Home Remedies for Headaches

By Barbara Hale, M.D.
Categories: , ,

Brunette suffering from tension headache

What are home remedies for headaches?

Home remedies for headaches involve herbs, and nutritional supplements along with practical actions that you can use such as sensible modification of diets, exercise and elimination of substances as in caffeine, alcoholic beverages and smoking.

Home remedies have become increasingly popular since the public wants a more holistic approach to our bodies and health.

How effective are home remedies for headaches

Drinking water may be the most effective and basic way to treat headaches since many of them are due to dehydration. Studies reveal that chronic dehydration is often at the root of tension headaches and migraines.  Symptoms abate within 30 minutes of drinking and eating water-rich foods.

Many natural treatments are very effective in targeting headaches, which include the following:

  • Drink Ginger tea (high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties) Ginger also helps abate nausea and vomiting seen with severe headaches
  • Do routine physical exercise
  • Try Yoga, Tai Chi and meditation for relaxation
  • Biofeedback
  • Journaling symptoms
  • Have herbal remedies- Feverfew is an anti-inflammatory, Butterbur root is also anti-inflammatory
  • Get acupuncture- found effective in treating chronic headaches
  • Drink caffeinated tea or coffee- caffeine constricts blood vessels, increases focus and elevates mood
  • Go on an elimination diet- discover food intolerances that act as triggers
  • Add Coenzyme Q10, a potent antioxidant
  • Take magnesium (600 mg daily)- found to decrease headaches
  • Take a B-Complex Vitamin- convert food to energy and contribute to neurotransmitter synthesis
  • Use Essential Oils- contains aromatic compounds from plants. Rub Peppermint essential oil on the temples to rid tension headache symptoms. Lavender oil is applied to the upper lip and inhaled.

Yoga, meditation, supplements, herbs, essential oils and changes to the diet have been shown to effectively reduce headache symptoms.

What should I not do in treating headaches?

While treating headaches, one should NOT:

  • Drink alcoholic beverages since it’s a vasodilator widening blood vessels (headache inducing)
  • Have sleep deprivation
  • Sleep too much 
  • Eat foods high in histamine (found in aged cheeses, fermented food, smoked fish and cured meats)
  • Drink beer or wine
  • Wear perfumes
  • Use cleaning products
  • Consume foods with nitrates and nitrites (seen in food preservatives added to sausages, bacon and hot dogs)

When should I seek professional help?

Headaches commonly arise with stress, changes to sleep patterns, weather changes, increased time staring at computer screens and menstruation or hormone fluctuations in women.

When your symptoms are unusual for you, get help by seeking medical attention from a specialist.

Signs that you should seek medical attention for your headache include:

  • Your headaches interfere with daily activities
  • Pain relief is needed more than twice a week
  • You suffer from a headache more than twice a week
  • The headache persists and gets worse
  • Nonprescription medications for pain relief are not adequate

Treatment Options

Treatment depends on the cause or type of headache.

The following types of headaches show the most effective treatment options advised:

  • Tension headache (dull, aching sensation over the whole head)- Over-the-Counter: Acetaminophen and Caffeine, aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen
  • Prescriptions if the above doesn’t work- indomethacin, meloxicam and ketorolac.
  • Cluster headaches (severe burning and piercing pain)- oxygen therapy, prescribe sumatriptan or lidocaine.
  • Migraines (pulsing with visual disturbances and auras)- OTC pain relief, followed by options of sumatriptan, rizatriptan. Preventative drugs for chronic migraines include propranolol, metoprolol, topiramate and amitriptyline.  
  • Allergy or sinus headaches (felt around sinuses or front of head)- antibiotics advised for sinusitis, nasal steroid sprays and OTC decongestants.
  • Hormone headaches (linked to cycle fluctuations)- options include OTC pain relief and relaxation exercises.
  • Exertion headaches (after intense physical activity)- use OTC analgesics.
  • Rebound headaches (from use of OTC drugs over 15 days in a month)- only option is to wean from the drugs.
  • Post-traumatic headaches after head injury (feels like migraines or tension-type headache)- Triptans, beta-blockers and amitriptyline are prescribed to control the pain.

What should I expect?

One should expect headaches to resolve within 48 hours. If it persists, seek medical attention.