When a headache strikes it can be painful and debilitating, but it’s also a fairly good indicator that your body is out of balance. While over-the-counter medication is usually very effective for pain management, the good news is there are a number of healthy at-home remedies you can use to combat headaches and provide natural and cost-effective pain relief.
Headaches are not typically related to more serious conditions, but could be a red flag that you’re overtired, hungry, thirsty, tense, hormonal or suffering from low blood sugar. While over-the-counter pain relief should do the trick, the following natural remedies should give you a head start:
Research carried out by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, suggests that peppermint oil can relieve tension headaches. Peppermint helps to control blood flow and open up the sinuses, improving oxygen flow. Plus, its active ingredient menthol may also lessen the intensity of acute migraines. Add a few drops in your bath, mix it with your massage oil or sip peppermint tea to ease the pain.
Book a massage
If you’re struggling with tension headaches or migraines, a full-body massage can help. Stress is a known headache trigger, so a good rub down will provide much needed relief and loosen you up in the process. Research shows regular massage can also help to prevent headaches from occurring, so book yourself in for a rub.
Keep a diary
If you’re prone to migraines, you may have noticed that certain stimuli can bring on an attack. Keep a diary noting the pain patterns and your daily activities, so you can spot trigger factors. It’s also worth showing the results to your doctor so they can decide what type of treatment is most appropriate for you.
Fluctuations in blood sugar can lead to migraines, so try to avoid skipping meals and ensure you always have snacks at hand. Include lean protein in your meal plans to help keep glucose levels steady. Avoid any food or drink in your diet that have been identified as possible triggers associated with migraine headaches.
American researchers recently found that people who incorporated meditation and controlled breathing into their daily routine have better regulation of the stress hormone cortisol. Stress can lead to headaches, so reducing cortisol could also help to ease headaches and other chronic pain. Not sure where to start? Download the meditation app Headspace.com.
If you’re a coffee drinker, you set yourself up for withdrawal headaches, which can stimulate your brain’s migraine centre and develop into migraines. Limit your daily intake to 1-2 cups a day, substitute for herbal teas and steer clear of caffeine altogether if you feel a migraine coming on.
A treatment derived from ancient Chinese medicine, acupuncture involves inserting very fine needles into pressure points on your body for therapeutic purposes. The British Medical Association endorsed the treatment for migraines, as acupuncture effectively provides pain relief, reduces inflammation and boosts levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin.
Rest is best
Resting or sitting in a darkened room can help relieve symptoms, especially if you are struggling with migraines, but it can help if you’re suffering from headaches. For best results, switch off all electrical appliances, close your eyes and focus on relieving tension in your neck, back and shoulders.
Hit the road
Once a headache hits you may be in too much pain to consider heading to the gym, but some sufferers have found that if you time it right, going for a jog can successfully sidestep a migraine. According to The Migraine Trust, 30 minutes of gentle exercise three times a week should help to manage migraine symptoms, but stick to moderate exercise so you don’t risk triggering an attack onset.
An ancient spiritual discipline that promotes holistic living through a combination of postures and breathing techniques, yoga has been found to ease headache and migraine pain. Breathing deeply releases tension, while opening the neck, shoulders, and spine helps blood flow to your head more freely. Try these ultimate yoga poses for relaxation.
Dehydration is a common headache trigger, and simply ensuring you drink enough water can stop a headache and migraine in its tracks. This Joseph Joseph Dot Hydration Tracking Water Bottle displays a dot every time you refill, helping you hit your daily hydration target and keep head pain at bay.
If you notice your migraines are more prevalent around the time you menstruate, top up on foods that are high in phytoestrogens to balance your hormones, such as lentils, flaxseed, sesame seeds and soybeans.
Known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, humans have been harvesting the powers of this zesty root for centuries. Ginger has also been known to reduce the nausea that comes with migraine attacks. Chew on a fresh clump or drink ginger tea.
Famous for its relaxation benefits, lavender oil also has proven migraine-busting properties. A recent study found that 92 out of 129 migraine sufferers who inhaled lavender during a migraine attack responded positively to the essential oil. Rub it on your temples and wrists, add a few drops to your bath or try a diffuser to fragrance your whole house.
Feverfew is a perennial flowering herb belonging to the daisy family and has been used to ward off migraines for centuries. Research has shown that the fabled flower reduces the frequency of migraine headaches and headache symptoms, including pain, nausea, sensitivity to light and noise. Take it in capsule form for best results.