You’ve probably noticed that it’s not just synthetic fragrances that are a horrible trigger when you have headache and migraine symptoms – some essential oils (especially the more floral and low-note oils like jasmine and patchouli) can wreak havoc on your fragile brain too. That’s because those and many other oils are hypotensive (ie, vasodilating) oils. Therefore, migraineurs may want to avoid geranium, jasmine, marjoram, rose, valerian, lemon, melissa, neroli, nutmeg, vetivert, and ylang ylang essential oils, especially when they are symptomatic.
As we know, migraine for many of us is triggered by vasodilation – which means blood vessels impinge on nearby cranial nerves in the neck leading up to the head. This blood vessel dilation is responsible for low blood pressure and a lack of blood flow and oxygen to the brain. In order to constrict our blood vessels and improve blood flow to the head, we need vasoconstrictive (ie, hypertensive) essential oils. And it turns out that there are many more oils aside from the classical headache treatment using peppermint oil that can help us, which Mother Nature has so kindly provided!
In this blog post, I want to share with you my recipe for a vasoconstrictive/hypertensive essential oil blend. The oils I’ve chosen to use in my own SimplyWell Migraine, Headache, & Brain Fog Support Blend are only a few of the vasoconstrictive essential oils out there. My friend Lauren over at AroMed essential oils noted to me that all of the oils chosen in this blend are also great for digestive issues. No surprises there, since most migraines are digestive migraines!
So Which Essential Oils are Hypertensive?
The research into the properties of most of these oils is seemingly straightforward, but we need to keep in mind that many plants are adaptogenic – meaning that a single plant can respond to us in a way that is not static, but rather catered to what our particular imbalance is. For example, some plants can raise blood pressure in someone with low blood pressure, and lower blood pressure in someone with high blood pressure. Neat, huh? Seriously folks, plants are magical, kindred helpers! This adaptogenic ability of some plants may explain some of the discrepancies when reading about an oil being both hypertensive AND hypotensive.
From my research, I’ve read that the following oils will help to constrict blood vessels and thereby raise blood pressure: grapefruit, black pepper, frankincense, cypress, orange, rosemary, peppermint, basil, thyme, balsam of peru, hyssop, geranium rose, and holy basil. (I’ll be sure to add to the list as I uncover more research).
Here’s my personal take on the recipe:
I believe that true Folk Medicine is medicine that is created by and accessible to the people – which is why I am sharing my own personal blend here for those of you who like to make your own products rather than buy them. Feel free to tweak the ratios of the oils presented here and share what you’ve learned in the comments below if you feel called.
3 parts organic grapefruit essential oil
3 parts organic black pepper essential oil
2 parts basil organic essential oil
1 part organic rosemary essential oil
1 part organic peppermint essential oil
1 part organic frankincense essential oil
2 parts or more organic olive oil (depending on how concentrated you want this)
I decided to make my blend with 20% organic olive oil. Why? Who want’s diluted essential oils? Well, because of the fiery quality of the peppermint and because some people are more sensitive to straight essential oils when applied neat to the skin. Everyone’s different, so I’ve added organic olive oil to the blend to buffer some of the intensity of the oil while applied topically, but keeping it potent enough to be very aromatic and effective simply by inhaling.
The olive oil doesn’t serve here as a base carrier oil though – it has many therapeutic properties. I’m madly in love with olive oil, and here’s why: olive oil is high in oleic acid, which increases DAO by 500% (thereby helping to bread down histamine, but only relevant when ingesting). It’s been demonstrated that olive oil raises serotonin levels, and that just the smell of olive oil can positively affect blood sugar and satiety. A phenolic compound contained in virgin organic olive oil, named oleocanthal, shares unique analgesic and anti-inflammatory characteristics with Ibuprofen.
Olive oil has also been shown to reduce neuro-inflammation from pesticide exposure in rats. That might be why consuming some olive oil will help to eliminate migraine symptoms if you happen to indulge in something made with wheat flour from grain doused in roundup or other pesticides. I’ve personally noted a big difference in my reaction to wheat, and I wonder if this is due not to the gluten in wheat, but to different farming practices for wheat grown in different regions. (Wheat grown in damper regions is more likely to be sprayed with roundup to “finish” the wheat, since roundup is a dessicant and will dry kernels out evenly. Roundup is also regularly used on oats, barley, and beans for the same reason – even though these are not genetically-engineered, roundup-ready crops).
How to Use the Oil
Although I am not marketing my blend for internal use due to liability issues, the oils are organic so they are therapeutic grade – and I know that some people (such as myself) are comfortable with using organic oils internally and probably will. In my own case, I have used this oil blend successfully to mitigate some brain fog that I got after indulging in a bowl of spicy New Mexico green chile. I placed a single drop of this blend on the roof of my mouth in the area where the soft palate begins. This is also an area right below the pterygopalatine ganglion (also known as the sphenopalatine ganglion). Stimulation of this ganglion has recently been shown to diminish cluster headaches. The fibers that go through this ganglion also go through the trigeminal nucleus along with the trigeminal nerve. The vagus nerve goes through the trigeminal nucleus as well. The glossopharyngeal nerve may also be affected by essential oils placed on the palate. This nerve innervates the partotid gland, which is directly responsible for vasodilation. All of the nerves mentioned here are implicated in migraine.
Important Note: One reason that I am not recommending this oil for internal use even though many could and might benefit from it that way is because grapefruit is known to affect many pharmaceutical medications – the juice, at least, can increase the absorption of the drug into the bloodstream. I have no idea if the compounds in the oils would do that too, but if you are on meds, it is best to be cautious ingesting this oil or drinking grapefruit juice or eating grapefruit.
To use the oil aromatically rather than topically, place 4-8 drops of it onto a tissue or your hand and inhale until symptoms improve. For migraine at night, place the tissue near your pillow and sleep on your side to breathe the aroma continuously.
Don’t want to make it yourself? You can get the blend in our shop!
For those of you who aren’t really into DIY, I’ve made my blend available for sale as a service. Buying all the oils in bulk to produce your own blend can get expensive, so if you don’t want to go that route of investing upfront in all the oils, I’ve done that for you.
We’re so excited to make this essential oil blend available in our shop after receiving great feedback from those who tested it out for us. This blend of oils can help to alleviate brain fog and headaches and reduce the severity of migraines. It is a great tool to have on hand while you are working to heal your gut with the SimplyWell Migraine Relief Protocol (at which point, you shouldn’t need this oil anymore!)
How nice of Mother Nature to make all this medicine available to us!