There’s scarcely a thing more annoying than a headache. In fact, headaches are so common and discomforting that we’ve even come to describe everyday annoyances as ‘giving me a headache’! They’re usually not severe enough to be threatening, but are bad enough to cause pain and discomfort, sometimes even being debilitating. While headache medications can provide quick relief, most of us are now averse to popping pills on a regular basis, which is why natural headache remedies have become so popular.
Proven Headache Remedies for Natural Relief
Tackling a headache without turning to medication depends largely on the underlying cause of the headache. According to Ayurveda, the origin of headaches lies in dosha imbalances caused by inappropriate lifestyle and diet choices. As vata gets clogged, headaches take over and can intensify with pitta aggravation. Some of the most common triggers of dosha imbalance and headaches include emotional stress, constipation, unhealthy diet, dehydration, inadequate rest, and hunger. Health care experts also agree that most headaches today are triggered by stress and sleep deprivation, among other causes.
Accordingly, most headache remedies work by addressing some of these underlying headache causes. Some of the most effective natural remedies for headaches include:
Ayurveda classifies lavender as a medhya herb thanks to its stimulating and relaxing effect on the mind. Besides using it to treat stress, anger, irritability, loneliness, high blood pressure, and anxiety, Ayurveda practitioners have long been using this herb to relieve headaches. As a potent pain-relieving and mind-calming agent, lavender can soothe your senses and may even provide migraine relief in some individuals.
Lavender oil and flowers
The Research: As research confirms, lavender may indeed relieve headaches and pain. One study concluded that people who inhaled lavender oil aroma during a migraine outbreak experienced greater pain reduction than those who were in the placebo group. This “suggests that inhalation of lavender essential oil may be an effective and safe treatment modality in acute management of migraine headaches.”
How to Use Lavender for Headache Relief:
- Mix one tablespoon of warm olive oil with 2 – 3 drops of organic lavender essential oil.
- Use the solution to massage your forehead gently, but firmly.
- Additionally, you can pour a few drops of the oil on a handkerchief and inhale the aroma to soothe your nerves or use the essential oil in a diffuser.
Popularly referred to as pudina in India, peppermint boasts of a variety of nutrients and plant compounds like menthol and menthone. The herb has been used by various cultures for its healing effects, including its ability to treat headaches. In Ayurveda, peppermint is known as a sweet, pungent, and cooling holistic healing solution that is most often used as a herbal tea or essential oil.
The Research: Mint’s rich phytochemical composition is the main source of it’s healing properties, with several studies pointing to anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. By acting as a muscle relaxant, it can help to relieve migraines and headaches when applied to the skin. A study appearing in the International Journal of Clinical Practice found that topical application of menthol to the forehead relieved pain, vomiting, and nausea in people who suffered from migraines.
How to Use Peppermint for Headache Relief:
It is best to use peppermint essential oil as soon as a headache starts to surface. As it can be slow to permeate the skin surface, you are advised to dilute it with a bit of alcohol. This will speed up absorption, allowing the solution to act before the headache becomes too severe.
Ginger has become an indispensable cooking ingredient in most parts of the world, especially in south Asia, but long before, it was most valued for its medicinal properties. It is one of the most important herbal ingredients in Ayurveda, featuring in numerous remedies and herbal formulations. Used to treat a variety of conditions, including respiratory and digestive disorders, ginger is also valued in Ayurveda as a potential headache remedy.
The Research: Researchers have been looking closely for natural alternatives to pharmaceutical medications for migraine pain and headache relief because of considerable side-effects, especially when used frequently or for prolonged periods. Ginger has attracted considerable interest and a study involving 100 test subjects with migraines concluded that ginger was just as effective at treating headaches as the prescription drug sumatriptan. Most importantly, headache treatment with ginger was associated with far fewer side effects than the drug.
How to Use Ginger for Headache Relief:
Ginger can be used in a variety of forms, including as powder, capsules, tea, essential oil, and tablets. To get rid of headaches however, many Ayurveda practitioners suggest simply chewing on a piece of fresh ginger. Alternatively, you can add it to juice, tea, or dishes for better taste.
As a popular Ayurvedic herb, ashwagandha can calm your mind, promote relaxation, and consecutively relieve headaches. Also known as Indian ginseng, this herb is regarded as a rejuvenator and revitalizer for both the mind and body, because of its ability to increase focus and mental clarity. The herb is not best known for its benefits as a headache remedy, but it can help by pacifying the underlying causes of headaches.
The Research: As studies suggest, ashwagandha can significantly reduce stress and anxiety, which are some of the most common triggers of headaches. Other studies have confirmed the analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of ashwagandha, factors that could also reduce the severity of headaches and provide much-needed relief.
How to Use Ashwagandha for Headache Relief:
You can prepare your own ashwagandha solution by mixing the root with a cup of milk and boiling the solution for 5 minutes. Not all of us have easy access to the raw ingredients though, so as an alternative, you can opt for ashwagandha tablets, capsules, powder, liquid extract, or oil.
Native to Europe, feverfew is obviously not one of the most widely used herbs in Ayurveda. However, Ayurveda has embraced globalism too, with an increasing number of Ayurvedic practitioners using herbs that are not strictly speaking Ayurvedic. Feverfew is most valued as a natural herb for headache relief, reducing both severity and intensity of headaches.
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), medicinal herb
The Research: Many studies have been carried out to confirm the benefits of this folk medicine. As some research indicates, “flowers and leaves and parthenolide showed significant analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antipyretic activities”, supporting the traditional use of the herb.
How to Use Feverfew for Headache Relief:
While you may take feverfew supplements, most experts recommend eating a handful of fresh leaves of the plant for best results.
Frequent headaches and migraines can be debilitating, severely affecting your quality of life. While herbal remedies for headaches may offer a viable alternative to popping headache pills, you should also take steps to identify the underlying causes or triggers for your headaches. With this knowledge, you can make the necessary lifestyle changes to reduce the frequency and severity of headaches. In addition to maintaining adequate hydration and following a regular balanced meal plan, make sure to give yourself enough time to unwind and relax daily and also get adequate sleep. If despite your best efforts, you find yourself crippled with frequent debilitating headaches, seek medical help as soon as possible.
- Borhani Haghighi A., Motazedian S., Rezaii R., Mohammadi F., Salarian L., Pourmokhtari M., Khodaei S., Vossoughi M., Miri R. (2010). Cutaneous application of menthol 10% solution as an abortive treatment of migraine without aura: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossed-over study. International journal of clinical practice. Mar;64(4):451-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-1241.2009.02215.x.
- Sasannejad P., Saeedi M., Shoeibi A., Gorji A., Abbasi M., Foroughipour M. (2012). Lavender essential oil in the treatment of migraine headache: a placebo-controlled clinical trial. European neurology. 67(5):288-91. doi: 10.1159/000335249.
- Maghbooli M., Golipour F., Moghimi Esfandabadi A., Yousefi M. (2014). Comparison between the efficacy of ginger and sumatriptan in the ablative treatment of the common migraine. Phytotherapy research : PTR. Mar;28(3):412-5. doi: 10.1002/ptr.4996.
- Chandrasekhar, K., Kapoor, J., & Anishetty, S. (2012). A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, 34(3), 255–262. http://doi.org/10.4103/0253-7176.106022
- Pareek, A., Suthar, M., Rathore, G. S., & Bansal, V. (2011). Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium L.): A systematic review. Pharmacognosy Reviews, 5(9), 103–110. http://doi.org/10.4103/0973-7847.79105