So many things can make your head ache. Deadlines. Arguments. Irksome bosses. Traffic jams. Even good things can give you a pain in the head — on the Mayo Clinic Web site, “ice cream headaches” has its own category (many of us know it as “brain freeze”). Generally speaking, headaches are your body’s response to physical or emotional stress. That stress can make the muscles in your head and neck contract to create tension headaches. Or it can make blood vessels constrict and later expand to produce migraines or vascular headaches. And if your sinuses are congested or infected, pounding headaches often result. Despite the discomfort, most headaches are temporary and respond quite nicely to do-it-yourself pantry treatments.
1. Thyme and rosemary oil for head rubs
To relieve headache pain, dab a drop or two of thyme or rosemary essential oil on each temple and on your forehead. Rub gently into the skin, then sit quietly for several minutes. In a 2010 study, researchers discovered that thyme and rosemary oils contain carvacrol, a substance that acts as a COX-II inhibitor, much like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, do.
2. Gingerroot for tea
Ginger may work against migraines by inhibiting prostaglandin synthesis. What’s more, ginger helps quell the nausea that often accompanies migraines. Make a tea by gently simmering three quarter-sized slices of gingerroot in 2 cups of water, covered, for 30 minutes.
3. Chamomile tea
Taking a break in your busy schedule can relieve some of the tension that causes many headaches. Chamomile tea has compounds that help ease pain and relax you. Brew up a cup using one chamomile tea bag to a cup of just-boiled water. Allow to steep, covered, for 10 minutes. Sweeten with honey, if desired. Take a few minutes to sip the hot tea slowly while sitting in a quiet spot.
4. Peppermint and lavender oil for footbaths
Some natural healers believe footbaths are powerful remedies for headaches. The hot water draws blood to your feet, easing the pressure on the blood vessels in your head. By adding a few drops of peppermint and/or lavender essential oils, the aroma provides soothing relief.
Headache researchers say that migraine sufferers should keep this essential mineral in their medicine chests. Turns out, migraineurs (the term docs use to describe folks who get these head-splitters) have low levels of magnesium in their brains during attacks and may also have a general magnesium deficiency. In fact, two placebo-controlled clinical studies have shown that taking magnesium supplements can prevent the headaches. Experts recommend taking 400 milligrams a day of chelated magnesium, magnesium oxide, or slow-release magnesium, all of which are available over the counter at your local drugstore. Note: Magnesium may cause diarrhea in some people.
6. Vitamin B2
In one study, taking 400 milligrams of this vitamin, known as riboflavin, daily for three months slashed migraines by 50 percent in 59 percent of the volunteers, as opposed to just 15 percent in volunteers who took a placebo.
7. Butterbur extract
An herb called butterbur has proved itself so effective for migraine relief that physicians who specialize in treating migraines often recommend it. At least three studies have been conducted on Petadolex, an over-the-counter butterbur extract, and in each study, the herb has significantly reduced migraine attacks when compared to a placebo. Recommended dosage is 75 milligrams twice a day for one month, then 50 milligrams twice a day.