“Although there are some studies out there that show that people who smell essential oils have less severe headaches than those who don’t, they aren’t done well enough to be scientifically conclusive yet,” explains Pamela Dalton, Ph.D., a research scientist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia whose work focuses on the relationship between odor and emotional processes. “The problem with these studies is that there isn’t an effective control group, as everyone who participates knows they are smelling oils because the aromas are so strong.”
What she can say for sure? Headaches are often caused by stress—so essential oils may help curb the throbbing pain simply because they relax you. “Doing anything that relaxes you when you have a headache, from getting a massage to smelling an essential oil whose scent you truly enjoy, can be an effective therapy,” Dalton explains.
Of course, there are tons of scents out there, so it’s ultimately up to you to find one you truly enjoy. But certified aromatherapist Amy Galper, founder of the New York Institute of Aromatic Studies and co-author of Plant-Powered Beauty, has some advice to help you get started. Here, she recommends three popular “beginner blends” that smell amazing—and will help you dip your toe into the (highly aromatic) essential oil waters.