Lori Alton via NaturalHealth365 – Stress seems to be built into our daily lives, whether created by looming work deadlines, nerve-wracking traffic jams, or the never-ending demands of parenthood. And for many, this stress is heralded by the blooming of a tension headache.
Typified by a dull, steady pain – and sometimes accompanied by a band of tightness around the head – tension headaches are extremely common. While they lack the nausea and visual disturbances of a migraine headache, these nasty little episodes are still painful, distracting, and unwelcome. The following natural interventions may help ease the discomfort and even put headaches on the run. (Warning: A sudden, extremely severe headache can signal a medical emergency, such as a stroke – especially if accompanied by numbness and/or difficulty in speaking, walking, seeing, or comprehending. If you experience this type of “bolt from the blue” headache, call 911 immediately).
For simple, everyday tension headaches, the following herbal substances may be helpful.
Time-Honored Herbal Teas May Help Banish Headaches
Ginger root, from the plant botanically known as Zingiber officinale, has been used for over 2,000 years to relieve nausea, arthritis, and – of course – headaches. Ginger contains anti-inflammatory compounds known as gingerols and shogaols and is believed to increase levels of serotonin, a “feel-good” chemical, in the brain. In one influential study published in Phytotherapy Research, scientists found that ginger performed as well as sumatriptan, a pharmaceutical drug, in alleviating headaches. You can make ginger tea by peeling and chopping an inch or two of fresh ginger root, then steeping it in boiling water for ten to fifteen minutes. Powdered ginger is also available in capsule form, with natural health experts typically advising 550 mg at the first sign of a headache.
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is another trusty herbal weapon against headaches. While many people think of chamomile tea as nothing more than a soothing bedtime beverage, this mildly flavored liquid is actually loaded with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds known as chamazulene and apigenin. In one 2018 placebo-controlled study published in Neurological Sciences, researchers found that a chamomile extract significantly reduced pain in migraine sufferers and reduced nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. Chamomile could very well have the “right stuff” to banish a simple tension headache.
Strike Back at Tension Headaches With Essential Oils
Peppermint essential oil is derived from the leaves of the peppermint plant, botanically known as Mentha piperita. Believed to improve circulation and relax muscles, peppermint oil is a great choice for relieving headaches when inhaled or topically applied. (Peppermint oil should not be taken internally and is not for use on children). Natural health experts advise diluting a few drops of peppermint oil in olive or coconut oil, then massaging it into the temples and neck.
Essential oil of lavender, derived from lavender flowers (Lavendula angustifolia), may also ease headaches with its mild anxiety-reducing effects. Like peppermint oil, lavender oil can be diluted with a carrier oil and massaged into the skin or inhaled via a diffuser. In a placebo-controlled study published in European Neurology, the researchers reported that inhaling lavender oil for 15 minutes significantly reduced participants’ migraine pain, leading the team to conclude that it may be both safe and effective for headaches.
Ease Headaches With Natural Interventions
Drinking ample amounts of pure, filtered water and eating liquid-rich foods, such as watermelon, may help alleviate a stubborn headache. Researchers maintain that chronic dehydration – which can also cause irritability and impaired concentration – is a classic cause of both tension headaches and migraines. (If you’re headache prone, avoid alcohol. Not only can it worsen dehydration, but it can exacerbate headaches by widening blood vessels. Incidentally, certain foods can trigger headaches, including aged cheeses, fermented foods, and cured meats and fish. In addition, the odors from harsh cleaning chemicals and perfumes are a “headache trigger” for many people.)
Sipping a cup of coffee might be worth a try, as well. Many people swear by the ability of caffeine – which is often included in commercial headache formulations – to tame headaches. (Too much coffee, however, can cause a headache. And, habitual coffee drinkers may experience headaches if they suddenly abstain).
Incidentally, make sure you have an adequate intake of magnesium. This essential mineral is involved with blood sugar control and nerve transmission, both of which can have an impact on headaches. In fact, studies have shown that magnesium deficiency is more common in frequent headache sufferers. You can increase your dietary intake of magnesium with leafy greens, whole grains, yogurt, and almonds.
Finally, there’s always the traditional “cold compress.” This home remedy is scientifically sound – as applying cold compresses to the neck or head can ease headaches by reducing inflammation, slowing nerve conduction, and constricting blood vessels. Use a commercial cold pack or fill a waterproof bag with ice and wrap it in a towel.
Obviously, these simple remedies aren’t rocket science. But, when your temples are pounding with an annoying headache, it can be easy to overlook these solutions. Here’s hoping that they bring relief – and that you’re soon headache-free and “back in the game.”
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