There is nothing more frustrating than being in pain and not understanding why, and one of the most common ways that this happens to people is in the form of headaches. They can be debilitating, and chronic headaches can be an annoying and negative aspect of life unless you are able to somehow find some form of relief.
What is a Headache?
A headache is classified as anything in the region of the head or the neck, and it can either be a symptom of some other condition affecting those two regions, or an independent headache generated spontaneously through non-physical forces. It is considered a non-specific symptom, meaning the same condition can be a result of any number of causes. The difficult lies in the fact that specific treatment depends on the etiology, or the underlying cause, and it can be difficult to determine what that may be. Luckily, there are a number of home remedies that have arisen over the years, and through alternative or traditional medicine that have been found quite effective in relieving this painful condition. Before we explore those potential treatments, let’s first look at the various types of headaches that do have formal classifications.
Types of Headaches
The NIH (National Institutes of Health) were faced with the difficulty of classifying such a broad and diverse condition like headaches into a manageable order, and they came up with these main classifications.
Primary Headaches: These are the most common form of headaches, and are mainly seen in the form of tension headaches and migraines. Tension headaches represent about 90% of headaches, and approximately 3% of the population suffers from these chronically. They are typically described as a constant pressure, mainly radiating from a specific area like the neck, temples, back of the head, and eyes, and they frequently cause pain equally on both sides of the head.
The main causes of primary headaches is stress, eye strain, lack of sleep, hunger, unusual or uncomfortable sleeping position, or clenching of the teeth while sleeping, since it constantly contracts the temporalis muscle and induces a headache. Muscle tension in the neck is also a primary cause of tension-type headaches. Furthermore, things like blood vessel constriction, excessive smoking or drinking, dehydration, or genetic causes.
Migraines are a slightly different case, since they usually affect only one side of the head, and are not constant, but rather a pulsating pain, and are more severe than tension headaches. They are a chronic neurological disorder, and show symptoms like light or sound sensitivity, vomiting, and nausea, as well as the intense throbbing pain that usually renders a person unable to do much besides wait for relief.
Secondary Headaches: This classification is for headaches whose cause originates from something besides neck, head, or mental causes. This is often the more serious type of headaches, because it can be indicative of a serious condition, even a life-threatening one. Some secondary types of headaches are thunderclap headaches, in which severe pain arises in a few minutes, and often disappear just as quickly, mental confusion, waking up from normal sleep due to headache pain, visual abnormalities or loss, pain in the head from changing position or movement, neck stiffness, or a headache accompanied by a fever. These secondary headaches can sometimes be the result of blood clots, brain tumors, aneurysms, miniature-strokes, or outside forces like toxins or carbon monoxide poisoning.
The following home remedies are mainly for primary headache symptoms and relief, while secondary headaches should mainly be treated by a doctor after a proper examination, and usually with the help of mainstream medications, surgery, or lifestyle changes.
Home Remedies for Headaches
The first reaction of most people when they begin to experience headache pain is to reach for a painkiller. While that does provide temporary relief, it can also have its own side effects, like blood-thinning, increased toxicity in the body, and a resistance to painkillers that might be dangerous in the future when you really need them. These home remedies provide a much better solution that can benefit your body in numerous ways, not only in the relief of your headache.
This should probably be your first line of defense against any headache. A lack of hydration in the body makes the blood vessels constrict and reduces the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain, which can cause a headache. If this is the reason behind your headache, you can usually relieve the symptoms very quickly by drinking a glass or two of water.
This can either help a headache or make the symptoms worse, depending on the individual and the initial source of the headache. Caffeine is part of many over-the-counter pain relief medicines, but for someone who drinks caffeine regularly, and becomes dependent on it, taking that drug out of your system can cause rebound or withdrawal headaches, and some causes of headaches are exacerbated by the stimulating effects of caffeine.
In terms of treating migraines and severe tension headaches, fish oil has been prescribed because of its anti-vasospasmodic properties, and can relieve the pressure and pain associated with those terrible migraines. It can be used as a preventative measure through regular consumption, or as a treatment once the symptoms present themselves.
In traditional and herbal medicine, peppermint oil is often used in place of acetaminophen and typical pain relievers because in some cases, it proves to be more effective, and it is all natural. It can be applied topically on the temples or affected areas for a soothing sensation, or it can be inhaled via aromatherapy techniques to achieve the effect.
This essential oil is one of the most potent when used in aromatherapy, primarily because of its antispasmodic, and vasodilatory properties. Lavender oil is also a sedative, and when used in the treatment of severe tension headaches or migraines, it not only relieves the tension and concentrate areas of pain, but also helps to induce sleep and relaxation, which can further reduce the associate pain, or at least allow you to rest until the symptoms pass.
Migraines are traditionally associated with nausea, and it can be one of the most debilitating symptoms of the condition. If ginger is consumed, either as tea, ginger ale, or even raw slices, it can almost immediately reduce symptoms of nausea, so while it might not get rid of the pain of a migraine, it can certainly lessen the effects. However, new research has shown that taking ginger at the first sign of a headache before the more serious migraine or cluster headache sets in is a successful method for relief and prevention. The actual mechanism is not understood yet, but research is ongoing!
Since they have a well known soothing effect, clove oil is often inhaled or applied as a paste for quick relief of headaches on the back of the neck or temples. They aren’t the most pleasant to eat, but some people choose to crush them into various foods for similar effects. The success of this remedy is due to cloves’ natural anti-inflammatory agents, flavonoids, which can impact the body either through topical application or inhalation as clove oil.
Studies have shown that consuming magnesium reduces the frequency of attacks of chronic headaches and migraines. It is one of the most essential nutrients in the body, and deficiencies result in headaches, fatigue, and weakness of the body’s tissues. Good sources of magnesium to add into your diet are leafy greens, nuts, beans, avocados, bananas, and figs. Even dark chocolate is a good source of this beneficial nutrient, so get as much as you can into your system and reduce your chances of getting a headache at all!
The scent of apples is one of the stranger ways of reducing a headache, but the olfactory sense is a powerful one, and numerous studies have shown that this specific scent reduces the associated pain of headaches very quickly!
It is a personal choice as to which compress has the greatest effect, but most tend to favor the cold compress. Apply it to the back of the neck or the forehead. The cold will reduce inflammation and temperature, and also slow and cool down the pumping blood that can cause throbbing pain in the affected areas. Hot compresses can also spread inflammation and warmth through the entire head and stimulate freshly pumped blood to the heated areas, bringing oxygen to ease the tension in muscles. Both approaches work, choose whichever works best for you.
The key component in rosemary that gives it many of its attributes is rosmarinic acid, which has known anti-inflammatory effects. By grinding rosemary leaves and sage leaves into a powder, you can infuse an herbal tea. Drink this once or twice a day to prevent migraines and tension headaches, or drink it in higher quantities while directly suffering from the symptoms.
Since many headaches are caused by muscle tension and stress, a muscle relaxant can be very effective in relieving these sorts of conditions. Basil extract has muscle relaxant properties, and when basil leaves are steeped into a tea or chewed, mild to moderate headaches can be alleviated. Also, you can spread pure basil oil on the chest as an inhalant for similar effects.
The Last Word on Headaches
This cannot be stressed enough; primary headaches can usually be managed with these home remedies, meaning stress or tension headaches, those caused by dehydration, or even migraines. However, if headaches become chronic, even if they are not extremely severe, it could be a sign of a more serious, underlying issue. Furthermore, if the description of secondary headaches at the top of this article sounds more like what you are dealing with, consult a doctor, as it may be a much bigger problem, and to be safe, an examination is highly recommended.