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 our headaches. There are over 200 types of headaches, ranging from a dull nuisance to serious. That’s a lot of money to use on a lot of drugs that have adverse side effects.
Many of these over the counter medications can cause stomach problems, diarrhea, vomiting, and they can be pretty hard on your liver, kidneys, and heart over time. 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 pain.
Avoid Triggers – Many of us have food, situations, and environments that we know cause some of our headaches. Avoid heavily processed foods that contain chemicals that cause headaches. Avoid the 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.
Manage Stress – Many of our headaches come from mismanaged stress. Try to release stress more often. Exercise, meditation, breathing techniques, and just smiling more will help keep tensions from going to your head.
Sleep Well – Sleep, or lack of it, contributes to headaches. Get enough sleep each night. This lets your body heal itself from all the wear and tear during the day.
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 in stopping or preventing headaches.
Ice It – 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.
Heat It – Apply heat to the back of the neck and let the tension relax. You can also take a warm shower or 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 done damage or you’re about to. Listen to your body. If you get a headache, it may be telling you that you’re trying to take on too much. A short nap can reset your body and recharge it so you can tackle more.
Massage – You can massage your neck, shoulders, temples, and back of your 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.
Aromatherapy – 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, 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.
Ginger – 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, and in tea.
Feverfew – This citrus scented flowering herb looks similar to the daisy and packs some strong anti-inflammatories. Like ginger, it may be more effective than over the counter painkillers without the side effects. It is used to treat fevers, migraines, headaches, arthritis, and stomach irritation.
Cherries – 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.
Turmeric – The spice that gives curry its kick and color is also related to ginger and carries the same anti-inflammatory effects.
Cayenne – Capsaicin, the compound that gives chili peppers their bite, depletes pain-causing chemicals in nerve cells, relieving pain throughout the body, including headaches.
Magnesium – This mineral is used throughout the body in thousands of ways. Magnesium relaxes muscles and arteries. Magnesium in found in whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, sprouts, avocado, and broccoli.
B2 – This B vitamin, also known as Riboflavin, has been shown to reduce the reoccurrence of migraines. It can be combined with magnesium for extra effect. Leafy greens and almonds are a rich source of B2.
CoQ10 – This enzyme acts as an antioxidant, helps produce energy, protects the heart, and may fight cancer. It also seems to combat migraines and headaches too. CoQ10 is found to some degree in cooking oils, fruits, and vegetables. You may need to look into supplements if you want more.
Vitamin D – 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.
Cucumber – 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. Cucumber can also be sliced and laid across your face and forehead for a cooling effect that will wick away the pain.
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