Headaches are the pits. Anyone who gets them with regularity is all too familiar with the pounding, stabbing, tight, throbbing and/or dull sensations associated with pain in the head.
Migraines are exponentially worse than regular headaches, and the intensity of migraine pain typically requires one to take a pill, lie down in a dark room and wait for it to pass.
While over-the-counter or prescription medications tend to knock out a headache quickly, these methods too often come along with undesirable side effects and can easily become addictive.
For those interested in a more holistic approach to health and wellness, here are several effective natural remedies that have been proven to both prevent and treat headaches and migraines.
Water is Life
First and foremost, simply drinking more water is essential, since a lack of hydration is often the principle underlying cause of a headache.
Scientific studies have proven that chronic dehydration is a common cause of tension headaches and migraines. Fortunately, drinking pure water tends to relieve headache symptoms in most dehydrated people within 30 minutes to 3 hours.
Of course, it’s preferable to prevent a headache rather than deal with one when it has already taken hold. The key to preventing dehydration headaches is to drink at least 8 glasses of water throughout the day and to eat foods that are rich in water, such as fresh fruits and veggies.
The only beverages that count in this case are regular drinking water and coconut water. If you are drinking any artificial juices, soda, caffeinated tea, coffee or alcoholic drinks, even if they contain some water, you’ll need to increase the amount of water you’re ingesting daily.
Consciously Consume Caffeine
This may seem to contradict the section above on water, but drinking caffeinated beverages, such as green tea or coffee can offer rapid relief when a headache is present. Why? Caffeine elevates mood, enhances alertness and constricts blood vessels.
Beware, though, that if you regularly consume a large quantity of caffeine, one of the main symptoms of withdrawal when stopping cold turkey is a headache. If you are a victim of frequent headaches, do be extra mindful of limiting your caffeine intake to no more than two cups a day — and drinking plenty of pure water, too.
Engage in Active & Passive Forms of Exercise
One of the most basic ways to lower the frequency and severity of headaches is physical activity. A sedentary lifestyle, especially one that involves staring at a screen for many hours each day, can lead to chronic headaches. Increase your activity level through playing sports, jogging, active yoga styles such as vinyasa flow, biking, hiking—or simply walking around the block.
Practicing gentle yoga stretches and deep breathing exercises is another outstanding way to avoid headaches and migraines. Yoga has been documented to relieve stress, cultivate balance and flexibility, assist with pain and improve overall well-being.
A lack of adequate sleep causes myriad health issues, including headaches for some people.
Medical professionals recommend getting a minimum of six hours of sleep per night and ideally seven to nine hours, depending on age and other factors. Chronic insomnia has been shown to cause more frequent and severe headaches.
On the other hand, be aware that sleeping too much can trigger headaches, as well. Go with the Goldilocks technique; getting not too little and not too much but just the right amount of rest for your body and mind is key to headache prevention.
B vitamins are amazing micronutrients that help the physical body in various ways, such as contributing to neurotransmitter synthesis and helping turn the food we eat into energy. Various studies have concluded that B vitamins including riboflavin (B2), folate, B12 and pyridoxine (B6) may help protect against headache symptoms.
Regularly taking B-complex vitamins, which contain all eight subcategories of B vitamins, is a safe, budget-friendly, natural treatment for headaches. Since they are water soluble, excess vitamins in the body gets flushed out during urination.
Watch What You Eat… and Smell
Food intolerances can also trigger headaches for some people. Coffee, aged cheeses, wine, beer, liquor, chocolate and citrus fruits are on the list of the foods most commonly reported to cause in those who suffer from migraines. To find out if a certain food is causing frequent headaches, try an elimination diet that cuts out the foods related to your headache symptoms.
In addition, the powerful odors that colognes, perfumes, vehicle exhaust and stringent cleaning products emit can cause some people to develop headaches. Hypersensitivity to odors, or osmophobia, is common in people with chronic migraines. To decrease the risk of migraine, avoid perfumes, cigarette smoke, incense and scented candles and strongly-scented foods.
Finally, there are some specific herbs such as butterbur and feverfew which may aid in reducing headache symptoms.
Taking feverfew supplements, which come from a flowering plant with anti-inflammatory properties, could reduce the likelihood of getting headaches. Alternatively, ingesting butterbur extract, which originates from a perennial shrub native to Germany and also has anti-inflammatory effects, has been proven to reduce headache symptoms.
Last but not least, the miraculous natural medicine, ginger root, is packed with beneficial antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances. One study found that taking 250 mg of ginger powder was as effective as a prescription headache medication called sumatriptan at reducing the pain associated with migraines. Ginger powder can be taken in capsule form or make a hot tea with fresh ginger root.
Drinking more water, getting more exercise, regularly practicing yoga and meditation, taking B vitamins, avoiding smelling strong odors, trying certain herbal remedies and implementing dietary modifications are all safe, natural ways to get rid of irritating headache symptoms.
Next time you get a headache or migraine, rather than habitually reaching for a bottle of Advil or Excedrin, try out one of the above remedies!