20 Natural Headache Remedies You Can Find in Your Kitchen
No one has time for headaches! Have one of these cures on hand to battle a stressful day.
Natural headache remedies? They’re probably in your kitchen.
So many things can make your head ache. Deadlines. Arguments. Irksome bosses. Traffic jams. Even good things can give you a pain in the head—on the Mayo Clinic Web site, “ice cream headaches” has its own category (many of us know it as “brain freeze”). Generally speaking, headaches are your body’s response to physical or emotional stress. That stress can make the muscles in your head and neck contract to create tension headaches. Or it can make blood vessels constrict and later expand to produce migraines or vascular headaches. And if your sinuses are congested or infected, pounding headaches often result. Despite the discomfort, most headaches are temporary and respond quite nicely to do-it-yourself natural headache remedies.
Check out this guide to figure out what kind of headaches you usually get.
Natural Headache Remedies: Use thyme and rosemary oil for head rubs
To relieve headache pain, dab a drop or two of thyme or rosemary essential oil on each temple and on your forehead. Rub gently into the skin, then sit quietly for several minutes to let these natural headache remedies work. In a 2010 study, researchers discovered that thyme and rosemary oils contain carvacrol, a substance that acts as a COX-II inhibitor, much like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, do. Here’s a guide to essential oils you should read before using them.
Natural Headache Remedies: Take magnesium
Headache researchers say that migraine sufferers should keep this essential mineral in their medicine chests. Turns out, migraineurs (the term docs use to describe folks who get these head-splitters) have low levels of magnesium in their brains during attacks and may also have a general magnesium deficiency. (Here are some other signs you’re not getting enough magnesium.) In fact, two placebo-controlled clinical studies have shown that taking magnesium supplements can prevent the headaches. Experts recommend taking 400 milligrams a day of chelated magnesium, magnesium oxide, or slow-release magnesium, all of which are available over the counter at your local drugstore. Note: Magnesium may cause diarrhea in some people. Magnesium is also high in foods like pumpkin seeds, mackerel, dried figs, and dark chocolate.
Natural Headache Remedies: Get more vitamin B2
In one study, 59 percent of participants slashed migraine frequency by half after taking 400 milligrams of this vitamin (known as riboflavin) daily for three months. For the volunteers who took a placebo, just 15 percent of them reported fewer migraine events. Almonds, sesame seeds, certain fish, and some hard cheeses are high in this vitamin. Here are some other proven remedies for migraines.
Natural Headache Remedies: Try butterbur extract
An herb called butterbur has proved itself so effective for migraine relief that physicians who specialize in treating migraines often recommend it. At least three studies have been conducted on Petadolex, an over-the-counter butterbur extract, and in each study, the herb has significantly reduced migraine attacks when compared to a placebo. The recommended dosage is 75 milligrams twice a day for one month, then 50 milligrams twice a day. These are some causes of migraines you should be aware of.
Natural Headache Remedies: Steep gingerroot for tea
Ginger may work against migraines by inhibiting prostaglandin synthesis. What’s more, ginger helps quell the nausea that often accompanies migraines—you can use ginger for a whole hose of health benefits. Create a homemade tea by gently simmering three quarter-sized slices of gingerroot in 2 cups of water, covered, for 30 minutes.
Natural Headache Remedies: Brew chamomile tea
Chamomile tea has compounds that help ease pain and relax you. Brew up a cup using one chamomile tea bag to a cup of just-boiled water. Allow to steep, covered, for 10 minutes. Sweeten with honey, if desired. Take a few minutes to sip the hot tea slowly while sitting in a quiet spot. Don’t miss these other 10 natural remedies for headaches.
Natural Headache Remedies: Draw a footbath with peppermint and lavender oils
Some natural healers believe footbaths are powerful natural headache remedies. The hot water draws blood to your feet, easing the pressure on the blood vessels in your head. By adding a few drops of peppermint and/or lavender essential oils, the aroma provides soothing relief. Try these effective home remedies for sinus headache relief.
Drink a glass of water
Filling up a glass of the wet stuff might be the simplest of the home remedies for headaches: “Dehydration leads to the loss of fluid from the brain, which causes it to pull away from the skull and stimulates pain receptors, that can impair your ability to concentrate, make you irritable and worsen an existing headache,” explains Dr. Rashmi Kulkarni, who specializes in Family Medicine at Gwinnett Medical Group’s Covenant Family Medicine. To avoid dehydration, she recommends drinking enough water (48 to 64 ounces) throughout the day. This is what happens to your body when you start drinking enough water.
Eat salicylate-rich foods
Chances are, you’ve never heard of this chemical, which is found in a myriad of plants and most pain-relieving medications. It also happens to be the active ingredient in aspirin, putting the foods that contain it near the top of the list of home remedies for headaches, according to Lynn Anderson, PhD, ND, a naturopathic doctor and yoga therapist. She says that consuming salicylates-rich foods alone may be enough to treat headaches. “Fruits that are high in salicylates are raisins, prunes, apricots, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, grapes, pineapples, plums, oranges, tangerines, strawberries, and guava,” she says. Warning: These healthy vegetables can sometimes harm you.
Use a cold compress
Just as you’d apply ice to a swollen muscle or an inflamed skin injury or condition, you can ice your aching noggin. “Applying cold or frozen compresses to the neck, head or temples decreases inflammation, slows nerve conduction, and constricts blood vessels, all of which help reduce headache pain,” explains Julie Rosenberg, MD, a pediatric oncologist and author of Beyond the Mat. Check out whether ice or heat is best for your muscle pain.
Sip apple cider vinegar
You may have heard of the myriad of health benefits associated with apple cider vinegar—like lowering blood sugar levels and warding off diabetes. As it turns out, drinking apple cider vinegar may help prevent headaches or migraines too. “It’s known that apple cider vinegar can help prevent migraines caused by blood sugar imbalance,” says David Friedman, ND, DC, doctor of naturopathy, clinical nutritionist, and chiropractic neurologist. “It’s even thought that inhaling steam vapors of apple cider vinegar may help with sinus headaches.” He suggests drinking it straight up or applying a cold apple cider vinegar compress to your forehead to soothe a headache. Here’s the one negative of apple cider vinegar.
Take coenzyme Q10
This fat-soluble nutrient, which also goes by the name coQ10, is produced naturally in the body and is found in many of foods you eat, especially meat and organs. Getting your fair share has been shown to be an effective and natural way to treat headaches, according to Dr. Rosenberg. “CoQ10 acts as an antioxidant which protects cells from damage and plays an important part in metabolism,” he says. He recommends aiming for 100-200 milligrams a day. Learn more about the benefits of CoQ10.
Pour a cup of coffee
If you need relief from a headache, reach for a cup of joe! It may be one of the most popular home remedies for headaches. “Before a headache or migraine starts, blood vessels enlarge, but the caffeine in coffee contains ‘vasoconstrictive’ properties that narrow the blood vessels and restrict blood flow,” explains Dr. Friedman. “If you decide to take acetaminophen or aspirin for a headache, drinking coffee can increase their pain-relieving effects by 40 percent, which explains why Excedrin contains 65 mg of caffeine in each tablet!” Here’s how to make your coffee habit healthier.
Eat foods with garlic and onion
While they certainly don’t make for an ideal first-date meal, garlic and onions are great remedies for headaches. “Both of these herbs are blood thinners so they help to reduce the platelet clotting process involved in triggering headaches (especially migraines),” says Dr. Anderson. “Additionally, both garlic and onions are recommended for preventing heart attacks.” Check out these little-known uses for onions.
Slice up some pineapple
Not only is it delicious, but fresh pineapple is a great headache remedy. “It contains a natural proteolytic enzyme called bromelain, which has pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties,” says Dr. Friedman. “Bromelain also lowers the production of TGF-β, another contributor of inflammation associated with migraines.” If you’re not a fan of pineapple, he recommends taking a bromelain supplement, which is available at most health food stores. Have you been eating pineapple the wrong way all along?
Steep feverfew tea
It might not be the most popular tea flavor, but it is one of the more effective for naturally reducing headaches. “This flowering plant works by limiting the production of prostaglandins, the brain chemicals responsible for contracting blood vessels, which can lead to intense throbbing pain at the back of the head,” explains Dr. Friedman. “Feverfew also contains anti-inflammatory and muscle-relaxant properties, which are beneficial for those suffering from headaches or migraines, and has been shown to reduce the severity of nausea and vomiting for migraine sufferers.” You can find feverfew as a tea, tincture or in capsule form available at most health food stores. Learn more about the headache-relieving perks of feverfew.
Eat spicy foods
If you’re already a fan of hot sauce or spicy cuisines, great: Filling your plate with hot pepper-containing foods is among the top home remedies for headaches. “Hot peppers (chilies) contain a substance known as capsaicin, which is a natural ingredient found in many topical pain relief creams and ointments,” says Dr. Friedman. “Capsaicin has the ability to decrease substance-P, a chemical messenger that carries a signal to the brain that it translates as pain.” When you effectively block the messenger, he explains, you block the pain too. Here’s what an appetite for spicy foods says about your personality.
Season your food with oregano
This wonderful culinary herb also has impressive medicinal properties—including pain relief, according to Dr. Anderson. “If you’re not a fan of the flavor, you can use oregano oil in a diffuser, or you can put a few drops on a tissue and hold the tissue to your nose,” she says. “The oil can be combined with a carrier oil and applies to the temples.” Learn more about the impressive health benefits of oregano oil.
Eat some cherries
Dr. Friedman explains that cherries help reduce inflammation in the body by neutralizing free radicals we’re exposed to in our environment. “Anthocyanins, a type of bioflavonoid that gives cherries their deep red color, have anti-inflammatory properties similar to those in aspirin,” he says. “Eating a dozen cherries can help relieve a headache and also help remedy joint pain and ease PMS symptoms too.” Here are more antioxidant-rich fruits you should be eating.
Snack on cucumbers
Since cucumbers are 96 percent water, they’re an ideal snack for alleviating any headache caused by dehydration. In addition, Dr. Friedman explains, cucumbers are packed with nutrients that play a vital part in hydration, like magnesium and potassium. Learn how to grow your own cucumbers in a greenhouse or outdoors.