Back in the day, one of my test taking strategies was to wear the same scent while studying as I did during the exam. I'd heard that smelling the same aroma would help trigger the memory of whatever I was studying. As far as I know, it gave me an edge because I never tested poorly when I did that. Have you ever smelled something that took you right back to a past moment or place? Crazy how powerful scents can be, right?!
Your Brain and Aromatherapy
After researching the theory, its actually based on the limbic system activation in the brain from breathing in certain aromas. The limbic system is responsible for not only memory, but other important aspects of life such as our emotions and blood pressure.
Basically, smelling a scent can invoke a certain memory or emotion, calm your nervous system, or change your heart rate.
My Favorite Aromatherapy for Headache Relief
When applied to headaches, aromatherapy can act as an aid in pain relief by cultivating a relaxation response physically and emotionally. My two favorite essential oils for managing my own migraines are peppermint and lavender.
Peppermint cools topically with a slight tingling or numbing of the skin and helps focus the mind.
Lavender is well-known as a stress relieving scent, which is why its helpful for migraines. The aroma helps soothe anxious energy by calming your nervous system and promoting relaxation.
Independently, these essences work wonders for me - although I must admit that I love peppermint far more than lavender. So personally I use a blend of both essential oils to hit my migraine attacks from all angles and quiet the lavender notes with the peppermint.
How to Use Aromatherapy Blends for Migraines
Aromatherapy Spray: I add peppermint and lavender to an amber bottle with distilled water. It gets sprayed on my yoga mat, over my sheets, or on an eye pillow - whenever I want to get those chill vibes going.
Aromatherapy Roll-On: I love a travel size aromatherapy roll-on so I can keep it in my purse and use it whenever I need to relax or when a headache strikes. My personal preference is to apply it to my wrists and take 2 deep inhale breaths to get the aroma circulating through my system. If you don't mind oils on your face, you can apply the blend to your temples as well.
Waiting for a Migraine Attack Before Using Aromatherapy?
You don't need to. In fact, I think if you use aromas to signal your body and mind of relaxation during non-migraine attack days, they might even be more effective during an attack. For me, smelling something that's brought me a sense of calm and peace once before helps me get back there quickly during a hectic time like during a migraine.
There are many other essential oils that are beneficial for headaches, such as chamomile and rosemary, but these two are ones that personally work for my own migraine experience. Remember, do your research before using aromatherapy to avoid complications or allergic reactions.
About the Author:
Tiffany Lord is a corporate yoga coach and founder of Love + Asana, a virtual studio launched in 2016 offering workplace wellness sessions, workshops and program design. Her sessions incorporate movement and mindfulness focusing on benefits for stress relief and chronic pain. Tiffany’s fun, approachable style makes classes feel like you’re hanging out with friends while also improving your mental and physical health.
She is an E-RYT with the Yoga Alliance and currently enrolled in a 500-hour training with Yoga Medicine focusing on yoga applications for common range of motion issues. Continuing education in meditation, breathing techniques, myofascial release, yoga for COVID-19 recovery and training as a massage therapist help make her sessions relevant and beneficial to clients who want simple movement and mindfulness techniques that improve their quality of life. Her articles on wellness through yoga have been featured in online and print publications, such as fyi50+ and CO Yoga + Life magazine.
Questions? Contact Tiffany at firstname.lastname@example.org