Do you suffer from headaches regularly? Are they negatively affecting your social, work, & family life? If you’re looking for safe solutions that treat the root cause of your issue, you’ll appreciate these 10 effective natural headache remedies that will help you get back to doing the things you love!
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be a temporary fix for headaches, but they don’t affect the root cause and therefore don’t prevent them from coming back. Plus, they have major side effects like drowsiness, anemia, stomach pain, constipation/diarrhea, high blood pressure, bleeding/bruising, and liver & kidney damage that you don’t want to add to the mix!
If your headaches are sharp and severe, it’s a good idea to rule out any serious health issues with your medical doctor. If they diagnose you with a common (though still seriously painful!) tension headache or migraine and simply offer addictive narcotics or OTC drugs, it would be wise to seek safer options. Try these 10 natural and effective remedies that will not only address the root cause of your headaches without any side effects, but also add to your general health!
10 Natural & Effective Headache Remedies
1. Drink Water
Headaches are a common side effect of dehydration, so you should first ask yourself if you’ve drank enough water when you feel the first waves of pain. We should each be drinking at least half our body in weight in ounces of water each day (eg. a 140 lb woman would drink 70 oz. water). It’s best to drink the majority of it in the morning to prime digestion and proactively hydrate, since fluids can be lost later through sweating & diuretics (like caffeine which we’ll get to next). Of course if you’ve been sick with a fever or diarrhea, you’ll want to drink more water to prevent headaches too.
2. Limit Alcohol & Caffeine
Alcoholic beverages are vasodilators that are known to cause headaches. Alcohol and caffeine are both diuretics and also dehydrate the body quickly which can result in headaches as we discussed above.
I know many of you are saying, “but I get a headache when I DON’T have my coffee!” or “I’ve heard caffeine can help with headaches!” Well, both statements are right.
Caffeine can decrease inflammation, so can temporarily stop a headache. But since the narrowed blood vessels around the brain start to expand quickly again when the caffeine wears off, it can then cause pain again. Headaches are a withdrawal symptom when someone is trying to break their caffeine addiction and can also result when caffeine is combined with other medications.
3. Get More Sleep
Sleep restores brain function each night, so any sleep deprivation can strain the brain, typically causing dull forehead and vertex headaches. For some people, getting enough sleep is easier said than done. If you need help falling asleep or staying asleep, please read my 3-part sleep series starting with Natural Sleep Remedies, part 1: Finding Your Rhythm to help you along.
4. Use Essential Oils
Did you know that essential oils can solve approximately 85% of your health concerns? That includes headaches too! It’s important that you only use therapeutic-grade essential oils though, as adulterated, low quality oils can actually contribute to headaches. See my essential oil website page for information about the brand I trust the most!
My favorite essential oils for headaches that I’ve seen work well on my patients & family members are:
doTERRA Rescuer blend (gentle for kids & sensitive adults)
Apply 1-2 drops of the concentrated oils or swipe roller bottle blends (diluted with fractionated coconut carrier oil) onto the head where ever you’re experiencing pain. Inhaling the aromas can also help relax your body and calm your nerves.
5. Receive Acupuncture & Acupressure
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a complete health care system and includes acupuncture as well as acupressure/massage, dietetics, herbs, and Qigong. In TCM, the root cause of headaches is a disharmony in the flow of Qi (vital energy) and blood in the body and linked strongly to our emotions. This disharmony is treated directly, which is why acupuncture is phenomenal at treating and preventing headaches. Clients must commit to a series of treatments though, not expecting a quick fix (especially if you’ve been getting regular headaches for several years!)
If your needle-phobic, acupressure is an effective alternative! You can even do acupressure on yourself. If you subscribe to my website email list, you’ll actually get a free stress-relieving acupressure e-book gift! I made it especially for moms, but everyone can use it!
6. Do Yoga
A regular, relaxing yoga practice can lessen physical tension and stress that can bring on headaches. This includes deep breathing, restorative postures, mindfulness of repressed emotions, and gentle inversions if they’re already part of your practice. The combination of them all balance the endocrine and nervous systems.
Again, not all yoga is the same! It must be a style that is relaxing and you must pay close attention to your body’s cues to make sure you’re releasing stress and not accumulating it if you’re engaging in a competitive way. Read Yogic Approach to Stress Relief for more information on how to do this.
7. Try an Elimination Diet
Certain foods can trigger headaches. The most common culprits are preservatives like MSG & nitrates, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, and caffeine. You can try taking those out first. If you still have headaches, especially if you have other digestive symptoms, you may want to consider more extensive trouble-shooting of your diet. The Elimination Diet by Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre is my favorite program, which I’ve done a few times and is a very approachable way of figuring out which foods are causing the pain.
8. Take Supplements
Dietary supplements and herbs can help bridge any nutrition gaps that may cause headaches. Increasing your dosage of magnesium and calcium is known to balance serotonin levels. Increased vitamin B2 can help decrease pain from migraines.
Consuming feverfew, valerian, black cohosh, garlic, ginkgo, and elder flower can help resolve tension headaches. Ginger, cayenne, garlic, and fennel are especially helpful for those that develop around the menstrual cycle.
9. Take a Break from the Screen
Eye strain from computer work, social media activity on phones, reading tablets and video game play can develop into a headache. In Chinese Medicine, we advise to not just take a break from the screens to relax the eyes, but also to go outside and be with trees. The green color of leaves is very soothing for the eyes and allowing them to experience depth perception by looking at the individual leaves/needles can also help relax the eyes (and your whole head).
10. Use Heat to Soothe Tension
If your headache is caused by tension, increasing blood circulation with heat can help relieve it. Try a heating pad or hot compress if you can pinpoint the muscles that are tight. Or you can take a hot bath with epsom salt and essential oils to relax the whole body while also increasing circulation. Even giving yourself a nice, hot foot bath can be enough to bring the energy down out of the head.
You’ll know which remedies you should try first if you start a “headache journal”, documenting what your day was like leading up to the headache. Then it’s up to you to adjust your lifestyle as you incorporate the remedies, which may take a little time to fine-tune. The desire to lead a pain-free, joyful life without harmful medications is hopefully enough motivation to help you commit!
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