The Ultimate Guide to Natural Remedies for Headaches and Migraines

What is a migraine? How do you tell what you have is a migraine and not a headache? When you experience pressure in your head, it could be hard to differentiate between a headache and a migraine but it’s very important to know because it determines the kind of relief you get. In this article we give you the ultimate guide to natural remedies for headaches and migraines.

1. The Difference Between Migraines and Headaches

1) Headaches
These occur as unpleasant pains that cause aching and pressure. At times they range from mild to severe lasting anywhere between 30 minutes to a week. Headaches usually occur on both sides of the head with some common places being the temples, forehead and back of the head. There are various types of headaches including the tension headaches, sinus headaches and cluster headaches.

Tension headaches: The most common type of headache is the tension headache and is usually triggered by stress, anxiety or muscle pain.
Cluster headaches: These are usually severely painful and occur in one side of the head and they come in clusters. This means that you experience a cycle of pain followed by a pain free period.
Sinus headaches: These are often confused with migraines because they occur with symptoms associated with sinuses like stuffy nose, fever, congestion, cough or facial pressure.

2) Migraines
Migraines are usually very intense and severe and most of the time, in addition to head pain, they are usually accompanied by other symptoms. Some of these symptoms include:

– Pain behind of ear or eye
– Nausea
– Pain in the temples
– Seeing flashing lights or spots
– Being sensitive to light or sound
– Vomiting
– Temporary vision loss

When you compare migraines to headaches, migraines usually affect one side of the head. However, it is also possible in some cases for it to affect both sides. The other difference is the quality of the pain. Migraines cause intense pain that could lead to throbbing making daily performance difficult.
Migraines are classified into two categories; migraines with aura and those without. An “aura” is the sensation a person experiences before they get a migraine and it can occur anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes before the migraine attacks. Some of these sensations include:

– Unusual sense of taste, smell or touch
– Numbness or tingling in the hands or face
– Blurred vision
– Having trouble concentrating

There are migraine sufferers who also experience symptoms a day before the migraine and these symptoms are called the prodrome phase. The signs of this can include:

– Constipation
– Depression
– Irritability
– Frequent yawning
– Unusual cravings
– Neck stiffness

For further details about headaches and migraines, please read the following articles:

Headaches
Migraines

2. Foods That Help Fighting Headaches and Migraines

Fortunately, there are some foods that are very effective for reducing headaches and migraines, these include:

  • Fatty fish: The fact these fatty fish like mackerel, salmon, sardine, herring and trout have omega-3 fatty acids means that they can help to reduce migraines.
  • Coffee: Caffeine might cause migraines for some people but if taken when the migraine strikes, it can help reduce it. Caffeine helps to shrink swollen blood vessels in the brain.
  • Foods rich in magnesium: The recommended daily intake of magnesium is 310 to 320 mg for women is 400 to 420 mg for men. If you really miss, try to consume 400 to 700 mg per day to help prevent migraines. Whole grains, beans, leafy dark green veggies and potatoes are rich in magnesium. Research shows that people who are deficient in magnesium suffer migraines at a higher percent. Low levels of this nutrient make the brains more sensitive to migraine triggers.
  • Foods rich in Vitamin B2: Also known as riboflavin, is essential for the body to be able to produce energy because research shows lack of basic energy could be a migraine trigger. Spinach for example is a good source of vitamin B. 
  • Water: Water may not necessarily be food but it is just as important if you want to avoid migraines. Dehydration is a very common migraine trigger.Allergies as well as allergic reactions.

3. Foods That Must Be Avoided

  • Bananas 
  • Alcohol
  • Soy sauce
  • Onions
  • Aged cheese
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Processes meats
  • Chocolate
  • Peanuts
  • Diet sodas
  • Chili peppers

4. Top Natural Remedies For Headaches and Migraines

1) Lavender: It is a plant with analgesic properties that soothe jangled nerves and reduce inflammation of blood vessels. More renowned for its delicate perfume than for its therapeutic properties. It is very ancient and its essential oil is purer than that of the neighboring species. It is recommended in cases of anxiety as well as to relieve migraines and headaches. Its essential oil is more known than its herbal tea.

How to use?
Put 2 teaspoons (5 g) of lavender dried flowers in a liter of boiling water. Let infuse 10 min, then filter.
Drink 4 cups daily between meals, one of which should be taken before bedtime to fight insomnia due to migraines. This infusion can be sweetened with honey. Caution: Not recommended in pregnant or nursing women.

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2) Rosemary: In case of migraine or headaches, the use of rosemary is recommended as a good alternative to analgesic drugs. Rosemary is indeed considered as a tonic plant, invigorating, stimulating: as many virtues as reflected by its aromatic flavor very particular. Rosemary relieves headaches thanks to its anti-inflammatory action, and especially migraines caused by the cold.

How to use?
Infuse 2 teaspoons in 4 oz of boiling water for 10 minutes, filter and drink the herbal tea as soon as the headaches appear. If the pain persists, it is possible to take up to 3 cups of rosemary tea per day.

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3) Ginger: Research has shown that this spice contains similar potent compounds found in nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. It works by blocking inflammatory substances known as prostaglandins. This one helps prevent migraines because it inhibits the process that stimulates muscle contractions. It is one of the most effective natural analgesic available, and a formidable remedy for headaches and migraines.

How to use?
You can prepare a ginger tea twice a day but no more because it can have some side effects on stomach. To do this, boil water with ginger, then let rest for a few minutes. Then, filter the whole and to drink in small sips, you can add some honey if you find that taste is very spicy.

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4) Chamomile: The World Health Organization officially acknowledge the effectiveness of chamomille for the prevention and reduction of the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks. it has an antispasmodic, an analgesic and an antiseptic constituents and gives a soothing effect that relieves migraines by the presence of an active agent called parthenolide.

How to use?
Put two to three teaspoons of dried chamomile flowers in 16 oz of boiling water, let infuse 10 minutes, then  strain into a cup, making sure that you use a strainer fine enough to catch the chamomile flowers, add a bit of lemon juice or honey if you want. Take 2 to 3 cups a day to relieve migraine headaches or more for severe migraines. It is recommended to take this tea as soon as you start noticing the first symptoms of a migraine attack.

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5) Valerian: Valerian is used since Roman Antiquity for its sedative and relaxing properties. It temperes cerebral and nervous hysteria, has a nervous rebalancing effect and treats most disorders related to stress, anxiety, migraines, nervousness, insomnia and heart palpitations.

How to use?
Put 100 gr of roots in a liter of warm water to macerate 12 hours then filter.
Take 3 cups a day.

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6) Peppermint: Peppermint is known for a long time for its therapeutic virtues. It is composed of menthol. This anti-inflammatory constituent has anesthetic properties and also a powerful analgesic. Peppermint is often used as a cure for headaches, it has a soothing effect when you have migraines and it eases discomfort and clears the mind; By a “cold effect”, it will locally anesthetize the part of the target body, like the sinuses for example. During an inhalation or a cranial massage, menthol agent will inhibit the pain by stimulating the cold receptors of the head. 

How to use?
Used often in infusion put a teaspoonful for a cup of boiling water let infuse 10 minutes, then filter and drink up to 3 cups per day. The essential oil of peppermint can also be diffused to be inhaled and act directly on the level of the brain; It can also be used in massage at the temples and the neck.

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7) Melissa: Used for centuries for its calming, relaxing, antiviral and anti-spasmodic virtues, melissa would reduce the pain caused by migraines or tension headaches. The antiviral and anti-pain effects of melissa would help fight not only against migraine attacks but also against viral infections, often responsible for intense headaches.

How to use?
In infusion a tablespoonful for 1/4 liter of boiling water, let infuse 10 minutes and take 2 to 3 times a day.

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8) Dong Quai: It is also known as Chinese angelica. IN CHINA, it is the plant most used to relieve the troubles of women. Millions of Chinese women take this fortifier daily to regulate their menstrual cycle and to tone their blood. Angelica also improves blood circulation. It has the following characteristics: Tonic, Anti-inflammatory, Antispasmodic, Fluidifies blood, and Regularizes menstrual flow. In addition, pain relieving properties help prevent or reduce inflammation and pains in migraine sufferers.

How to use?
As a tea

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9) Lime tree: Also known as Tilia, antispasmodic and sedative, the lime tree is known to relieve tensions and headaches especially that caused by sinusitis. It calms and promotes sleep. It combats stress and anxiety, as well as palpitations of nervous origin. Flowers treat colds and flu by reducing nasal secretions.

How to use?
As a tea

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10) White willow: Famous for containing salicylic acid (used to develop aspirin), and several neighboring species have been used for millennia around the world to relieve joint pain, migraines and fight fever. 

11) Great petasite: It has anti-inflammatory properties and it balances circulation in the brain. It also controls the blood pressure by inhibiting spasms in the capillaries.

12) Indian costus: This herb has hot and dry temperaments that provide extra heat and has various medical benefits.

13) Cinnamon: Cinnamon has an antiviral and stimulating effect, it is traditionally used against colds, flu and disorders of the digestive system. Moreover,it is widely known for eliminating  migraines and headaches.

14) Caffeine: Caffeine is a safe and useful additive for relieving migraines 

5. Vitamins and Natural Supplements For Headaches and Migraines

Supplements and vitamins are background treatment; They help reduce the frequency of migraine attacks but do break them. You have to take them for several months to get the results. To objectively assess whether the frequency of your headaches has decreased you need to use a schedule and take a single supplement at a time.

  • Vitamin B2: People who lack enough Vitamin B2 might suffer from migraines because it is necessary for the production of red blood cells. This means that when such people take Vitamin B2, it can relieve their pain.
  • Vitamin B6: This is a vitamin that helps produce antibodies that fight diseases. People with little Vitamin B6 can fall into depression, confusion and irritability. Low levels also cause other effects on the brain and this could cause migraines. This means that taking this Vitamin can help relieve pain for people who suffer from migraines.
  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): Coenzyme Q10 plays a crucial role in cell function. It can not only enhance the energy level, but also improves heart health, glycemic balance and the balance of the nervous system. This supplement has also been shown to reduce migraine attacks in humans.
    It is advisable to consume 100 mg CoQ10 up to twice a day.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium calms down the nerves and research has shown most people who suffer from migraines have low levels of this mineral. This means that increasing the intake could be the relief from migraines.
  • Omega-3: As said above, the omega-3 fatty acid offers an anti-inflammatory action that seems effective in preventing migraine attacks. It should be eaten in the form of 1000 mg fish oil capsules, at a rate of 3 to 4 capsules per day.
  • Other Natural Blends: The following products we have selected has been carefully studied and tested on patients suffering from migraines. They contain natural supplements like vitamins, magnesium and others. Although they have been proven on patients and also their natural composition, we advise you likewise to take the advice of your doctor before their consumption.
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6. Natural Background Treatments For Migraines

For many centuries going back to ancient Chinese and Egyptian cultures, natural remedies have been used to treat a myriad of ailments and some of them have proved to be really good in treating migraines. There are also certain ways one can ease migraines without necessarily taking any medications or herbs. Let’s look at some of the natural remedies for headaches and migraines.

6.1) Acupuncture For Migraines

AcupunctureAcupuncture is one of the Chinese ancient healing methods that have been known to treat migraines. This method focuses on stimulating certain body points where needles are inserted up to two inches in the body and stay in that position for up to 20 minutes.
When treating migraines, the needles, which are usually solid, thin and metallic, are inserted in to different parts of the body. The location of the pain normally determines the channel affected, meaning whether the neck, forehead etcetera. The type of symptoms a person has also determine the type of acupuncture to be used.

How exactly does it work?
Acupuncture stimulates the body’s natural painkillers known as endorphins increasing blood flow and stimulating the muscles, nerves and tissues. This method balances the body’s energy also known as life force or in Chinese, chi. Alternatively, acupuncture can also block the neurotransmitters and prevent them from sending pain messages to the brain.

Who should not try acupuncture for migraines?
People with pacemakers should not partake in acupuncture for migraines because the needles can interfere. People who have bleeding or blood disorders should also not do acupuncture and neither is it recommended for pregnant women as it has chances to stimulate premature labor.

6.2) Phytotherapy For Migraines

phytotherapyPhytotherapy is therapy with conventional analgesics. Given that there are different causes for migraines, there are different kinds of herbs used to help ease the pain. This is a natural method to treat migraines where some plants might help some people while others might not so what happens is that they are combined. On a regular basis, the herb recipe as well as the dosage is changed until it works for a patient. Before any one results to getting the remedy, one should try to prevent migraines in the first place with proper nutrition.
One of the most popular remedies for migraines according to a phytotherapy research is ginger because it has the same benefits with sumatriptan, a migraine medical prescription has but without the same side effects.

6.3) Biofeedback For Migraines

BiofeedbackBiofeedback is a scientifically proven therapy that does not involve any drugs while treating migraines. In this type of therapy, certain bodily functions are measured in order to help the patients learn how to control them. Normally, Biofeedback measures:

– Heart rates
– Breathing
– Skin temperature
– Muscle tension
– Brain waves
– Blood pressure

In order to achieve this, electrodes are usually attached to the body and the measurements monitored. Therapists who have acquired the skill then teach the patients how to change their body function like lowering their blood pressure. People who learn how to control these conditions normally have a significant reduction in duration, frequency and severity of their migraines.

How does it work exactly?
You see, body temperatures or muscle tensions are usually influenced by stress or strain. Biofeedback training helps one to learn how to react to stress and in turn they are able to change their body reactions. The more the patient is able to track and change their body reactions the less the migraines they experience and the less severe they are.

How effective is it?
When or if the patient is receptive to this therapy and is willing to practice it regularly, the results are usually significant. In past studies, patients have been seen to reduce as much as 45% to 80% of their migraines.

Who should not try Biofeedback?
This therapy is considered safe since there is no usage of drugs, supplements or any other products. This means there is nothing to prompt side effects. One should consult a professional in order to determine if they are fit for the therapy because it might counteract other conditions.

6.4) Aromatherapy For Migraines

AromatherapyAromatherapy is the use of essential oils from plant extracts in both psychological and physiological conditions as a treatment and one of the best natural remedies for headaches and migraines. This is an ancient practice that has been used for as long as people discovered the healing properties in plants. Essential oils are not oils, per se. Most of them are normally very light in texture and evaporate very quickly.

Aromatherapy for migraines?
Aromatherapy is done by applying or massaging the essential oils on the skin, which penetrate the skin and soothes the nerves. This results to a smooth blood flow causing a therapeutic effect on the body. Aromatherapy for migraines also includes warm baths where essential oils are mixed in. For instance, dropping lemongrass essential oils or sandalwood essential oils to a bath results to a therapeutic effect, getting rid of aches and pains.

Methods of using essential oils for migraines

  • Rubbing the oils on your palms and then inhaling is effective for peppermint and lavender.
  • You can also apply the oils on the base of your neck, through the shoulders and the rub very gently.
  • For a bath, you should fill your tub with hot or warm water, add the oils them soak for about 20 to 30 minutes.
  • You can also mix a few drops of the oils into bath soap or rub them to your comb and brush your hair with it.
  • You can massage some essential oils to your forehead, temples or skull in a circular motion with your fingertips.
  • An essential oil diffuser is usually very effective as well because it sends the scent all over the room. 
  • You can use a hot or cold compress with the essential oils.
  • You can massage the shoulders, face and even scalp with the oils.

The most effective essential oils for migraines

  • Peppermint essential oil: This is one of the most valuable remedies because it has calming properties. Basil, wintergreen and ylang-ylang are also good.
  • Lavender essential oil: This one is also very effective in treating migraines but inhaling it works best. Spraying a few drops of this oil on the pillow creates a calming effect and hence better sleep.
  • Eucalyptus essential oil: The analgesic property of eucalyptus essential oil, partly due to the presence of eucalyptol in the leaves of the tree could result in mild benefits against headaches and migraines.
  • Rosemary essential oil: The use of Rosemary essential oil is a good alternative to analgesic drugs. This oil would relieve the headaches thanks to its anti-inflammatory action, and in particular migraines caused by the cold.
  • Chamomile essential oil: Chamomile is an antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory herb and it is proven that it gives a soothing effect that relieves migraines 

Find in the following article the details about using essential oils for headaches and migraine relief:

Essential Oils For Headaches and Migraines

6.5) Relaxation Techniques For Migraines and Headaches

Learning relaxation techniques can significantly reduce migraine frequencies and there are different relaxation methods one can use. Below are some more natural remedies for headaches and migraines.

  • Yoga: Yoga is a Hindu-based practice that helps to achieve physical and mental relaxation through breathing, stretching and meditation exercises. This is a great stress reducing outlet that enhances the health and well being of a person. Certain yoga poses boosts circulation in the body, which in turn lessens pain and throbbing sensations. Some of the best poses are:

    – Child’s pose
    – Bridge pose
    – Downward facing dog
    – Corpse pose

  • Meditation: Meditation helps to focus attention and direct consciousness. People who practice meditation tend to have fewer migraines that are less severe than before. Meditating gives one personal control over how they feel so you get the capability to control the migraines.
  • Sophrology: This is neither a medical nor psychological treatment but it can make a huge difference in relieving migraines. This therapy helps to relieve stress, depression, insomnia, fatigue and anxiety, all which have been associated with causing migraines.
  • Breathing exercises: To be able to learn how to relax, you need to understand your breathing patterns so that you can change them in a way that will help you to relax. In result, this will reduce your pain and anxiety. When people are anxious, they usually hold their breath and use a pitched voice as they exhale, on the other hand when people are depressed, they usually sign, use a low voice that leads to exhaling.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation: This is a technique that teaches people to concentrate on relaxing all the muscles in their body from toes to the head. Reduction in muscular tension usually helps to reduce pain. This is a process that involves deliberately applying tension to a certain group of muscles then releasing and noticing how the tension goes away as the muscles relax.
  • Guided imagery: This is where you create calm and soothing images in your might to take it off the pain. Once the mind gets busy processing the images you guide in it, it lessens the painful event.

7. Lifestyle: Daily Tips to Avoid and Reduce Headaches and Migraines

There are certain environmental triggers that play a role in causing migraines that you can avoid them. They are sensory stimuli like loud noise, bright flickering lights, and strong odors like perfumes, abrupt weather changes and emotional stress. Of course, different people get different triggers and they can also vary from episodes. You need to identify your triggers and try as much as you can to avoid them. However, you need to find natural remedies because painkillers have their side effects and here are some more natural remedies for headaches and migraines.

  • Calm: a natural remedy for migraines
    Being calm is one of the simplest and yet effective things you can do for your migraines. To attain calmness that will help you, you can meditate or do yoga in a quest place where there is no noise or bright lights or anyone to disrupt you. You will be able to channel your inner being, ease your stress and reduce your migraines. You can also lie down and rest for a while in a dark room where there is no noise and try to relax.
  • An anti-migraine massage
    This is one of the oldest ways you can use to treat a headache or migraine. Most people have come to find out that some gentle pressure on their temples relieves pain, even if temporarily. As a matter of fact, an anti-migraine massage can be very helpful in relieving and preventing migraines and headaches. People who receive this massage get less frequent pain and sleep a lot better than people who don’t.
  • Cold water compress
    Lying down with a chilly compress or wet washcloth over the forehead can provide relief from nagging migraines or headaches. The migraine could even disappear completely. Most people tend to think that ice dulls the pain because it shrinks blood vessels but when it comes to migraines, it is usually more of a “counter irritation” effect where the brains concentrates on the cold stimuli and forgets the pain. This can be especially helpful for people who tend to get recurring headaches.
  • Acupressure
    According to a Chinese traditional medicine practice, if you apply pressure to a certain pint on your hand between your index finger and your thumb, you will be able to relieve a headache. All you have to do squeeze that spot gently with your other hand massaging it in circular motions and if possible, doing it with an ice cube can really help. You can then change hands. This is a very easy and harmless method that it is worth the try.
  • Applying ice or liquid mint on the temples and forehead
    Applying something cold on the painful area constricts the vessels around it reliving that pain. Liquid mint is also very helpful in reliving migraines and all you have to do is apply it and relax for a while.
  • Taking a strong coffee
    Caffeine helps to reduce inflammation and hence can bring you relief doe your migraine or headache. Coffee can also cause migraines but the secret is to take coffee only after you get the migraines. Just like ice or anything cold, caffeine also narrows the blood vessels surrounding the brain hence relives pain. However, if you take too much coffee without a migraine then stop, the vessels will expand, which causes a migraine.
  • Napping quietly in a dark room
    At times, the only thing our body needs is to rest. As motioned before, bright lights or noise are usually not very good for migraines, which is why you will need to rest in a dark quiet room. Try to take a nap for a while and when you wake up, your body will be relaxed and you might find the headache gone. 

8. When To Seek For Medical Care?

There are certain environmental triggers that play a role in causing migraines and you can avoid them. Thewre are sensory stimuli like loud noise, bright flickering lights, and strong odors like perfumes, abrupt weather changes and emotional stress. Of course, different people get different triggers and they can also vary from episodes. You need to identify your triggers and try as much as you can to avoid them. However, you need to find natural remedies because painkillers have their side effects and here are some more natural remedies for headaches and migraines.

  • Appear suddenly and are very intense;
  • Become worse over a period of days or weeks;
  • Stand out from the usual headaches;
  • Are associated with fever or neck stiffness (which may indicate meningitis);
  • Accompanied by persistent nausea and vomiting;
  • Awaken the suffering person;
  • Are accompanied by convulsions, psychological disorders and loss of consciousness;
  • Are accompanied by neurological dysfunction (like, loss of balance, weakness, numbness or slurred speech) and split vision;  

Conclusion:

Migraines and headaches is a complex problem to address. Understanding the triggers is very important to define proper care. Once the triggers are determined, we can set up a natural program that will be customized, and with a little patience and sacrifice one can achieve good results.

 

Continue reading with this article about using essential oils for headaches and migraine relief:

 

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