10 natural remedies for headaches (and tips for prevention)

10 Natural Remedies for Headaches (and Tips For Prevention)

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We use a lot of home remedies here on the farm. Especially using things I can forage, make, or grow myself! I’ve been struggling with headaches lately, so I wanted to share some natural remedies for headaches with you.

10 Natural Remedies for Headaches - plus prevention tips!

By now, we should all know that pain medication can cause all sorts of issues with our bodies. Pain meds like Ibuprofen and Tylenol can cause liver and kidney damage. Couple that with the amount of opioid addiction in the world, and we have a problem on our hands.

Now I get it, not everyone wants to become a full-blown home herbalist, but using natural remedies is always better for us. Always! So before you reach for that pill bottle, I hope you’ll try some of these natural remedies for headaches first.

Woman wincing in pain from a headache

Natural remedies for headaches

Use essential oils

The use of essential oils can be a very effective treatment for headaches. Lavender, peppermint, rosemary, eucalyptus, chamomile, geranium, ginger, and frankincense are the most common essential oils for headaches. And combining one or two of these essential oils may be even more effective.

You can diffuse the essential oils in a diffuser, put them in a bath, or put some diluted essential oils on different parts of your body. Lavender under the nose, peppermint on the forehead and temples, or eucalyptus on the chest.

Please don’t ingest essential oils. They are a very powerful medicine that can cause stomach issues and more when ingested. It’s also very important that if you’re putting essential oils on the body, you dilute them in a carrier oil. If applied neat (undiluted) directly on the skin, some oils can cause burns.

Starwest Botanicals has a great selection of high-quality essential oils.

Headache salves

If you’re up for it, it’s quite easy to make your own headache salve. Just try to make it beforehand – don’t try to make a salve while you have a headache! An herbal salve is just herbs infused in oil, then blended with beeswax for a nice, thick balm. You can follow my basic herbal salve recipe here, and add whatever herbs you feel best help your headaches. I personally like lavender and peppermint, but any of the herbs in the essential oils highlighted above can help.

Willow bark tincture

Willow bark tincture is an all-natural oral pain reliever. It’s also a good fever reducer. It is made infusing willow bark (most commonly white willow) in a high-proof alcohol for 4-6 weeks. Willow has been used medicinally since the time of Hippocrates (about 400 B.C.). Willow bark tincture contains salicin, which is what scientists studied to make aspirin.

You can learn to make willow bark tincture, or any other tinctures here.

Mullein tincture

Mullein tincture is used in many modern homeopathic treatments for headaches and migraines. It is a wonderful anti-inflammatory herb, and helps to reduce pain. Mullein tea is also wonderful in treating lung issues, but that’s a different post!

The thing I love most about mullein is that you can forage it nearly everywhere. But if you can’t seem to find it, you can get it at Starwest Botanicals.

Cold compress

Another one of the best natural remedies for headaches is using a cold compress. Whether you’re suffering from a tension headache, a sinus headache, or a migraine, putting a cold or frozen compress on your head or neck can be a very fast, effective solution.

The cold from the compress helps constrict blood vessels and reduce the inflammation that is causing the headache. To use a cold compress, fill a waterproof bag with ice, wrap in a thin towel, and apply to the neck or head. Don’t apply the ice bag directly to the skin, as it can cause skin damage. Hold on the area for no more than 15 minutes at a time, then take a 15 minute rest.

woman holding an ice pack to her face

Try a heating pad

Tension headaches are often best treated with heat. Heat increases blood flow and helps to relax muscles. Try a heating pad or rice sock on your head and neck. You could even alternate between hot and cold to see if that will help.

Use hot and cold together

For a particularly stubborn headache, put some hot water in a small tub for a foot bath. Adding some of the essential oils mentioned above is a great idea as well. Soak your feet in the tub for about 20 minutes. While your feet are soaking, take an ice pack or cold compress and put on your forehead or the back of your neck.

The heat on your feet will increase circulation there, while the cold near your head helps reduce the blood flow. The combination of these 2 things will help relieve pressure on your head. After you have soaked for 20 minutes, rinse your feet in cool water, then lay down to rest for awhile.

Drink a cup of coffee

If you have a painful headache, sometimes a good ole’ cup of Joe can do the trick. Caffeine helps constrict blood vessels, which helps tremendously in headache relief. The caffeine may also boost the effects of the Ibuprofen or acetaminophen you may have taken.

I’ll admit that I have a bit of a caffeine addiction, so if I haven’t had enough caffeine in the day, I sometimes get headaches. If that may be the case for you, drinking a cup of coffee might be just what the doctor ordered.

teapot and cup of tea on a serving tray

Brew up a cup of tea

Like coffee, a cup of tea may also provide you with that boost of caffeine that may help your headache. But you can also do an herbal tea that will have additional benefits! Ginger tea is great for headaches, as it reduces inflammation and constricts blood vessels. It will also help with any nausea associated with the headache or migraine.

Feverfew is a traditional herb to treat migraines. You can take it in capsule or powder form, or you can brew it into a tea. But please don’t use feverfew if you are pregnant.

Chamomile tea helps reduce inflammation and relieves stress, which can be a major cause for headaches. Growing chamomile is a good way to have plenty of it for teas! ! Many of the herbs listed above in the essential oil section are also beneficial in herbal tea form. Peppermint tea is wonderful for headaches, as is lavender. Reminder: only use herbs for teas, not essential oils.

Turmeric tea is another winner, as it is a very powerful anti-inflammatory and helps ease pain. Keep in mind that turmeric works best with the addition of black pepper.

If you can’t grow your own herbs for one reason or another, Starwest Botanicals has a wonderful selection, so you can formulate your own teas and tea blends.

Try acupressure

Acupressure is something you can easily do at home, at the office, or wherever you are when a headache hits. Acupressure is simply the act of applying firm pressure to a particular area of the body for 1 or 2 minutes at a time. There are 4 common acupressure points for headaches, 2 on the hands and 2 on the neck and shoulders.

On the hands, squeeze the “meaty” area between your thumb and index finger, with the thumb and index finger of the other hand. The second acupressure point is in between the ring finger and pinky finger. Apply pressure firmly with your thumb in between the knuckles there.

The acupressure points in your neck and shoulders are at the base of the skull, and in the center of your trapezius muscles. This acupressure video shows you how to apply pressure to these points for headache relief.

Natural prevention of headaches

If you have headaches often, you may want to reduce their frequency. You can consult your doctor for his recommendations, or you can try these natural prevention tips on your own.

Drink lots of water

Dehydration is a big cause for headaches, especially tension headaches and migraines. No matter what you’re doing, whether it’s sitting at your desk, or working out in the sun, make sure you drink lots of water. Of course, you’ll need much more water if you’re working out in the sun!

Drinking water is a good way to also get rid of a stubborn headache. Usually, just getting that boost of hydration can relieve headache symptoms within about a half hour.

Don’t skip meals

Skipping meals can be a big trigger for headaches. Make sure you are eating your meals at pretty regular times throughout the day. If I skip a meal, it never fails, I’ll get a headache. And then that headache usually turns into a migraine. Don’t do this to yourself!

Get enough sleep

People who don’t get enough sleep typically have higher stress levels, and they get headaches more frequently too. Try to have a regular bed time, and do your best to get as much sleep as your body needs. Melatonin may be a good remedy if sleep fails you at times.

Try a chiropractor

If you get frequent headaches, especially after an injury or accident, you may want to try a chiropractor. They will take x-rays and see if your spine or neck are out of alignment. Misalignment is another cause for headaches. If you are out of alignment, the chiropractor will set you up on a treatment plan to relieve you of the headaches.

Reduce stress

Reducing your stress levels is a great way of preventing headaches. Try yoga, meditation, or massage to reduce stress. Exercising regularly is another good way of relieving stress.

woman meditating by lake

Take magnesium

Most of us are magnesium deficient, which can lead to numerous health problems. One of them, not surprisingly, is headaches. Taking a magnesium oxide supplement can be great for migraine prevention, at a typical dose of 400-500 mg per day.

However, magnesium is actually better absorbed through the skin. Taking at least a weekly epsom salt bath is a great way to get this beneficial nutrient directly into the body.

Take a Coenzyme Q10 supplement

Studies have shown that Coenzyme Q10 is very effective on preventing headaches, especially migraines. The recommended dosage from doctors is typically 100 mg three times a day. This supplement is considered safe and has very few side effects.

Avoid trigger foods and drinks

For many people, there are “trigger” foods and drinks. Those that have frequent headaches, and especially migraines, should try an elimination diet to see if there is an improvement. Consider reducing alcohol or caffeine use. Soy products are a common trigger, as is MSG. Nitrates, which are in some processed meats like hot dogs, sausages, and lunch meats, cause issues for many people.

Do you have any other natural remedies for headaches?

These are the most common natural remedies for headaches. But there are others! So tell me, do you have any others that I can add to this list? What has helped you? We could all use all the suggestions we can get!

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