Headaches are so common these days that we don’t pay them enough attention. We just take a pill or several, and we forget about them. But a headache is a sign that something is wrong. And it shouldn’t be ignored, especially if it’s a daily occurrence.
Moreover, pain medication is not always the answer. Taking too many pain-relieving pills, sometimes leads to rebound headaches. Fortunately, there are natural remedies for headaches and migraines that you can try. But first, we should look at the core of the problem.
What causes headaches?
A headache is any pain that you feel in any part of your head. It appears due to a mix of signals between your brain, blood vessel, and nerves. Specific nerves activate and send pain signals to your brain.
But what could cause a headache? Well, here are the most common reasons why your head is hurting:
- Emotional stress
- Eye strain or back strain
- Sleep deprivation
- Fever, cold
- Dental problems
- Environmental factors
There are two types of headaches – primary and secondary.
Primary headaches are stand-alone illnesses. They are not a symptom of an underlying condition. Such are:
- Tension headache
- Migraine headache
- Cluster headache
Secondary headaches are a symptom of another disease. They could be caused by a brain tumor, dental issues or sinusitis.
Most headaches are primary, and they don’t last very long. However, when a headache last 15 days a month, it’s called chronic.
Migraines are one of the most common chronic headaches. But what causes a migraine?
Scientists are still trying to understand migraines. They think that migraines might be caused by changes in the brainstem or a genetic problem. Some also state that migraines could be linked to an imbalance of chemicals. One such chemical is serotonin.
Serotonin is responsible for regulating pain in the nervous systems. The levels of serotonin drop during a migraine attack.
Other possible migraine triggers include:
- Hormonal changes in women. You’re most likely to get headaches before or after your period. This is due to the fluctuation of estrogen.
- Certain foods. Foods that trigger migraines include aged cheese, salty or processed food
- Sensory stimulus like bright light and loud sounds
- Physical exertion
You’re also more likely to suffer from migraines if it runs in your family.
Tension headaches could also become chronic. But, if you have a persistent headache, talk to your doctor.
Why? What are the causes of constant headaches? Some serious conditions like stroke, intracranial pressure, meningitis, might be the culprit. So you should rule out anything life-treating.
What are the signs and symptoms of different headaches?
Do you know how many different headaches are there? Over 150. So, how can you tell what kind of a headache you have got? Well, the location of the pain is a good indicator. Let’s take a look at the signs of the most common headaches.
Several days before a migraine attack you might experience mood changes, food cravings, increased thirst and urination, and frequent yawning. Signs of a migraine attack are pain, nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, and visual changes. The pain is throbbing, and it’s located on one side or both sides of your head.
- Tension headache
The pain is dull and aching. You’ll feel a tightness or pressure across your forehead, sides and the back of the head. Your scalp, neck or shoulder muscles might feel tender. So, if you feel a headache on top of the head, or a headache in the back of the head, it’s likely we’re talking about tension headaches.
- Cluster headaches
These are a series of short, but painful headaches that occur every day for a few weeks or even months. The pain is burning, and it’s located on one side. You’ll feel it behind or around your eye. It might spread to the forehead, nose, cheek, and temple. Your eye might get watery, red and tearful. The treatment for cluster headaches usually involves medication, and in rare cases – surgery.
- Sinus headache
The pain is constant, and it’s located on your cheeks, forehead and bridge of the nose. If you move or strain yourself, it gets worse. You might experience other symptoms like a runny nose, fever, a swelling in the face, or a feeling of fullness in the ear.
How to get rid of headaches and migraine?
The answer looks simple – we take medicine. But as I already said, too much medicine can make your symptoms worse with time. Let’s take a look at what other options we have. Here’s a list of the best natural remedies for headaches and migraines.
#1 Cayenne pepper is an excellent remedy for sinus headaches
It sounds unbelievable that cayenne pepper could be useful for headaches, but it’s true. Cayenne pepper contains a special compound that gives it the spicy taste. It’s called capsaicin.
Capsaicin is regarded as a strong anti-inflammatory agent. But why could it be useful for headaches?
The answer is very simple – it numbs the pain. How? It depletes your nerves from the so-called substance P. The substance P transmits pain signals. So less substance P means less pain. That’s why capsaicin is sometimes used in ointments.
Several studies also support the claim that cayenne pepper relieves a headache when applied to the nasal passage. Here’s how to make it work. You need:
- 4 ounces of warm water
- A cotton swab
- ¼ teaspoon of cayenne powder
Add the ¼ teaspoon of powder in the 4 ounces of warm water. Use the cotton swab to stir the solution and let it soak. Apply the soaked cotton swab to each of your nostrils. Soon you should start to feel a burning sensation. By the time this sensation has passed, your headache should also have improved.
#2 Feverfew reduces migraine attacks
Naturally, herbs are an excellent solution for your headache problems. Here are two tension relieving herbs that you can use:
This is a plant native to Asia Minor and the Balkans. Its dry leaves are often used for medicine. There is a substance in feverfew called parthenolide, which has anti-pain properties. Research claims that consuming feverfew reduces the frequency of migraine attacks and their symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and pain.
You can take feverfew in the form of capsules, tablets or liquid. To make feverfew tea take 1 ounce of fresh or dried leaves, add them to 1 pint of boiling water. Let it steam for 10 minutes. Then strain and drink half a cup.
Butterbur is another herb that has anti-inflammatory properties. It affects the chemicals that cause migraines and headaches. Butterbur also helps to sustain normal blood flow to the brain. The recommended dose to achieve the pain-relieving effect is 75 milligrams.
However, be careful. Choose butterbur products that are labeled “PA-free”. There are some harmful toxins and chemicals naturally found in the plant.
#3 Peppermint oil to eases headaches
Using essential oils as a headache remedy is nothing new. Sometimes, they are even more effective than painkillers. Let’s see which the best essential oils for treating headaches are:
- Peppermint oil
It has a cooling effect on the skin, improves blood flow, and stops muscle contractions. It’s extremely useful for tension headaches when applied to the forehead and temple. To experience its pain-numbing effect – mix three drops of peppermint oil with coconut oil. Then rub the mixture on your forehead or back.
You can also add a few drops of peppermint oil in a bowl of steaming water and inhale the steam for a few minutes.
- Lavender oil
Lavender oil is known for its sedative, antidepressant and calming effect. It also regulates serotonin levels, which are important when it comes to migraines. Some studies even suggest that lavender oil could be beneficial for some neurological disorders. To use lavender oil: place a few drops of lavender on your palms and rub it on your forehead, temples, and back. You can also add five to 10 drops of lavender to a warm bath and breathe deeply. It will relax your muscles and mind.
- Rosemary oil
It has stimulating, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Rosemary oil is also helpful for stress reduction and getting rid of emotional triggers. Moreover, it’s good for an upset stomach. You can add one drop of rosemary oil to your tea or mix it with peppermint oil and coconut oil and rub the solution on your forehead. Or you can try this recipe.
Eucalyptus cleanses the body of toxic elements and harmful microorganism. It’s also useful for opening the nasal airways. In this way, it eliminates sinus pressure and relieves sinus headaches. Dilute several drops of eucalyptus and apply it to your temples, forehead, chest, and back of the neck.
#4 Use hot or cold compress
Why is a hot or cold compress excellent remedy for your headache? Well, some headaches are linked to expanded blood vessels. These blood vessels press on the nerves and cause pain. Applying something cold to the problematic area could do the trick by constricting the blood vessels. Heat, on the other hand, is known for its ability to relax and soothe muscles.
If you suffer from tension headaches, it’s best if you use warm compresses. But people with migraines react better to cold compresses. It’s best if you try both and see what works for you. Here is how. You’ll need:
- a cold compress or an ice pack ( a frozen pack of peas would do the trick)
- a heating pad, or a hot tower
Lie down somewhere quiet and dark. Place the ice pack or the heating pad on your forehead and try to relax. Switch from time to time the position of the pack – for example on your shoulders, top of the head or where it hurts most. Do it for as long as you would like and don’t rush back to your routine, or you risk a relapse.
#5 Go for a walk
You’re probably thinking: My head is throbbing so much. The last thing I want to do is go somewhere! You find it hard to believe, but walking or exercising can help relieve the pain you’re feeling. Getting out in the fresh air can loosen those tight muscles and make you forget about the pain for awhile.
When you exercise, your body produces endorphin. Endorphin can dull the pain caused by a headache. For better result, it’s recommended that you exercise regularly.
If you don’t feel in the mood for a walk, you might instead try to breathe deeply. When we are in pain, we tend to breathe shallowly. So, make an effort to take a big, deep breath. This would provide your brain and body with much-needed oxygen. Here you can read more about relaxation techniques you can use.
#6 Grab a pencil
No, this is not a joke. When you’re stressed or angry, we tend to clench our teeth. This strains the muscles connecting the jaw to the temples. And what’s the result? A tension headache appears. So what can we do?
Grab a pencil and hold it between your teeth. You shouldn’t bite it or clench your teeth, just hold it lightly in your mouth. This action relaxes the muscles in your jaw and this in turns, relieves your headache.
This solution might sound far-fetched to you, but some specialists support the effectiveness of this method.
You don’t lose anything from trying it. Besides, there is also a pencil lying around. However, it only works for tension headaches.
Tips for preventing headaches
No one wants to suffer through the pain of migraines or headaches. Here are some tips that can keep the headaches away from you.
- Rest and relax
- Don’t forget to eat
- Drink less alcohol and caffeine
- Drink plenty of water
- Try to avoid stressful situation
- Keep away from a migraine triggering foods
- Exercise regularly
- Get enough sleep
- Meditate or do yoga
- Keep a routine
- Bullet Point 2
Headaches are part of our lives, but we shouldn’t let them control our lifestyle. Nor should we count only on medication to make us feel better when we have so many other options.
What do you think about these natural remedies for headaches and migraines? Have you ever tried them? Share what’s your way of dealing with headaches in the comments. And like and share the article with your friends and family.