Instead of reaching for over the counter medication, you may want to give these home remedies for headaches a try the next time you have an aching head.
What causes headaches?
Mayo Clinic explains that headaches are classified as primary and secondary:
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 disease. Chemical activity in your brain, the nerves or blood vessels of your head outside your skull, or muscles of your head and neck — or some 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 a disease that causes pain in the head.
They note that 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
Headache Remedy #1 – Drink a Glass of Water
Sometime headaches (and muscle aches) are caused by simple dehydration. Make sure to drink plenty of non-caffeinated beverages over the course of the day. Skip the soda, especially diet, as no-cal sweeteners are a headache trigger for many. Diluted fruit juice, plain water or water with a splash of lemon or lime, water kefir, switchel, coconut water – whatever you like. Just make sure you don't dry out.
Headache Remedy #2 – Apply Ice or Heat
Ice constricts blood vessels, which may reduce pain and inflammation. Try applying an icepack on your forehead or at the base of the skull at the first sign of a headache. Alternatively, if you can tell that your muscles are very tense, you may want to place a hot pack or heating pad on tight neck muscles, or soak in a warm bath. I've tried both, depending on the type of headache.
Headache Remedy #3 – Take a nap
Find a cool, dark, quiet room and take a 10-15 minute nap. This tends to work better for migraines and tension headaches, but can make cluster headaches (those with stabbing pain around the eyes) worse. Note that too much sleep or a significant disruption in your sleep schedule can trigger headaches. Sometimes I even put a pillow over my head (just leaving an air hole) to block out light and noise.
Headache Remedy #4 – Take a walk
This is a great option for tension headaches, as physical activity helps to relieve muscle tension. Your muscles tend to want to stay doing whatever they're doing, and this can lead to them knotting up and shutting you down. Get up, take a walk, swing your arms and get that blood flowing and those muscles relaxing. Your chiropractor will be happy you did (even though you may visit them less often).
Headache Remedy #5 – Massage the pain away
Rubbing the temples in a circular motion or firmly massaging the neck and shoulders to relieve tension are two tried and true massage options for headaches. I give either two thumbs up.
Headache Remedy #6 – Increase your magnesium intake
Low levels of magnesium in the blood are commonly associated with headaches, especially in women, particularly migraines and headaches related to the menstrual cycle. 400 – 700 mg of magnesium daily is considered safe. Excess magnesium taken orally can put a strain on the kidneys, so don't overdose. Foods high in magnesium include molasses, nuts, spinach, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, seafood, cheese, baked potatoes, broccoli and bananas. You can also add Epsom salts to your bath, or use a spray on magnesium oil. (BTW, I highly recommend the book The Magnesium Miracle.)
Headache Remedy #7 – Sip a shot of ACV
Apple cider vinegar comes to the rescue again as the most popular recommended headache treatment on Earth Clinic. Contributors recommend anywhere from a spoonful to a quarter cup of ACV – straight up, mixed with water or juice, or however you can get it in.
Headache Remedy #8 – Sniff some cayenne pepper
#2 at Earth Clinic for headache remedies, this appears to be a remedy for the brave. Favored by those who have cluster headaches, a very small amount of cayenne is inhaled up the nose, placed on the tip of the tongue, or mixed with water and drank. I'm personally afraid of this one, but it works for some.
Headache Remedy #9 – Try Some Herbal Tea
Herbal teas can relax and soothe. Some herbs commonly recommended for headaches and migraines are feverfew (migraines), peppermint, passionflower, gingko biloba, cayenne (see above), willow and chamomile. Mountain Rose Herbs has many organic herbal teas and tea blends.
Headache Remedy #10 – Relax with Essential Oils
Eucalyptus, lavender and Peppermint essential oils are recommended for headaches by Livestrong. To use these essential oils for headaches, place one cup of warm water in a bowl and add a few drops of good quality essential oil. Wet a washcloth with this water and place it on your forehead. Alternatively, add 2 or 3 drops of one of these oils to a carrier oil such as olive oil, jojoba oil or sweet almond oil. Massage this oil mix into your temples.
Disclaimer: Pain is our body's way of getting our attention. If you have chronic or severe pain, please see a healthcare professional. Only your health care provider, personal physician, or pharmacist can provide you with advice on what is safe and effective for your unique needs or diagnose your particular medical history. Information on this site is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to take the place of a healthcare professional. Be careful out there, folks.
Many of the herbs featured in our home remedies posts can be found at Mountain Rose Herbs. They also feature a full line of containers for oils and balms, essential oils, tea making supplies and many other items. If you purchase through my site, I received a small affiliate payment at no extra cost to you. Thank you!
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