.
Aromatherapy is an alternative medicine, derived from herbal medicine, involving the therapeutic use of essential oils extracted from plants, herbs, flowers, trees, or other natural elements to reduce pain, anxiety, nausea, or insomnia, to boost your own immune system, or as a supplementary treatment with some cancer patients. Many civilizations have used aromatherapy as “complementary or alternative” therapies for thousands of years. Though some physicians consider aromatherapy to be “quackery,” there are limited studies indicating that the essential oils can be useful adjunctive therapy for critically or terminally ill patients as well as for chronic pain patients, and can be beneficial to patients experiencing anxiety and claustrophobia from the restrictive environment of MRIs, for instance. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy and the Alliance of International Aromatherapists govern national educational standards for aromatherapists, but essential oils are not evaluated, overseen, or controlled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
I’ve been using essential oil of lavender for over 20 years, after it was first recommeded by one of my doctors, but I’d never tried any other essential oils for pain. All of these essential oil aromatherapy roll-ons and balms are portable, diluted and pre-mixed (i.e., in a carrier oil) so they can be applied directly to the skin (but not near the eyes or mucous membranes). All of them have been helping reduce the migraine and neuropathic facial pain.*
Essential Oil Aromatherapy Roll-ons
Migrastil Migraine Stick
The first aromatherapy roll-on I tried was Migrastil Migraine Stick (ingredients: therapeutic grade essential oils of peppermint, spearmint, and lavender in a base of fractionated coconut oil) and when I put it on my temples and the back of my neck, I experienced a pleasant cooling sensation. Since I am unable to use ice or cold packs during a migraine attack, I found the cool sensation of the essential oils surprisingly comforting. (This is the only roll-on I’m using that has a plastic rollerball, and while that doesn’t seem to affect the cooling sensation or pain relief, I prefer the roll-ons with metal rollerballs because they feel cooler during application.) After I used Migrastil Migraine Stick for a few weeks, I researched some other aromatherapy roll-ons being sold for pain relief, specifically for migraine or headache relief. Because I felt better after using the Migrastil Migraine Stick roll-on, I was encouraged to look at some others.
Headache Be Gone
Headache Be Gone (ingredients: essential oils of lavender, peppermint, and frankincense in a base of almond oil) smells even more strongly of lavender, which I like, though it doesn’t give me as much of a cooling sensation as the Migrastil Migraine Stick. I used both of these roll-ons together as soon as I got them.
Because I like the metal rollerball of the Headache Be Gone, which makes the essential oil feel cool going on my skin, I researched more products from Aromata. I found Lavender Calm (ingredients: organic lavender and almond oil), and I love the fact that this roll-on enables me to carry essential oil of lavender with me when I have to leave home. I use this along with the other two roll-ons, as needed for pain.
Headache Relief Roll-On
Headache Relief Roll-On (ingredients: essential oils of peppermint, Spanish sage, cardamom, ginger, and frankincense in a base of grapeseed oil) has a completely different scent from the previous roll-ons, and I initially got it because it included ginger, cardamom, and frankincense, all purported to be anti-inflammatories.
Aromata has become one of my new favorite companies: so far, I’ve liked all their pain-relieving roll-ons. After using their Headache Be Gone and their Lavender Calm, I decided to use their Frankincense (ingredients: essential oil of wild-grown frankincense in almond oil), which is one of the ingredients in Prime Natural’s Headache Relief Roll-on. Used in Ayurvedic medicine to reduce inflammation, frankincense might be useful to reduce pain for anyone who cannot tolerate essential oil of lavender well.
Balms in a Stick
Aromatherapy balms and sticks are basically the same as the aromatherapy essential oil roll-ons except the balms have a firmer consistency. Since I’ve used Badger brand’s muscle balm, I was excited to use their headache and stress Soother balms, which are available in a stick, like a thick chapstick or lip balm in a tube. Both Headache Soother and Stress Soother are very pleasant smelling and relaxing. Though there are a few more ingredients in each (making my favorite essential oil, lavender, just a bit harder to distinguish), these essential oil sticks are very pleasant. I swipe these balms on my wrists and inhale deeply. At bedtime, these tend to help me fall asleep more quickly, which is always a relief when you’re in pain. I like both of the versions I tried.
Headache Soother has more ingredients than any of the roll-ons listed above, which made me initially hesitant to try it. However, I have used Badger’s Muscle Balm with great success, so I decided to try some of their other Soothers, which are more portable than their balms in a tin and don’t require you to dip your fingers into the balm to apply it to your skin. Headache Soother contains the following certified organic ingredients (I have not included the Latin names for these ingredients, all of which are listed on the label, preceding the English names):
Extra Virgn Olive Fruit Oil, Beeswax, Castor Seed Oil, Lavender Flower Oil, Menthol, Peppermint Leaf Oil, Sunflower Vitamin E, Eucalyptus Leaf Oil, Mandarin Peel Oil, Sandalwood Oil, Calendula Flower Extract, Rosehip Fruid Extract
Stress Soother is also very effective when I’m in pain. Whether the anxiety before a migraine attack is my body’s instinctive warning sign of a migraine or is a result of the pain, it’s helpful to have products that can help with the anxiety that accompanies chronic pain. Badger’s Stress Soother is a good accompaniment to the essential oil roll-ons I’ve been using. Stress Soother contains the following certified organic ingredients (as above, I have not included the Latin names for the ingredients, though Badger does supply all of these on their labels):
Extra Virgin Olive Fruit Oil, Beeswax, Tangerine Peel Oil, Lavender Flower Oil, Rosemary Leaf Oil, Cedar Wood Oil, Sunflower Vitamin E Oil, Spearmint Leaf Oil, Damascene Rose Flower Oil, Calendula Flower Extract, Rosehip Fruit Extract, Roman Chamomile Flower Oil
Badger instructs you not to use any of their aromatherapy sticks near your eyes, and, as with any other product containing essential oils, you should never ingest them.
Drinking essential oils can cause liver or kidney damage, so do not ingest any essential oils. Putting an essential oil on your skin without first mixing it with a carrier oil, such as olive, almond, coconut, etc. can cause skin irritation or chemical burns, so do not use undiluted essential oils directly on the skin. Limited studies indicate that prolonged exposures to essential oils via inhalation, as in a diffuser or in a closed environment, might have some harmful effects, such as lung or eye irritation, after the essential oils’ initial benefits. Also, some essential oils can trigger allergy, asthma, or migraine attacks, so do not use essential oils without first consulting with your physician. Whether any essential oil precipitates a migraine attack, for example, rather than relieves the pain, is highly individual: eucalyptus can trigger a migraine attack for me, but lavender soothes it; for some with migraine disorder, lavender can trigger an attack.
I use all of these roll-ons and sticks now, all at the same time. I simply swipe each roll-on from temple to the general location of the trigeminal nerve root (in front of the ear) on each side, along my neck on both sides at the base of my skull, and down my spine from the base of the skull to the top of whatever shirt I’m wearing. I use the Badger aromatherapy balm sticks on my wrists and collarbone. I’ve been taking Gabapentin since October 2018, which reduces the pain but did not entirely eliminate it. Along with the natural supplements and vitamins detailed in my earlier article, these essential oil aromatherapy roll-ons and balm sticks have further reduced the migraine pain and, as an added benefit, have helped lower the neuropathic facial pain (trigeminal neuralgia) as well.
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