This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
If you suffer from tension headaches regularly, life is no picnic. So is it possible to get relief from the agony by merely inhaling peppermint? According to several studies, it just might be.
One study found peppermint was as effective as Tylenol in banishing the pain or a headache, while even migraine sufferers have hailed it for its pain relieving properties when used in a bath.
Peppermint vs. Tylenol for Tension Headaches
Much anecdotal evidence exists on the benefit of using peppermint oil for headaches, but scientific research evaluating its worth has been somewhat limited. Perhaps the most impressive of which was a study published in the German journal Nervenartz that compared the tension headache relief from locally applied peppermint oil to that of a 1,000 mg dose of acetaminophen, more commonly known by its brand name of Tylenol.
The randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover study analyzed 164 headache attacks of 41 patients between the ages of 18 and 65. A 10 percent solution of peppermint oil in ethanol was administered to the participants’ forehead and temples at the onset of each headache, as well as 15 and 30 minutes afterwards. A reduction in the intensity of the pain was noted at the 15-minute point. The relief continued throughout the one-hour observation period. No significant difference was found between the alleviation of the headaches brought through use of the peppermint and the acetaminophen. Moreover, the application of the herb was well tolerated.
Other research includes a 1995 study published in the International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology. The study found a solution of peppermint oil in ethanol produced a lessening of headache pain. Studies that are more recent include a 2015 Thomas Jefferson University assessment on a new menthol gel, which found it was modestly effective for the malady.
How Peppermint Relieves Headaches
Scientists don’t fully understand how peppermint works, but it can relax blood vessels and ease tightness in neck and head muscles. These problems frequently occur with tension headaches. They also say that the natural remedy doesn’t produce rebound headaches that can result from frequent use of aspirin or Tylenol.
How to Use it
Don’t take essential oil of peppermint internally without consulting a health practitioner. Also, don’t apply it to the skin without diluting it. Mix two to three drops in one tablespoon of coconut oil or water. Use a cotton ball to apply to the temples, back of neck and top of forehead. Use it at the onset of the migraine and again 30 minutes later. Caution: Peppermint oil isn’t recommended for babies or small children.