Those headaches and migraines! I’m concerned about so many people I know who feel they have no recourse other than to use over-the-counter pharmaceuticals.
But truth is, for lots of folks, the pain of a headache can make day-to-day life miserable and forces many to head straight for the Excedrin or ibuprofen.
Did you know that the U.S. FDA has ramped up its warnings about the heart attack and stoke risks of NSAIDs Advil and Ibuprofen and other OTC drugs including Celebrex, Aleve, Naprosyn and Toredol.
They have been linked to elevated risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack) and can also cause gastrointestinal ulceration and bleeding.
Boy, that’s not very comforting!
This is a precarious situation, because ultimately taking over-the-counter painkillers masks your symptoms and ignores the real issue of what triggers the headache. Natural remedies for headaches and migraines may take a bit more thought than simply popping a pill, but you shouldn’t underestimate them.
Please go through this as a checklist to see if you’ve overlooked anything! We know everyone is different, so I have included many natural remedies that have shown significant success.
No-Side-Effect Remedies For Headaches/Migraines
1.) Drink More Water
On average most of us don’t drink enough water. If your skin is drawn and tents when you pinch it, you are most likely dehydrated. Our cellular and neural transport/pathways become impaired if we are drying up, after all! If you have the choice between a sugary drink and water, choose water as your primary beverage of choice. Drinking water may seem too simple to actually work as a headache remedy but it often times will. Water is worth its weight in gold to our bodies.
Start your morning off by drinking several tall glasses of water (preferably with organic lemon juice), and then
sip drink more throughout the day.
My ‘Good-Morning-Sunshine’ Drink: Honey & Lemons In Warm Water
2.) Avoid MSG and Aspartame
Monosodium glutamate (MSG), in its various forms, is added to food to enhance its flavor. Aspartame is used to substitute for sugar. You probably know how bad MSG and Aspartame for you by now, but are you consuming them and not aware of it?
Most of you, I know, are trying to eat healthy, natural foods without harmful chemicals added, but did you know that there are code-words that are used to cover-up seriously dangerous ingredients no informed person would ever consume?
Make sure you read food labels. Watch for some of these words, which are a cover for hidden MSG, and be extra cautious around processed meats, salad dressings, juices, sodas, gravy/soup/dip mixes, Chinese food and soy-based items.
Stop eating all artificial sweeteners, no matter how “natural” the label says the product is. Stop for 30 days. One neurologist I know said that about half of all headache sufferers will find dramatic relief in this one step alone.
3.) Magnesium for Headaches
A deficiency in this critical nutrient makes you twice as likely to die as other people, according to a study published in The Journal of Intensive Care Medicine. It also accounts for a long list of symptoms and diseases – which are easily helped and often cured by adding this nutrient. Up to half of Americans are deficient in this nutrient and don’t know it.
I remember using magnesium when I worked in the emergency room. It was a critical “medication” on the crash cart.
- If someone was constipated or needed to prepare for colonoscopy, we gave them milk of magnesia or a green bottle of liquid magnesium citrate, which emptied their bowels. I would NOT use those horrible things, but straight up magnesium
- If pregnant women came in with preterm labor, or high blood pressure of pregnancy (pre-eclampsia) or seizures, we gave them continuous high doses of intravenous magnesium.
Some reports say that only a very sophisticated, expensive test can tell you if you’re truly deficient. My trusted doctor friend said: “It’s pretty cheap, so simply take it for a few months and see if you feel better.” He was right – patience is a money-saving virtue. So start taking regular magnesium supplements and look for results.
- Most people benefit from 400 to 1,000 mg a day.
- The most absorbable forms are magnesium citrate, glycinate taurate, or aspartate.
- The carbonate, sulfate, gluconate, and oxide forms are poorly absorbed.
- Side effects from too much magnesium include diarrhea, which can be avoided if you switch to magnesium glycinate.
- Taking a hot bath with Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) is a good way to absorb and get much-needed magnesium.
When home Natural Vitality Natural Calm Magnesium is my favorite! When I travel I use the pictured magnesium glycinate capsule – easy to take, high absorption, no-side-effects, and affordable.
4.) Almonds relieve Headaches
Almonds act as a pain reliever because they contain salicin, the primary byproduct of aspirin breakdown. Besides the natural pain reliever, almonds are rich in magnesium, a mineral that helps to lessen nerve excitability and decreases muscle tension.
Note: Some who suffer from migraines find that almonds are a trigger food.
5.) Green Aspirin: An Herb called Feverfew for Headaches
Studies in Great Britain on migraines found that more than 70% of them felt much better after taking an average of 2-3 fresh or dried feverfew leaves daily.
See my well-trafficked post Discover No-Side-Effect Migraine Remedy.
In the beginning stages of a migraine your blood vessels are changing, and theories suggest that the vessels in your head are expanding and pressing on nerves. Feverfew has been confirmed to relax the tension/constrict blood vessels, easing the painful pressure. It also reduces inflammation and pain overall with a substance called parthenolide, which has results similar to taking a daily aspirin, but without the side effects.
To make a tea, you will need…
-1 tsp. dried feverfew leaves
-1 pint of boiling water
Add fresh or dried feverfew flowers to 1 pint of boiling water. Let it steep for 10-20 minutes until it is strong and then strain off the herb.
Dosage: Drink half a cup twice a day as needed. Studies show that long term use yields best results for most people.
Feverfew is easy to grow yourself. This is a perfect plant for those without a green thumb.
6.) Relax Your Shoulders, Breathe
Our overworked bodies and minds react by tensing up.
Breathe: When a person is relaxed, they breathe through their nose in a slow, even and gentle way. When a person is under stress, their breathing pattern changes to shallow breaths, using their shoulders rather than their diaphragm to move air in and out of their lungs and can prolong feelings of anxiety by making the physical symptoms of stress worse. Deliberately copying a relaxed breathing pattern seems to calm the nervous system that controls the body’s involuntary functions including:
- Lowered blood pressure and heart rate
- Reduced levels of stress hormones in the blood
- Reduced lactic acid build-up in muscle tissue
- Balanced levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood
- Improved immune system functioning
- Increased physical energy
- Increased feelings of calm and well-being
Move your shoulders back and down: It helps to be aware of how we carry our shoulders. When you think of it, tell yourself to ‘drop the shoulders down’. It is surprising how often we carry our shoulders pulled up high and tight, often causing soreness and possibly a tension headache.
7.) Cod Liver Oil or Fish Oil are often Long Term Relief for Headaches
Many cultures in history had one food which they relied on to ensure strong mind and body: fish oil/cod liver oil. The Roman soldier was given a daily ration. The wise Grandma always had a bottle of cod liver oil in the cupboard.
The National Headache Foundation states, “Recent reports of the beneficial effects on migraine from the ingestion of fish oils have caused excitement among millions of migraine sufferers.”
You will need…
-1 teaspoon of Cod Liver Oil / day (this virgin CLO is cold processed and has naturally occurring Vitamin A (NO synthetic vitamin A))
Just mix a teaspoon into cold orange juice or take it right off the spoon like we do. We have used CLO for over 20 years, both ourselves and our children.
8.) Get Moving
U. S. News and World Report: “Thirty minutes of walking, biking, or other moderate physical activity at least three times a week is good for managing headaches, says Richard Lipton, a neurologist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Exactly how exercise helps isn’t clear, he says. It may reduce stress, a recognized cause of headaches. Following treadmill and other aerobic workouts, participants in a small Turkish study reported fewer and milder migraines, which researchers think was due to the rise in pain-fighting endorphins from the exercise.
Warm up: Jumping into strenuous activities and then abruptly stopping is more likely to cause a headache then stop it.
Stay consistent: Exercising only when you feel like it is less likely to prevent headaches than exercising on a regular basis.
Enjoy the outdoors: Fresh air and change in scenery does something that just makes our bodies and minds feel better.
9.) Sit Up Straight
Dr. Adalbert I. Kapandji, an orthopedic surgeon and author of numerous textbooks such as “Physiology of the Joints,” states, “Poor posture pits muscle control against the forces of gravity. In addition to causing strain on the hamstrings and large back muscles important in maintaining posture, a condition called “anterior head translation,” or “forward head posture,” also places strain on your upper back and neck muscles.
To keep your head upright these muscles must work as though they are supporting an additional ten pounds of weight for every inch your head moves forward. The added strain puts pressure on the nerves in your neck and keeps upper back and neck muscles in a constant state of contraction, causing headaches.
10.) Essential Oils for Headaches
Aromatherapy really proves its worth with headaches. Peppermint, eucalyptus, and lavender are especially helpful in reducing headache pain.
A tincture of lavender called “Palsy Drops” was recognized by the British Pharmacopoeia for more than 200 years and used by physicians to relieve muscle spasms, nervousness, and headaches until the 1940s, when herbs and aroma preparations fell out of favor and chemicals became more popular.
In a 1994 U.S. study by H. Gobel, the essential oils of peppermint and eucalyptus relaxed both the mind and muscles of headache sufferers when the oils were diluted in alcohol and rubbed on their foreheads. Essential oils can be also used to make a compress to place on your forehead whenever a headache hits.
Always dilute an essential oil by placing several drops in a carrier oil before applying it to skin. Do not use oils ‘neat’. The exception to the rule is with lavender, and possibly eucalyptus, and peppermint.
11.) Avoid Triggers
The top 5 triggers for headaches according to MedicineNet.com are:
- Red wine/alcohol
- Tyramine containing foods such as aged cheeses, processed meats, and soy-based foods.
- Food additives such as MSG and nitrites/nitrates.
- Wheat and sugar are 2 others that will mess with some.
12.) Butterbur and Vitamin B2 for Headaches and Migraines
Butterbur Extract (Petasites hybridus) has long been used by Native Americans as a remedy for headaches and inflammation, and now butterbur has gained recognition in the world of western medicine. The American Academy of Neurology and American Headache Society both endorse butterbur for preventing migraines based on at least two strong clinical trials.
CBSNewYork did a piece on combining Butterbur-PA-free and Vit. B2 (riboflavin) that is working for patients of neurologist Dr. Julie Bryson.
It is thought to work through its anti-inflammatory effects, and it functions as a natural beta blocker, which results in normal flow of blood to the brain. That in turn can help control blood pressure/the spasmodic capillary action that can causes migraines.
Please Note: Look for a brand of extract labeled PA-Free, which ensures that it was safely processed to remove potentially harmful, toxic, chemicals found naturally in the plant. Check with your doctor before using butterbur for migraines.
And one extra thought to make 13!
13.) A Thankful Heart
“A cheerful heart is good medicine.” ~Proverbs 17: 22
Science has now linked a positive outlook on life to increased pain tolerance, proving what God knew all along this to be true. See ‘How the Power of Positive Thinking Won Scientific Credibility‘.
And ABC News explores the Science of Thankfulness: For those who are more like ‘Grinch-ish than grateful’, there’s some hard evidence that might make you want to turn that frown upside down. A positive outlook and feelings of thankfulness can have a direct and beneficial effect on the brain and body.