From the dawn of man, we have suffered headaches. Over the course of time, many have come up with remedies that have either reduced or cured the pounding in our heads. Whether a minor ache, pounding pain or nasty migraine, headaches are no fun. But before you start popping pills, try these 14 natural remedies. They’re simple, doctor-recommended ways to reduce suffering now and stay headache-free in the future...
Headaches can be painful, worrisome and downright debilitating. But before you head for the medicine cabinet, why not add some natural remedies to your pain-relief arsenal? They’re more effective than you might expect.
Some are immediate solutions to use when your head is pounding, while others are meant to head off headaches long term.
Of course, if you suffer from frequent or severe headaches, you should see your doctor. But for occasional pain, the following 14 treatments can help.
1. Apply an ice pack.
This tried-and-true method – also known as cryotherapy – is a proven way to dull headache pain. Experts suspect that the cold helps constrict blood vessels around the scalp and slows the rate at which nerves transmit pain signals. Place the ice pack over areas of the most intense pain as well as the upper neck.
You can also buy gel packs or use a bag of frozen peas.
2. Kick the butts.
With each puff of a cigarette, you’re breathing in at least 4,000 chemicals and raising your risk for heart disease, stroke, aneurysm and cancer.
Smoking also does other nasty things, such as increasing blood pressure, decreasing circulation, inflaming sinus cavities and nasal passages, and shrinking blood vessels, which all add up to headaches.
Even secondhand smoke can cause the brain's blood vessels to narrow.
So if you or someone close to you smokes, call 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669) to reach your state’s quit line.
3. Have a snack.
When you develop a headache during a long, pressure-filled day, it’s easy to blame stress.
But the reason could be that you didn't eat.
Your brain runs on two things – glucose, which comes from food you eat, and oxygen.
When it doesn't get enough of either, the brain fires up pain-sensitive neurons to tell you it’s needs aren't getting met.
No matter how busy you are, aim to eat something at least every 4-6 hours. (Try 5-6 mini-meals instead of three big ones.)
Choose meals that combine complex carbohydrates with protein, which take longer to digest than a candy bar.
Good snacks for headache prevention include steel-cut oatmeal with low-fat milk or turkey and whole-wheat crackers.
4. Press pain away.
Acupressure is an ancient healing art that you can do yourself by using fingertips to press key points.
For a general headache, use your thumb and index finger to squeeze the flesh between your other hand’s thumb and index finger, about half an inch in from where they connect.
Squeeze gently and massage in small, circular motions for one to two minutes. Switch hands and repeat.
(Don’t do this during pregnancy, because it’s also thought to stimulate uterine contractions.)
5. Gulp a glass of water.
Dehydration is a common trigger for migraines and other headaches.
Without enough water, blood becomes thicker and doesn’t flow as easily, while blood vessels narrow, reducing the brain’s oxygen supply.
So when your head hurts, down a big glass of water to hydrate yourself.
In general, try to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. And add in plenty of water-filled fruits and veggies like cucumber, celery and watermelon.
6. Stop taking headache medicine.
Some pain relievers may actually make headaches worse.
Overusing over-the-counter remedies with caffeine and antihistamines or prescription narcotics can interfere with the brain’s pain-regulation messages and lower your pain threshold. And too-frequent use of everyday drugs such as aspirin or acetaminophen can result in “rebound headaches” when you stop.
If you take headache medicine more than two days a week, see your doctor about how to wean yourself.
7. Banish some foods.
Certain foods contain an amino acid, tyramine, that can trigger migraines by constricting and then expanding blood vessels.
These include aged cheeses such as cheddar, brie, blue, Parmesan and Swiss.
Luncheon meats such as bologna and salami contain both tyramine and food additives called nitrates, which increase blood flow to the brain in some people.
Leftovers can sometimes develop tyramine as they age – even foods that would otherwise be tyramine-free, such as hamburger or shrimp.
If you think your diet may be the culprit, keep a headache diary to see what foods set them off.
8. Cut out diet soda.
Sugar-free products may help keep your waistline slim, but they may also make your head hurt.
Although the link is controversial, a 1995 University of Washington study found that people were slightly more likely to get headaches on days when they consumed the artificial sweetener aspartame.
If you drink diet soda and have headaches, try abstaining for a while to see if that helps.
9. Go for a walk.
Regular exercise heads off headaches by lowering stress levels and boosting natural pain-killing chemicals known as endorphins. It can also help you sleep.
Aim for 30-45 minutes of brisk physical activity, 3-4 days a week.
Unfortunately, exercise can also cause headaches for some people.
If you occasionally get one during or after workouts, make sure you’re eating and drinking enough and that you aren’t exercising too vigorously for your fitness level. If the headaches persist, see your doctor.
10. Get your zzz’s.
Better sleep habits can sometimes head off a migraine or tension headache. Sleep is the ‘control-alt-delete’ toggle for your brain’s restart.
In one study, women who took steps to get eight hours of sleep each night had fewer migraines, and those they had were less intense.
11. Try some butterbur.
This herb from the daisy family, sold in health food stores, is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. It can relieve spasms and decrease swelling in the head.
But unrefined butterbur root contains potentially liver-damaging alkaloids. It is recommends only taking an extract with those ingredients removed. And consult your doctor to make sure it’s safe for you.
12. Stuff yourself with spinach.
Popeye knew the secret to warding off headaches: Eat plenty of spinach, which is high in the mineral magnesium, which prevents blood vessels from going into spasms.
Other magnesium-rich foods include whole grains, tofu, fish, seeds and avocados.
3. Pat on some peppermint.
Peppermint has long been used as an alternative headache treatment. Ddabbing a preparation of 10% peppermint oil on the forehead can significantly reduce headache intensity after 15 minutes.
You can buy peppermint oil in many health-food stores. Gently rub a few drops into your forehead, temples, and back of the jaw and neck when your head is pounding – but keep it away from eyes to avoid irritation.
14. Picture less pain.
An imagination technique known as guided imagery can relieve headaches.
Try this: Close your eyes, breathe deeply and relax. Imagine that the headache is a liquid that fills a cup – the more painful the headache, the bigger the cup. Picture it as clearly as you can.
Now, in your mind, pour the headache pain into a slightly smaller cup, but don’t let any liquid overflow. Then again, pour it into a slightly smaller cup. Continue until you can barely see it.
Bit by bit, you should feel pain fade.
I am sure that many of you have headache remedies that have been passed down from your ancestors. I ask that you share them with us!!!