When headaches become intolerable, many people resort to OTC painkillers to ease the pain. However, while OTC drugs may provide immediate relief to headaches, the cause of headache remains unaddressed. It gets worse: A recent report by the BBC stated that “Painkillers are the cause of millions of headaches” – and that the process of taking them may become a ‘vicious cycle’ of medication overuse. So, here are the natural remedies we’ve come across.
A primary headache is caused by dysfunction or overactivity of pain-sensitive features in your head. A primary headache isn’t a symptom of an underlying cause. Chemical activity in your brain, the nerves or blood vessels of your head outside your skull, or muscles of your head and neck (or a combination of these factors) may play a role in primary headaches. Some people may carry genes that make them more likely to develop such headaches.
The most common primary headaches are:
- Cluster headache
- Migraine (with and without aura)
- Tension headache (medically known as tension-type headache)
- Trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia (TAC), including cluster headache and paroxysmal hemicrania
Secondary headaches are a symptom of another factor that causes pain in the head. There are several lifestyle factors that may trigger headaches, including:
- Alcohol, particularly red wine
- Certain foods, such as processed meats that contain nitrates
- Changes in sleep or lack of sleep
- Poor posture
- Skipped meals
It has been suggested that migraines can be caused by sodium deficiency. Mix the juice from a lemon in a glass of water and add half a teaspoon of Himalayan pink salt. take a mouthful, swish it vigorously in your mouth before swallowing.
Although traditionally used a “fever reducer” from where it got its unique name, feverfew is now one of the most popular migraine herbal remedies. Its leaves and flowers contain the active ingredient parthenolide which inhibits brain chemicals that cause blood vessels to dilate. Evidence suggesting feverfew’s value in reducing frequency and severity of migraine attacks are not few. In one study, subjects who stopped taking feverfew and received a placebo instead noticed a significant increase in number and severity of headaches, nausea and vomiting. In another larger study, feverfew was shown to decrease headaches by 24%. Add 1 ounce of fresh or dried feverfew flowers to 1 pint of boiling one. Steep for 10 minutes, and then strain. Drink half a cup twice a day as needed.
Together with feverfew, butterbur has recently gained much attention in blind trials confirming its ability to prevent and reduce migraines. Its antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties  were first tested only in 2004 when 245 participants found relief from migraine symptoms using butterbur extracts. Attack reduction of 58% was also noted as opposed to just 28% from the placebo group. This also prompted further studies to be conducted among children and adolescents where, in one experiment, 82% of patients reported substantial improvements in their migraines after being administered butterbur.
For centuries, peppermint and its active ingredient, menthol have been used to alleviate pain including headaches. One 2010 investigative study demonstrated how the application of menthol 10% solution is statistically superior to a placebo and can serve as an effective, safe and tolerable therapeutic alternative for migraine treatment. As an essential oil, peppermint is also helpful for headaches due to its aroma and cooling properties.
Because of the ability of ginko leaf to boost oxygen and blood flow to the brain, it has been found not just to improve cognitive functioning but to relieve headaches as well. Moreover, the natural anti-platelet activating factor of Ginkolide B, an herbal extract from Ginko Biloba has shown promise in preventing inflammation causing migraines among children who also are prone to frequent primary headaches and migraines. Aside from reducing migraine frequency, Ginkolide B has been found to decrease the need for symptomatic medication on children.
To lessen migraine symptoms, experts believe that cayenne, through its potent ingredient capsaicin, can provide some relief by masking the pain of headache or increasing your pain threshold. Over the years, doctors have discovered cayenne’s value in treating chronic headaches, making it a typical component present in nasal sprays.
When taken as tea, lemon balm is thought to be effective in dealing with migraines. As a vasodilator, it widens blood vessels, thus possibly helping to relieve migraine headaches. In the past, lemon balm, along with cinnamon, nutmeg and other fragrant herbs, was one of the major constituents of Carmelite Water – an alcoholic extract first formulated in the 14th century and used to treat neuralgia and headaches.
Originating from Asia and Europe, valerian has emerged as one of the most promising herbs that cure a wide range of health illness including insomnia, gas, anxiety, digestive problems, chest pain, and congestive heart failure. Valerian does not necessarily help in treating migraine but it helps in warding off anxiety which is considered as one of the major factors that may cause migraine. Valerian also contains sedative effects that help bring good quality of sleep to the sufferer.
A well-known herb in aromatherapy, rosemary may be of benefit in the treatment of headaches. Rosemary essential oil is mixed with lavender, eucalyptus, and peppermint to make a natural treatment for migraines. A wonderful brain and nerve tonic, oils from rosemary are thought to help in enhancing circulation as well as in relieving headaches. When used in aromatherapy, rosemary doesn’t just improve moods and functions. More importantly, it is reported to stimulate the nervous system, prevent headaches, relieve tension and treat migraines.
For thousands of years, willow bark has been used in the treatment of inflammatory and pain conditions, as well as headaches. According to a study conducted at the University of Maryland Medical Center, the bark contains salicin, a potent compound which resembles the function of aspirin. This compound is considered to be responsible for the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties of willow bark.
The roots of this spice are thought to be one of the most effective natural treatments for migraines and headaches. According to research, ginger contains highly potent compounds that help relieve swelling, pain and tension which normally cause headaches. Furthermore, the herb contains anti-inflammatory properties that inhibit the activities of prostaglandins which play vital roles in the occurrence of headaches. Prostaglandins are chemicals that cause pain and trigger the inflammation of blood vessels in the brain. The oils extracted from ginger are also thought to be effective as pain relievers. Also, ginger helps in eliminating nausea and vomiting which can come with migraines.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has a long history in natural remedies. It’s been used to relieve everything from scurvy to hay fever, and just about any other ailment that falls in between. Some modern day studies have proven its effectiveness in treating certain illnesses, but most of its clout lies in the reports of people throughout the centuries who have benefited from it. If you find yourself coming down with a throbbing headache, try:
- Drink anywhere from a spoonful to a quarter cup of ACV – straight up, mixed with water or juice, or however you can get it in.
- Put 1/4 cup of ACV and 3 cups boiling water in a bowl, put a towel over your head and steam for 5 minutes or so, then drink a glass of water.
- You can also try using ACV as a compress. Various methods are suggested from soaking potato slices and holding in place with a bandana, to simply soaking a washcloth and holding to your head.
Vitamin B3 plays a vital role increasing the flow of blood by dilating the blood vessels. Insufficient amount of Vitamin B3 in the body is thought to be responsible for the occurrence of vascular headaches, so increased intake of foods rich in Vitamin B3 may help avoid headaches.
Low levels of magnesium in the blood are commonly associated with headaches, especially in women and particularly migraines and headaches related to the menstrual cycle. Increase consumption of magnesium-rich foods, add Epsom salts to your bath, or use a magnesium oil spray.
For everyday tension-type headaches, almonds can be a natural remedy and a healthier alternative to other medicine. It acts as a pain reliever because it contains something called salicin, which is also an agent in popular over the counter killers. Try eating a handful or two of these wholesome nuts when you feel the ache start to set in.
Be careful if you suffer from migraines as some sufferers find that almonds are a trigger food.
Pretty straightforward, chocolate, coffee, and the caffeine they contain, are a common trigger for headaches in many people.
Different people find relief from hot and cold, try soaking your feet in warm water, or putting your hands in cold water.
On average we don’t drink enough water daily, and that alone is cause for a headache. Coffee, alcohol, sugary drinks all dehydrate you (hence the pounding headache that comes along with a hangover) and should be avoided. As soon as your head starts to hurt, drink a tall glass of water, and then sip throughout the day. Simply drinking water may seem too obvious or simple to actually work as a headache remedy but it can, and often does.
Headache Remedy Tincture
This tincture is good for a common headache, stress headaches, headache caused by PMS, migraines, and tension headaches. As this recipe involves alcohol it is for adults only.
- 3 parts lemon balm
- 2 parts feverfew
- 100 proof vodka to fill
- Measure your herbs depending on whether you are using fresh or dried herbs.
- If using fresh herbs, chop until fine.
- Add herbs to glass jar.
- Pour solvent over herbs to fill the jar. The solvent should rise 1-2 inches above the herbs.
- Place the lid on the jar and shake until the herbs are well combined.
- Label jar with contents and date.
- Set in a warm, sunny window and steep for 2-6 weeks, shaking daily.
- Strain with a cheesecloth, compost the plant material, and place tincture in dark colored bottles for storage in a cool, dark place. The tincture should keep for up to 5 years.
At the onset of migraine symptoms, begin taking 1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon of the tincture every 30 minutes to an hour until symptoms subside.