Headaches are perhaps the most universal human malady. It seems that everyone has had at least one, and it would also seem that everyone has their own method for headache relief.
For much of the last century, the home remedies that people had been using for thousands of years had been derided as “hogwash” or “unscientific” and ignored by the medical establishment. This was partly because a lot of the funding that went towards analgesic research came from corporate interests who wanted patentable and saleable products from the research.
Attitudes towards folk medicine and traditions were often contemptuous. It was as if the people who lived before were idiots who could not possibly understand the reasons they did the things they did. Our ancestors were not stupid. They tried things out and if they worked, they kept on doing them.
Culpeper’s Complete Herbal is the second oldest book continuously in print in the world, after the bible. It was first printed in the 17th century and contains a wealth of herbal lore that he collected in England. Culpeper could not have understood what it was about the plants he was cataloguing that had the beneficial effects, but the effects were clear to him and the people who he collected the lore from. Even in his time, the medical establishment tried to suppress his cheap and widely available treatments.
While we certainly have a much deeper understanding of the human body today, much remains a mystery. And even those things that we do have a deep understanding of can be subject to misconceptions. Headaches are a great example of this. While scientific research has led to a more comprehensive understanding of headaches, the general population are still largely unaware of most of the facts.
There are many types of headaches. In fact, some researchers claim that there is up to 200 different types. These different types are categorized as two groups:
Below are some of the most common types of headache.
Muscle tension in the head and neck muscles can cause headaches. This is often the result of stress. Massage works wonders for most headaches but when you are at work, or looking after children, or busy with the hustle and bustle of day to day life, a massage is not always an option.
Tension headaches are relatively mild (compared to migraines) headaches that can feel like having something tied around the head tightly. Exactly why tension headaches happen is not known, it is unclear why we would evolve to almost universally suffer from pain in our brains.
Migraines and migraines with auras are amongst the most painful and severe headaches a person can suffer from. Usually there are changes to perception and increased sensitivity to sound and light before the onset of a migraine. Some people experience auras in their vision, many people do not. Nausea is also common in the hours before a migraine attack.
A very sensitive headache ensues, and the sufferer usually has to lie still in a darkened room until it passes. They can last between a few hours and several days, and the frequency of attacks can range from a couple a year to several a week.
Migraines are not well understood in science. The available migraine headache treatments can be successful but many people do not respond to them or find the side effects of the treatment intolerable.
Widely regarded as one of the most painful conditions a human can suffer from, cluster headaches come in cycles or “clusters”. Usually they occur during the night and wake the patient with intense pain around or inside an eye on one side of the head.
Clusters can last for weeks or months, followed by periods of remission in which the patient suffers from no headaches. These are amongst the rarest of chronic headaches, thankfully, as they are so debilitating. Some treatments are available and can reduce headache severity and frequency of attacks.
Headaches caused by the overuse of medications (usually for migraine or other headaches) can cause rebound headaches. Usually by controlling the medication the headache can be prevented from reoccurring.
Caused by an infection of the sinuses, inflammation of the sinus canal, or a temporary pressure difference, sinus headaches are common and can ruin someone’s day.
If a person suffers from excessively low blood sugar levels they can suffer from chronic headaches and other biological problems.
These are just a few examples of the huge variety of headaches that exist. Click here for more information on other forms of headache.
Some people react badly to common analgesics (pain killers), meaning they have no option for mild or moderate pain relief like most people do. Concerns about taking strong, chemical packed painkillers or other psychotropic drugs are becoming more prevalent as the rise of opioid addiction and the thousands of deaths it causes intensifies.
Knowing how to get rid of headaches with natural, ecologically friendly, and healthier options is a choice more and more people are making, and with good reason. Alternatives to modern drugs, or the plants that they are derived from, can do the same job for less money. Furthermore, they are often more effective.
Here are some examples of popular home remedies for heachaches.
One recent study in 2014 compared powdered ginger with sumatriptan, a powerful painkiller, for migraine headaches. Ginger was just as effective as this drug but had a much better side effect profile than sumatriptan. The side effects of sumatriptan include vomiting, myalgia, sensory disturbances, blood pressure increases, dizziness and drowsiness.
It is obvious that ginger compares favourably for relieving headache symptoms. It has been used in ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. It works by suppressing nausea, inflammation, and histamine responses, according to the latest theories. Currently, only a small amount of proper scientific investigation has been carried out on the healing powers of ginger. However, because it is available in nearly every supermarket in the world and costs very little, it could be a cheap, tolerable and effective way of how to get rid of headaches.
Eaten 15 minutes before the onset of a migraine or during, it offers fast acting pain relief.
One of the most popular essential oils, lavender smells fantastic and is packed with beneficial properties. Small-scale studies have found that inhaled lavender oil is remarkably effective against migraine headaches. It is a very tolerable way of treating headache pain, with very few side effects other than the occasional allergic reaction. It seems to be as or more effective than some drugs offered for migraine.
Lavender oil works by relaxing muscles, widening blood vessels, improving blood flow and sedating the patient. It also appears to have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Never take lavender orally, it will make you ill. Lavender oil can be purchased online or in many shops for low prices, or it can be made easily at home.
The herb peppermint is a common plant (even a weed in some places) across the Western world. It will be a familiar flavour to many as it appears in lots of popular foods and confections. There have been no high quality clinical studies so far on the effects of peppermint oil on headaches. However, some preliminary, small scale studies have indicated that peppermint can indeed provide pain relief during headaches.
Cloves are a spice that have been used for many thousands of years for both flavouring and medicine. One effect that it is reported to have is analgesia. It is believed that eugenol, a chemical found in high concentrations in cloves, is one of the reasons for this effect. It is also known to have antispasmodic and anti-neuropathic pain effects.
Cloves are relatively expensive for spices but are still cheaper than many headache drugs. It is safe in relatively high quantities and the side effects are mild and rare. There is scant scientific evidence that cloves really are effective. This is due to it not being studied at length, so the effects that many people report might be backed up by proper clinical trials at some time in the future.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apparently very effective for sinus headaches, apple cider vinegar boiled in water and inhaled as steam is a cheap and easy way to get quick relief. There has been no real investigation into this treatment in scientific terms, but it is known to be relatively safe.
Cannabidiol, also known as CBD Oil, is derived from the seeds of the cannabis plant. This oil doesn’t cause any psychoactive effects, or the ‘high’ that’s typically associated with cannabis. The oil is believed to be a powerful pain reliever. While not a lot is known about it yet, there is much research underway. This is because of the thousands of years of anecdotal evidence suggesting it could be one of the most potent natural remedies on the planet.
Because of the lack of good scientific evidence, most of these treatments should not be administered to children. Because there are so many different types of headaches, it’s perfectly reasonable to think that there would also be many different possible treatments, including natural remedies. The most important thing to do is to conduct proper research before trying any natural remedy yourself. As desperate as you may be for some much needed relief, you definitely don’t want to make your condition worse simply because you weren’t careful enough.