Mind-numbing, debilitating, dull, persistent, throbbing — these are only a few words to describe the pain caused by headaches. But no matter the type and cause, one thing’s for sure: headaches can put our daily activities, and lives, to a virtual standstill.
Half of the world’s population suffer from this all-too-common health condition, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Of these, many turn to home remedies for relief.
Taking some rest, applying an ice pack on your head or getting well-deserved shut-eye may be your staple headache busters. But do you know about these lesser known home remedies that you can add to your pain relief arsenal? Here are some of them:
Do-it yourself warm or cold packs
A cold compress helps headache and migraine sufferers by numbing the pain and reducing inflammation. When applied on the carotid arteries (neck), it dramatically reduces migraine pain, according to a study.
1. Moist warm compress
This method uses warm liquid to apply heat to an affected area. To make one, soak a clean cloth or towel in hot water, squeeze to drain excess water and place the wet cloth on your face or wrap around your head. Apply a bit of pressure for compression.
2. Dry warm compress
A hot bottle or heating pad are the most common tools for this type, which uses a dry surface for heat therapy application. Fill a bottle with warm water and place it on your forehead or on your nape to relax tense muscles.
3. Homemade ice packs
Mix either corn syrup, liquid dish soap, rubbing alcohol or salt in water. Pour the mixture in a resealable plastic bag and pop it in the freezer or fridge. If you want a quick fix, get some ice cubes or crushed ice and place them in a resealable plastic bag. Don’t forget to cover with a towel or cloth before placing it on your head or neck.
You’ll find these homemade ice packs useful, but they may not be as effective as the commercially sold head ice packs that fully mold to your head.
Medicinal herbs and spices
Traditional medical practices have been going on for ages. Our ancestors relied on herbs and plants to treat various health conditions, and this practice continues to this day with the popular use of herbal products as nutritional and medicinal supplements.
Below is a rundown of plants, herbs and spices commonly used to treat headaches.
4. Let’s drink to that: Herbal teas for headaches
Ginger tea – Many people turn to ginger for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral and other healthful properties. As one of the most popular herbal food supplements worldwide, ginger has been used to treat migraines for several years.
Ginger relieves migraines by reducing inflammation of the blood vessels in the head. It also stops the nauseating feeling that goes with a migraine.
To make ginger tea, steep ginger root or mix equal parts of ginger juice and lemon juice. Start sipping to relieve your head pains.
Peppermint tea – This herb contains menthol, which helps ease pain and relax tight muscles. Mix a teaspoon of dried peppermint leaves to a cup of boiling water. Strain after 10 minutes. You may add some honey or sugar to sweeten the tea.
Chamomile tea – Chamomile is known for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, mild astringent and healing properties. With an estimated one million cups consumed daily, chamomile tea is known to treat anxiety and insomnia, and it works best for tension-type headaches. Brew one for about 10 minutes and drink to relax.
Willow bark tea – Also known as nature’s aspirin, willow bark has been used to treat fever, pain and inflammation for thousands of years. Willow bark contains an active ingredient called salicin, which is chemically similar to aspirin.
5. Rub headaches off with herbal pastes and oils
Ginger powder – For faster relief from pain, try mixing two tablespoons of water and about a tablespoon of ginger powder. Apply the paste on your forehead. After a few minutes, rinse off with lukewarm water.
Cinnamon powder – Cinnamon’s purported anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties make it an effective migraine reliever. This study claims cinnamon considerably reduces the frequency, severity and duration of migraine attacks among patients.
Grind some cinnamon sticks into powder and add water to make a thick paste. Apply it on your forehead and temples and lie down to relax for 30 minutes. Wash it off with lukewarm water later.
Nutmeg powder – With its anti-inflammatory properties, nutmeg can be used to relieve pain, including headaches. Nutmeg likewise induces sleep, and helps keep you calm and relaxed. Simply mix nutmeg powder with water and massage the paste on your forehead to feel better and doze off shortly.
Peppermint oil – Mix drops of peppermint oil with water and massage your temples or the back of your neck with it. If you don’t have peppermint oil on hand, you may crush peppermint leaves and apply on your forehead.
Lavender oil – Massaging your forehead with a mixture of three drops of lavender, olive oil or almond oil can work wonders on your painful head.
Thyme oil – Place one or two drops of this essential oil on your temples and forehead and lightly massage them. Relax and wait for it to work its therapeutic wonders.
Basil oil – Basil is not only an essential pasta ingredient, but it can also be a natural treatment for headaches, too, being that it has muscle relaxant and analgesic powers, useful for tension-type headaches.
6. The nose knows: Essential oil inhalers and nasal drop
Peppermint oil – This aromatic herb’s refreshing scent aids in opening up clogged blood vessels which cause headache. Simply inhale peppermint oil while in a dark room for instant relief.
Cloves – These herbs are rich in antioxidants. They may relieve headaches, too, with their cooling and analgesic properties. Crush a few of these, place them in a clean cloth and inhale until you feel your head pain slowly diminish.
Lavender oil – This study noted that inhaling lavender oil reduced headache severity in patients. Put a few drops of lavender oil on a tissue and smell its soothing aroma. Otherwise, pour a few drops of lavender to two cups of boiling water and inhale the steam.
Sesame oil – This Asian-dish staple is not only one of the healthiest oils for cooking, it is also a nutrient powerhouse with high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Sesame oil is said to relieve the gases causing head pressure and relaxes your body. Simply put four drops of sesame oil in your nostrils daily and inhale deeply to enjoy its headache relieving power.
7. Aromatic foot bath
Believe it or not, a foot bath can help banish your headache by easing pressure on the blood vessels in your head. Mix peppermint oil, lavender oil and warm water to make a relaxing and tension-removing foot bath. You may add a bit of hot mustard powder if the pain is really bad.
8. A few feverfew may not be enough
Dried feverfew leaves and its extracts have been used in medicine for decades. These contain many different chemicals, including parthenolide, that help prevent and treat migraine headaches. As its name implies, feverfew is also used for fever, in addition to irregular menstrual periods, arthritis, psoriasis, allergies, asthma, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), dizziness, nausea and vomiting.
When used alongside willow bark, touted as nature’s aspirin, its efficacy is amplified.
9. An apple a day keeps the headaches away
The flavonoids in fresh apples and apple cider vinegar can help relieve headaches based on anecdotal evidence.
Headaches caused by sinusitis may be relieved by mixing half a cup each of apple cider vinegar and water. Bring the mixture to a boil, and allow it to cool down a bit. Hold a towel on your head and slowly inhale the steam.
Fresh apples sprinkled with salt are perfect for those who wake up with head pain. After consuming the apples, drink warm water. You may also add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, honey or lemon juice for that perfect headache-easing beverage.
Being natural doesn’t mean these remedies are devoid of potential health risks, though. Which brings us to our next question:
How safe are herbal remedies for headaches?
Generally speaking, these organic treatments do not interfere with common medicines. However, safety considerations dictate that those with pre-existing health conditions ask their doctor before taking any of these botanical remedies.
What are the potential side effects of medicinal herbs?
If you’re curious about the possible risks, continue reading:
Feverfew – If consumed, fresh feverfew leaves may cause mouth sores, swelling of the mouth, tongue, and lips and a loss of taste.
Possible side effects might include upset stomach, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, flatulence, nausea and vomiting. Other reported side effects include nervousness, dizziness, headache, trouble sleeping, joint stiffness, tiredness, menstrual changes, rash, pounding heart and weight gain.
Ginger – This highly potent medicinal root may increase bleeding risk and could worsen heart conditions. It may also interact with diabetes medications, as it can reduce blood sugar levels.
Lavender – Lavender contains geraniol, linalool and linalyl acetate, common allergens that may cause rashes on sensitive-skinned individuals.
This aromatic herb may help slow down the central nervous system too much when used in combination with anesthesia and other medications given during and after surgery. Hence, it is not recommended to use lavender at least two weeks pre-surgery.
Peppermint – Peppermint has no known adverse effects when used as oil, paste and even when ingested.
Cinnamon – Because it contains a blood-thinning compound named coumarin, consuming too much might cause bleeding issues. Long-term consumption of cinnamon is said to increase the risk of certain cancers, liver damage, mouth sores and other potential health issues.
Nutmeg – This herb is high in myristicin that, when ingested by humans, produces a compound that affects the sympathetic nervous system. If consumed in large amounts, myristicin also results in hallucinations or a trance-like state. A young woman who had consumed almost 50 grams of nutmeg complained of nausea, dizziness, heart palpitations and dry mouth, among other symptoms.
Thyme – If taken in large amounts, thyme may cause bleeding problems. Like lavender, this should not be taken at least two weeks prior to surgery.
Thyme can impact estrogen levels, hence affecting hormone-sensitive conditions such as cancers of the breast, uterus and ovaries. Those who are diagnosed with these conditions should avoid this aromatic herb.
Because headaches are a recurring condition, it’s best to resort to drug-free alternatives for pain relief. With these natural remedies, you can address migraines and other types of headaches through various approaches. There are no strict rules because each case is unique and what works for one may not work for another.
What do you think about these natural remedies? Did we miss something?
You’re always welcome to share anything with us here.