You don't have to live with a headache. When reaching for a bottle of pain killers, maybe reach for a natural alternative instead.
Headaches seem to be a big part of the modern world. We spend billions of dollars each year in the United States alone on pain medication. Some of that goes to fighting chronic pain, arthritis, and other problems, but a large part of those painkillers go toward alleviating the simple headaches. There are over 200 types of headaches, ranging from a dull nuisance to a serious health risk. That’s a lot of money to use on a lot of drugs that can have adverse side effects.
Many of these over-the-counter medications can cause stomach problems, diarrhea, and vomiting while being pretty hard on your liver, kidneys, and heart, especially with chronic usage. The good news is you don’t always have to reach for one when you have a headache. There are plenty of natural ways to get rid of your head pain without reaching for medications.
Many of us have food, situations, and environments that we know cause some of our headaches. Avoid heavily processed foods that contain chemicals that can cause headaches. Avoid that shouting match with your co-worker that won’t ever get resolved anyway. Avoid rush hour traffic by staying just a few minutes longer at work before heading home. Avoid the smoke-filled casino or being outside in the downtown smog. This can save you a lot of stress and pain.
Many of our headaches come from mismanaged stress. Muscles tense up, negativity builds, and neurotransmitters get out of whack when stress is a chronic problem. No wonder we get headaches. Try to release stress more often. Exercise, breathing techniques, tai chi, yoga, a good laugh, or just smiling more will help keep all the tension from going to your head.
Sleep, or lack of it, contributes to headaches. Sleep is when the body cleans house, including in the brain. Get enough sleep each night. This lets your body heal itself from all the wear and tear during the day so you have less pain throughout your body, not just your head.
Take a Walk
Some headaches come on because we spend too much time sitting in stagnant air. Get out, walk through nature, let go of some stress, and get some fresh air. It will do wonders for stopping or preventing your headaches.
Wrap a cool, wet washrag around some ice and apply that to your temples. Sometimes the cooling effect is enough to relieve that pounding pain.
Apply heat to the back of the neck where many of us store our stress and let the tensions relax away. You can also take a warm shower or a bath. Allow your muscles to relax, including the ones in your neck that can cause headaches.
Take a Nap
Pain exists for good reason. It’s your body’s way of telling you you’ve damaged or are on the verge of damaging yourself. Listen to your body. A headache may be telling you that you’re taking on too much. A short nap can reset your body and recharge it so you can tackle more.
You can massage your neck, shoulders, temples, and head, or, better yet, get someone else to do it. If you have a stubborn headache, treat yourself to a good massage, acupressure, or acupuncture and you will feel the pain melt away.
Many essential oils can help stimulate blood flow to the brain and reduce many types of headaches. Find the scents that work for you, but try eucalyptus, peppermint, lemon, lavender, ginger, and chamomile. These can also be added to a carrier oil and massaged into the temples, hairline, or scalp to help ease the pain away even faster.
Ginger contains powerful anti-inflammatories that relieve pain and inflammation as effectively as over-the-counter drugs, without the side effects. You can get ginger fresh, in capsules, or in tea form. Ginger works on much more than headaches too. It should be a part of your natural medicine cabinet or first aid kit.
This citrus scented flowering herb looks similar to the daisy, but packs some strong anti-inflammatories into that unassuming frame. Like ginger, it may be more effective than over-the-counter painkillers minus all the side effects. It is used to treat fevers, migraines, headaches, arthritis, and stomach irritation.
Tart cherries are rich in antioxidants that protect the brain and blood vessels from damage. They also contain anti-inflammatories and melatonin, a neurotransmitter that helps control sleep. Whip up a cherry chocolate smoothie and sip away the headache.
The spice that gives curry its kick and color is also related to ginger and carries many of the same anti-inflammatory effects. It works well in tea, food, smoothies, and can be found in capsules too.
Capsaicin, the compound that gives chili peppers their bite, depletes the pain causing chemicals in your nerve cells, relieving pain throughout the body, including headaches. Add a touch of cayenne to your ginger and turmeric tea to quickly clear sinuses and relieve pain from sinus pressure.
This mineral is used throughout the body in thousands of ways. Magnesium helps relax muscles and arteries to reduce stress and pain. Magnesium is found in whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, sprouts, avocado, and broccoli.
This B vitamin, also known as riboflavin, reduces the reoccurrence of migraines. It can be combined with magnesium for extra effect. Leafy greens and almonds are rich sources of B2.
This enzyme acts as an antioxidant, helps produce energy, protects the heart, and may even fight cancer. It also seems to combat migraines and headaches. CoQ10 is found to some degree in cooking oils, fruits, and vegetables. You may need to look into supplements if you want more.
Low vitamin D levels have been linked to headaches. Make sure you get a small dose of good old sunlight each day, maybe 10-20 minutes. Mushrooms and dandelion leaves are also a good source of vitamin D. Vitamin D3 is the most absorbable and usable form. It can be found in vegan supplements now, thanks to lichen.
Lack of hydration can be a big part of headaches. Make sure you drink plenty of water and snack on water-rich, fiber-dense foods like cucumber, berries, and melons. Cucumber can also be sliced and laid across your face and forehead for a cooling effect that will wick away the pain.
Meditation can help you calm down, release stress, and refocus. Close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing for a few minutes while imagining the pain leaking from you with each breath.
Lemon can help alleviate stress and pain with just the scent alone. Try adding a slice to your water or tea and see how much better you feel.
Cinnamon has some anti-inflammatory properties and the scent is invigorating. Try boiling water with a cinnamon stick to make a powerful pain fighting tea. Add in some ginger, turmeric, cardamom, and/or lemon to get even more out of it.
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