First of all, relax. Your headache is likely rooted in some form of physical stress, so give your body a break. Turn the lights off, close your eyes, and lay down if you can. Even if just for a few minutes. Most people reach straight for the chemical fix-it-all pain pill, with complete obliviousness to the tax its taking from their beautiful livers. Once in a while – all right, but if this becomes an everyday habit, or multiple times a day habit, your precious little body filter is probably getting overloaded. There are many natural and effective remedies you are free to try as an alternative to frequent pill-popping.
Massage & Stretching
There are several self-massage points in your body that can immediately begin to ease the pain of a headache.
There is the classic gentle temple massage.
There is also a reflexology pressure point located in the webbing between the thumb and forefinger. Apply pressure to this area just south of the webbing, toward the wrist, where you will notice a muscle below the web. You will feel a strong sensation when you find it. Massage it, on both hands.
And this is one of my favorite – the occipital nerve, just above the back of the neck, where your spine meets your skull. Feel at the very back of your head, where your spine ends, and you will find two lines very much like the muscles lining the spine. Gently use your thumbs to massage these two muscles apart.
Stretch – Your headache could be caused by muscle tension, especially in the neck. Gently- very gently – spend a few seconds breathing deeply and stretching the neck. A few breaths to the side, pause, breath deeply, a few breathes to the other side, pause, breathe deeply. Then repeat, stretching backward and forward. Always be very gentle and sweet with neck stretching.
Some people have found hot and cold alternative compresses to the forehead, or to the back of the head to be an effective treatment for migraines. It’s worth a try.
Take a shower with the warm water directed to the back of your neck.
Use any combination of the the following essential oils in the hot water of a foot bath. While this is a great way to inhale the vapors, it is also an herbalist remedy to get blood circulation to the feet. It is also, as you will find, extremely relaxing.
Lavender is a relaxing, soothing herb. For a headache, inhale and/or massage gently onto the nape of your neck and temples. You can simply inhale the fragrance from the bottle, place a few drops on a tissue you hold over your nose, use a diffuser, or create a home diffusion by dissolving a few drops in a little boiling water and inhaling the steam. If you use this method, be careful not to burn yourself by getting too close to the steam.
Peppermint oil can help to free constricted blood flow in the body, which is a common cause for headaches. It is a particularly great remedy for tension headaches. Be careful as too much peppermint oil can burn. Try gently massaging a small amount on the nape of your neck. Close your eyes, rest, and feel the medicine work its magic. Don’t put this one on your temples- in my experience, its too strong to be that close to your eyes.
Basil is a muscle relaxant, making it an effective treatment for headaches caused by muscle tension. You can use it the same as the other oils, although this herb may also be too strong to put on your temples so close to the eyes.
Thyme & Rosemary Oil
Both contain carvacrol which is a natural anti-inflammatory. They have been proven to work similarly to anti-inflammatory pills such as ibuprofen.
There are a lot of great companies who sell essential oils. Make sure you are buying pure essential oils with no added chemical constituents. One trust-worthy company I recommend is Floracopeia.
Herbs for Headaches
Pain-relieving herbs can be great for treating the pain of headaches in the moment, but for long-term care, it is best to seek out the root cause of the headaches in the first place. (Read further on for more potential causes, and also seek the care of a naturopathic physician to help you heal the root cause.) However in the meantime, these herbal remedies are going to be much healthier pain relievers to get you pain-free right now. Some people find that herbs take a moment longer to be effective, but in the long run they are going to be much, much better for your body. A lot of herbs have the added benefit of minerals and vitamins that are going to nourish your whole body, and they are not going to cause the chemical overload found in pharmaceuticals.
Butterbur – Can be purchased in the form of petadolor or petaforce pills. This is a very strong herb, and should be diluted, especially for people who have never taken it before. For clear instructions, see Bliss Alchemy’s post on this beautiful herb, Butterbur. Butterbur, among its many uses, (including anti-cancer) has been proven to help end addiction to pain-killers.
White Willow Bark – Contains a similar ingredient found in aspirin (salicin), and is used also to reduce inflammation and fever.
Feverfew – Studies have shown feverfew is not only to be taken to alleviate fever, but also to prevent and cure migraines. If you are experiencing migraines frequently, you can try taking capsules, a tincture or a tea of this wonderful floral herb regularly as a preventative. It is also a useful cure after a headache has already struck.
Ginger– Make a tea or nibble on a piece of ginger. This is a classic Grandma recipe, and you likely already have it in your kitchen.
Passionflower – Relaxes nerves, and is particularly great for headaches related to stress, or for those prone to high stress.
Chamomile, Lavender and Peppermint – You can make a tea of these relaxing plants to your mixed herbal tea along with any of the other headache-relieving herbs mentioned. They will also add pleasant aromas and flavors.
Valerian – Nervous system soother. Although it hasn’t been proven as a headache tamer, this is a classic medicine which has been used to treat headaches, sleeplessness, and all kinds of nervous system disorders. The taste is medicinal, for sure.
Coriander Seed – Here’s one you may have in your kitchen already, which is actually a classic ayurvedic remedy. The seeds can be crushed and added to tea for drinking or to inhale the vapors.
Dong Quai – Dong Quai is a magical tonic herb from China. It not only is the woman’s version of ginseng, enhancing women’s vitality and beauty, it is also prescribed by herbalists to treat a variety of disorders including headaches, inflammation, nerves and fatigue.
Gingko Biloba – Especially good for headaches caused by insufficient blood supply to the brain.
So Many Herbs!
On Herbs – there are many, many herbs from around the world that can help your headache. See an herbalist and do your own research to discover more. For curing headaches particularly, depending on your own needs, look for herbs which help with inflammation and which soothe the nervous system. Pain-killing herbs can help to mask the pain, but the pain is pointing you to a deeper cause, so as with all holistic remedies, seek the cure the cause, not just the symptom.
(If you are taking other prescription medications, be cautious of interactions between your meds and herbs. Although most herbs should be fine and don’t usually have side effects, it is a good idea to introduce new medicines to your body in small quantities and watch how your body responds. Especially pay attention with willow bark, which may interact similarly to aspirin with other medications. Discuss your concerns with a physician.)
Compresses from the Kitchen
Horseradish, cabbage, or onion poultices may be applied to the back of the neck, calves, or soles of the feet particularly to alleviate or completely eliminate headaches caused by inflammation. Make a poultice with a food processor, or by pounding, blending or even chewing the aforementioned foods, and then use a cloth or bandage to hold it over the area. It might be messy and smelly, but this will help draw out whatever toxicity may be causing the headache.
Headaches are a sign from your body that something isn’t right. They can be caused by anything from an inappropriate mystery food in your diet, to lack of blood flow and therefore oxygen, muscle tension, an overly toxic body, and stress. Especially for those who are experiencing frequent headaches or migraines, here are some steps for how you can listen to that sign from your body and make the kind of healthy lifestyle changes that are really going to help alleviate your suffering:
Especially get in some cardio. Walk, jog, cycle, swim, hike, dance- Do anything that gets your heart pumping. When you get your blood circulating your body is going to be much more able to bring oxygen to where it needs to be. This will also help to ease your tension, which is another stubborn cause of headaches.
Yoga & Stretching
Stretching out the muscles in your body is going to dissipate the stress being stored in them. Try one yoga class and you tell me if you don’t feel completely blissed out afterward. The effects are immediate on the body, the mind and the spirit. In one Harvard study it has been proven to be of benefit to the body in all kinds of ways, headaches being only one. Just try it for yourself and see.
Spend time in nature.
Give yourself the gift of getting away from wifi, TV’s, cell phone waves, electricity and all that city stuff. Recognize and get in tune with your own organic body. Look at all the trees and plants providing oxygen to you. Breathe them in and be grateful. Put your bare feet in the Earth and know that it is healing you.
Meditation and Relaxation
Do whatever you need to do in your life to be stress-free and stay relaxed. Stress is the root cause of many health problems, ranging from minor headaches to big problems like heart disease. While regular exercise and frequent nature sojourns are definitely going to start allaying your stress immediately, you can amplify the benefits by spending quality time in your own version of meditation or relaxation. The body works best at healing itself when it is calm, not caught up in the “fight or flight” stress response that modern life often provokes. When you spend ample time relaxing, then when high-energy times arise, you will be much more prepared- physically, mentally, and spiritually- to deal with the situation without feeling overwhelmed. Imagine if you spent everyday waking up, immediately scrambling to get ready for work, running to work, working your tail off with constant demand of all your faculties, scrambling to eat quickly and get back to it, then running home to relax, where all the duties of the home life scream at you. You try to relax by turning on the TV, and suddenly get bombarded by stressful news and violent TV shows. So you turn to a video game or a newspaper or a magazine, and it’s much the same. Do something pleasing and soothing to you. Relax. Take a bath, read a novel, play music, paint a picture. Find your way, and do it, regularly. Give that gift to yourself. You’ve earned it, I’m sure.
Keep track of your diet
If you are getting frequent headaches, you could be experiencing an allergic reaction to something in your diet. Avoid foods with additives, especially MSG, and keep track of what you are eating.
Are you getting all the essential vitamins and minerals you need in your diet? Frequent headaches could be a sign of insufficiencies, or of improper nutrient absorption in the body caused by blockages in the intestines and colon. Foods high in omega 3’s, such as flaxseed, can help alleviate inflammation, a common cause of headaches. Vitamins B2 and magnesium have also both been proven to prevent headaches. Ramiel Nagel, author of the book Cure Tooth Decay, recommends that it is always best to get your vitamins and minerals directly from the foods you eat, as opposed to synthetic vitamins, for their natural ability to be assimilated and used by the body. He proposes that too many synthetic vitamins may not even be usable by the body, and actually tax natural processes and cause toxicity, therefore causing more harm than good.
Detoxify the Body
What’s the first thing everyone says to you when you say you have a headache? It’s such common knowledge that it’s almost annoying when someone asks if you’ve tried it, but there’s a reason why everyone is suggesting it to the headache sufferer: “Have you been drinking enough water?” Clean water is the most effective, consistent way the body rids itself of toxins. We are exposed to toxins everyday, especially for those who live in cities – It’s in cleaning products, car exhaust, street pavement, anti-flame retardants sprayed onto new furniture and carpets, even injected into the foods we eat. The body is an incredible healer of itself, and does a remarkable job at self-cleaning, but you could certainly help it out by drinking boatloads of clean water. Try to get your hands on some flouride-free, chlorine-free water, get a water filter, or buy filtered water available at most grocery stores.
Toxins also exit the body through the skin – sweat them out in a sauna or infrared bed (while drinking plenty of water), try dry-brushing your skin, or take a detox bath followed by scrubbing off the dead skin with a turkish kese.
Headaches can also be caused by constipation – causing fermentation and putrefaction of gunk in the body. The toxins, having no where to go, enter back into the blood stream and go wherever they want. Get yourself un-constipated with some Smooth-Move tea right away. (Yogi teas makes a tasty blend that works great.) There are also plenty of deeper cleanses you can do to push along your body’s self-healing capabilities – cleanse the colon, take zeolite, do a liver flush, a raw juice cleanse, etc… This post isn’t really about all-out cleanses, but there are a plethora of options available to you, which you will easily find with a little research.
Professional Body Care
Regular massage, acupuncture, acupressure, cranio-sacral massage, chiropractic adjustments, and many, many other professional body-care methods are excellent ways to alleviate frequent sufferers of migraines. This could be because they all help you to relax and generally pacify stress. If you are experiencing severe frequent headaches, you may want to try consulting with a professional to give your body a boost- Try a masseuse, chiropractor, acupuncturist, or naturopathic doctor to discuss ways they can help bring your body to its highest level of health and well-being.