Headaches aren't much fun for anybody. Feeling like a freight train is constantly shuttling back and forth through your brain is guaranteed to put a dampener on your day. But unfortunately they affect a lot of us, with one survey putting it in the list of top 10 most disabling conditions.
Headaches can be caused by any number of factors, from stress and fatigue to dehydration and allergies. The most common treatment for the discomfort is pain-killers, but more often than not these pills come with side effects and many people want to avoid manufactured medicines where possible. Who wants to replace one problem with another? So before you reach for the aspirin, why not try one of these natural remedies.
1. Lavender Oil
Lavender, with its distinctive floral aroma, is an essential oil that is well known for its mild sedative effect. It’s great if you’re having trouble sleeping or just hoping to unwind after a long day. But did you know it can also help relieve some of the pressure caused by a headache? Inhaling the vapors of lavender oil can reduce migraine tension and help ease the anxiety and nausea that often going along with it. It can also be applied topically. Just massage a couple of drops of lavender oil into the temples and neck for instant relief.
2. Peppermint Oil
Like lavender oil, studies have shown peppermint oil to be effective in helping to alleviate tension headaches. Like that waft of fresh air when you open a window on a spring day, peppermint oil helps to open blood vessels in your body. This promotes the proper dilating and constricting of the vessels to improve circulation.
Peppermint oil can be inhaled or rubbed onto the temples. Try combining it with a scalp massage to further release some of that tension. One Brazilian study showed that massaging the greater occipital nerve, located at the base of the skull, can reduce migraine pain.
Like Madonna and shoulder pads, the medicinal herb Feverfew was pretty big back in the 1980s. The craze can be put down to a British study which showed that 70 percent of participants had less migraine pain after taking feverfew daily. More recent studies have come to similar results.
Like peppermint oil, one of the ways which feverfew works is by relaxing (or constricting) the blood vessels in your brain. This gets to the root of the headache by stopping vessels from expanding and pressing on nerves in the brain. Feverfew has another trick up its sleeve in the shape of parthenolide. This substance has similar effects to aspirin (but without the chemical associations).
4. Cayenne Pepper
Spicy food may not seem like the obvious cure for a pounding headache, but clinical research has proven the benefits of cayenne pepper in reducing pain. Its effectiveness can be put down to an ingredient called capsaicin, which can neutralize one of the main elements in our pain perception – Substance P.
5. Try to Unwind
Stress is part and parcel of everyday life. But it’s often the resulting tension that leads to headaches. It makes sense then that there are some simple changes we can make to our lifestyle to help prevent headaches.
Activities that promote mindfulness are great for relaxation. Yoga in particular has been proven to combat stress by focusing the mind. Just trying a few stretches every day can help release the tension that may otherwise lead to painful headaches.
Even a simple change to our posture can help stave off the onset of pain. One of the key causes of tension in the head and neck area is related to the position of our shoulders – too high and you may find yourself placing unnecessary tension on your already overworked muscles. Try relaxing your neck and shoulders to keep muscle pain at bay and you may just find your headaches easing off as well.
Butterbur is a type of daisy that has a long history in traditional Native American medicine. Like many plants rooted in folklore, butterbur is now starting to gain scientific credibility. On the back of several studies, the plant has been endorsed by the American Academy of Neurology and American Headache Society as a treatment for migraines. Participants in one 2004 study found that taking 75mg of butterbur each day reduced their migraines by almost 50 percent.
7. Keep Hydrated
This is perhaps the easiest way to prevent the onset of a nasty headache. But it’s also the one things most of us don’t do enough of. The exact reasons why a lack of water can cause headaches aren’t known for sure, but it’s thought that dehydration decreases the flow of oxygen to the brain, giving us that unpleasant ache.