Lately, I've been suffering from constant headaches. Now, I'm not sure if it's from lack of sleep with a new baby and a 2-year-old, the weather, poor posture, or what, but I have definitely been relying too much on over-the-counter medications for a small window of relief.
When your head starts hammering, it’s so easy to reach for a pill bottle for quick relief. But over-the-counter and prescription drug medications aren’t for everyone, and they don't need to be used for every headache.
Dr. David Greuner of NYC Surgical Associates notes that 3-4% of the general population suffers from chronic headaches, so it can be extremely common for people to start overusing either prescribed or over-the-counter medications, even if a natural alternative or lifestyle change might also give them relief.
Greuner says that overuse of headache medications can cause many issues, including Medication Overuse Headaches (MOH). “When someone suffers from chronic headaches and overuses different medications, MOH can potentially lead to depression and anxiety, or even end up causing headaches. As the headache medication wears off, the pain returns, leading to the individual to take more.” This can cause a surprisingly common pain cycle, with MOH affecting 1-2% of the US population.
To avoid overusing medication next time your head is pounding, there are many natural remedies for headaches to try first. Here are 8 that experts recommend.
8 NATURAL HEADACHE REMEDIES
Headaches may actually be an indicator that your body is missing something like enough water, certain vitamins, or sleep. Stress, fatigue, allergies, poor posture, alcohol, low blood sugar and hormones can also trigger headaches.
So, sometimes a lifestyle change can be paramount in putting headaches to a halt. Examine your diet, your water intake and how much sleep you're getting first. Cutting out certain foods like gluten, dairy, processed foods and sugar can help cut down on the amount and severity of headaches that can plague your day.
Many people who suffer from frequent headaches or migraines swear by a simple natural remedy: the ice pack. Laying in a dark room with an ice pack on your eyes, head, or back of the neck can do wonders for headache pain.
You can use an ice pack you already have in your freezer (just put a cloth or fabric between your head and the ice to prevent burn), or invest in an item like the pictured "Headache Hat," which is highly rated by users on Amazon.
When there is less substance P, the pain messages no longer reach the brain, and you feel relief. When applied topically, cayenne has the ability to relieve headache symptoms and relax your muscles.
In the U.S. today, cayenne pepper is mostly used as a spice, but in many societies and parts of the world, it goes far beyond just flavoring food. For Native Americans as well as the ancient Chinese, cayenne pepper has been used consistently for therapeutic reasons.
Studies have found that if you apply cayenne (about 1/4 teaspoon diluted in 4 oz of water) topically with a Q-tip around your nostrils, it can relieve headaches and relax your muscles.
A good tea can have a surprising effect on even a fierce headache. Ginger may work against migraines by inhibiting prostaglandin synthesis. What’s more, ginger helps quell the nausea that often accompanies migraines. Create a homemade tea by gently simmering three quarter-sized slices of gingerroot in 2 cups of water, covered, for 30 minutes.
Peppermint has also been shown to calm the discomfort related to tension headaches. Cinnamon, known to have anti-inflammatory properties, can also ease an upset stomach, a symptom commonly paired with headaches. Add these to your daily cup of tea for added pain relief.
Various aromatic essential oils can be effective headache treatments. Diluted peppermint oil rubbed along the sinuses can provide great relief for sinus headaches. Frankincense, which has sedating properties, has also shown that it can relieve stress as well as stress headaches.
Lavender is another scent that you can use to combat headaches, particularly migraines. Enjoy lavender in a variety of ways: infused in the bath, as an essential oil, in raw herb form in a pouch, and even through an eye pillow.
Dr. Jennifer Stagg, a biochemist turned naturopathic physician, recommends nutritional supplements that support mitochondrial function for chronic headaches. "I often recommend including magnesium, Coenzyme Q10, and omega-3 fatty acids," she says, "For migraine sufferers, I recommend taking riboflavin (vitamin B2) and magnesium daily for prevention.”
Neurologist Dr. Damon Salzman, a headache and sleep expert who suffers from migraines, recommends taking supplements like Lifeback, which he created. It uses a combination of naturally occurring compounds like riboflavin (vitamin B2), magnesium, ginger root and melatonin to fight migraines.
If you know in advance you're going to be in a loud area like a concert, it's best to be prepared and have spare earplugs on hand as a preventative measure. If you suffer from serious chronic migraines, you may want to invest in ear plugs like those made by MigraineX, which makes preventative ear plugs specifically for travel and weather-related migraines. They even provide an app that measures barometric pressure changes often accompanying weather-related migraines so that the user has advance notice of a potential migraine onset.
For bio-mechanist Katy Bowman, MS, exercise has been effective for reducing frequency of headaches. "The heel strike that occurs during walking has recently been recognized as creating a pressure wave that increases the amount of blood to the brain," she says.
Also, if you’re walking or jogging, you’re likely taking a break from the computer, so the relaxation of the eyes and muscles in the face and neck brings about relief.
These are all really great at-home remedies to try before resorting to medications for relief. Sometimes a good 'ol nap, trip to the spa, or a few minutes of quiet time can do the trick.
What are some ways you treat your headaches? Let me know in the comments below!
Yours in Health & Happiness,
P.S. Small amounts of caffeine have also been shown to relieve headaches. Since this is the case, why not try drinking our Oolong tea which contains only 17-28mg of caffeine per serving. This small amount of caffeine paired with the amazing antioxidants will help to increase your overall health and give you a small boost of energy to tackle life each day.