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Headaches: Symptoms, Causes and Natural Home Remedies

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Ebiojo David
I am a Biochemist and Naturopath, I love writing and educating people on health and wellness matters.

Headaches are pains that occur anywhere around the regions of the head or neck; the head is one of the most common sites of pain in the body. It can include a throbbing, squeezing, constant, unrelenting or intermittent pain; the pain may be located in one part of the face or skull or it may involve the whole head.

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It is often associated with stress, hard physical labour and activities; other factors can also cause this. It can also be acute or chronic in nature; with or without episodes of increasing severity. Migraine headache is also associated nausea and vomiting. Headaches are one of the most common medical complains and it is one of the main reasons people take harmful painkillers regularly;

Headaches are classified into three main types; in 2013 the International Headache Society released the latest classification of headaches and there are 17 in number but the three main types of headaches are:

  1. Primary headache which includes tension, migraines and cluster headaches.
  2. Secondary headache which are usually caused by an injury or by an underlying medical condition; examples are sinus headache due to increased pressure or infection in the sinuses.
  3. Cranial headaches
  4. Other types of headaches like rebound headache; which is caused by frequent use of pain medications, this can lead to persistent head pain. It is also known as “medication overuse headache”; the headache may improve for a short time after medication is taken and then re-occur.

Symptoms of headache

Common signs and symptoms of headaches are:

  • Pain that begins in the back of the neck and upper neck; it can spread to encircle the heads and the pain is describes as a band-like tightness or pressure.
  • Intense pressure at the temples or over the eyebrows where the temporalis and frontal muscles are located.
  • A dull and aching head pain

Causes of headaches

Many things can cause headaches; realizing what causes headache will help you avoid it and later in this article I will give effective remedies for headaches that are effective than painkiller drugs and don’t have harmful side effects.

  • Hunger
  • Dehydration (a common cause but people don’t know)
  • Physical stress (most common cause)
  • Insomnia
  • Medications
  • Medical conditions
  • Inflammation or irritation of the structures that surrounds the brain and affects it function
  • Vitamin and Mineral deficiencies
  • Infection (leads to toxic headaches)
  • Trauma
  • Heredity (migraines runs in some families)
  • Food allergies
  • Environmental factors like exposure to second hand smoke, smells from chemicals and perfumes.
  • Changes in the circulation of blood
  • Drug abuse
  • Drug withdrawal syndrome
  • Mono-sodium glutamate (MSG) a popular food additive
  • Aspartame (an artificial sweetener used in most processed foods)
  • Unhealthy eating pattern and regular intake of unhealthy foods (nutritional deficiencies)
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Eyestrain or back strain
  • Emotional stress
  • Mental stress

Avoiding all these causes above is the first and best way to treat headaches. When you indulge in any of the above causes; it will lead to frequent and severe headaches which will also make one dependent on painkillers.

While you cut these risk factors for headaches, below are natural remedies that can relieve headaches effectively. Some studies have proven that some of these remedies are more potent than painkiller drugs and they have no side effects.

Effective home remedies for headaches

This condition is experienced by many people on a daily basis and this is due mostly to high levels of stress, unhealthy foods, medication overuse, drug abuse, lack of quality sleep and dehydration; below are effective home remedies that can relieve most kinds of headaches.

Please check with your doctor before trying any herb; especially when you have an illness or you are on medications to prevent drug-herb interaction; if not these remedies are safe, effective and have no side effects.

Magnesium: This is one of the most successful headache remedies; the supplement is better than most harmful painkillers out there and it is effective against migraines and serious headaches.

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Studies have linked susceptibility to headache with low levels of magnesium and it even helped reduced the frequency of migraine attacks in people low in this vital mineral.

Magnesium prevents and treats headache by blocking the pain-transmitting chemicals in the brain; this improves the functions of platelets which prevents bleeding and react to injuries.

It also prevents and treats headaches by preventing the wave of brain signaling called cortical spreading depression; this produces visual and sensory changes that are common when experiencing migraines.

For severe headaches like migraine, you can use the supplements but if the case is not severe avoid magnesium because long-term use can lead to toxicity; what you will need to do is to increase your intake of magnesium rich foods like beans, whole grains, seeds, nuts, broccoli, organic dairy and dairy products, meats, chocolate, coffee, squash and leafy green vegetables in general.

Almonds: These nuts are effective in relieving all types of headaches; it is an effective painkiller because it contains salicin, which is a popular ingredient in many over-the-counter painkillers. Whenever you feel headache; eat a handle or two of these healthy nuts.

Gluten-free diet: Food allergies are another common cause of headache and the most common food allergy that causes headache is gluten-intolerance. When people that have gluten sensitivity eat foods containing gluten, it can result to a headache; giving up gluten foods helps greatly in reducing the frequency and severity of headache.

Ginger: Ginger root reduces inflammation and pain; it can stop migraine and the associate symptoms like nausea and vomiting. It is a good natural alternative to harmful painkillers; you can either munch on the root or take ginger tea and you can add it generously to your meals.

Essential oils: Peppermint and Lavender essential oils have both calming and numbing effects; peppermint oil stimulates increased flow of blood to the skin including the forehead and it soothes muscle contraction and headache sensitivity.

Lavender oil is effective against migraine headaches; you can blend them (mix them) and inhale or rub on your forehead, temples and back of the neck. If the scent of peppermint is too strong for you or the oil too chilling you can mix it with coconut oil before using.

Cinnamon: This miracle spice can relieve headache; you can add the powder to your meals and drinks and you can also add water to a large quantity of the powder and make a thick paste which you will apply on your forehead and temples, lie down for 30 minutes then wash it off with lukewarm water.

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Try chiropractic healing: This is a form of alternative healing that involves the manipulation of the spinal column and other body structures for the purpose of alleviating neuromusculoskeletal dysfunction; it is drug and surgery free.

Studies have proved that spinal manipulation therapy helps in treating headaches; it also alleviates stress, tension and migraine headaches, many studies have proven this an effective headache remedy.

Thyme: Dried thyme leaves or thyme essential oil is effective in relieving headache pain; apply the oil on the forehead and temples; gently massage it into the skin and relax. Rosemary essential oil is also effective in relieving headaches like thyme oil.

Feverfew: The leaves of this herb are used in making medicines; consuming these leaves reduces the frequency of migraines and headache symptoms like pain, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and noise. A review compiled from 6 studies shows the effectiveness of this herb in reducing and preventing migraine headaches and it has no side effects.

Cloves: This can effectively ease a throbbing headache due to its cooling and pain-relieving properties; crush a few cloves and inhale whenever you have a headache; you can also put them in your handkerchief when going out, this will give you relieve from the headache.

You can also add two drops of clove essential oil in a tablespoon of coconut oil; add sea salt and gently massage your forehead and temples with this mixture.

Butterbur: This is an effective herb that reduces the inflammatory effect of the chemicals that triggers headaches especially migraines; a study done over a 4 month period showed how this herb reduced the frequency of migraine attack in 48% of the participants.

The participants consumed 75 mg of butterbur twice daily; this proved its effectiveness in relieving the symptoms of headaches.

Apple cider vinegar: When you have a headache, you can inhale steam from apple cider vinegar to relieve the headaches; mix half cup of apple cider vinegar and half cup of water, boil the mixture in a covered saucepan.

Remove from heat and pour the mixture in a bowl; bend your head over the bowl and use a thick towel to cover your head, then you slowly inhale the steam, this will give you instant relief from headaches.

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If you wake up with a headache; eat one apple and drink some warm water after or you add two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water, add honey and little lemon juice, take this mixture three times daily.

Vitamin B-Complex: Many B vitamins are involved in the formation of neurotransmitters; a deficiency in serotonin has been linked to migraine; studies shows that it relieves stress, strains, improve moods and prevent headaches.

Mint juice: Mint leaves are rich in menthol and menthone which are effective in alleviating headaches; get a handle full of mint leaves, extract the juice and apply the solution on the forehead and temples to treat headaches. You can also place mint tea compress on the forehead to relieve discomfort.

Water: Dehydration is a common cause of headache; not getting a lot of water, hot weather and physical exercise and also regular intake of coffee, sugary drinks and alcohol leaves many people with a killer headache.

Drinking lots of clean natural water relieves headache pains and symptoms; take up to 8 glasses of water daily, more should be taken when the weather is hot or when one has done through a hard physical labour.

Also take lots of fresh fruits and vegetables; they contain good amount of pure water and they are very nutritious, their rich nutrient value will prevent nutritional deficiencies which is another cause of headache.

Chamomile tea: This tea is rich in compounds that eases pain and relaxes one; take this tea two times daily when experiencing a headache.

Detox bath: A detox bath cleanses the body and gets rid of toxins that make one sick and cause headaches; it brings the toxins to the surface of the skin and expels them, this is one of the best preventative headache remedies.

Make the water as hot as you can handle but be careful so you don’t cook yourself; add a cup of baking soda to the hot bath water, add essential oil and two cups of apple cider vinegar. Do this at least once a week to eliminate toxins and prevent headaches.

Footbaths: Footbaths are powerful natural remedies for headaches; they reduce the flow of blood in the head and draw it to your feet thereby easing the pressure on the blood vessels in your head. Add slightly hot water to a bowl; add either peppermint or lavender essential oil and soak your legs in it for as long as you want.

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Exercise and moving: A sedentary lifestyle can cause headaches; sitting in front of the TV and computer for long can create body tensions and headache symptoms. Regular exercise especially stretching can prevent this. Reflexology is another ancient Chinese medicine that can help relieve headaches, stress and symptoms.

Acupuncture: This holistic remedy is used to treat a wide variety of symptoms including migraines, other headaches and diseases.

Proper rest: Stress, overworking and lack of good sleep at night can lead to headache; so try and reduce your level of stress; sleep not less than 8 hours at night, this will relieve the symptoms of headache and enable you to wake up energized every morning.

Cayenne pepper: This improves the circulation of blood which usually cause headaches; it also depletes the elements in the body that makes one feel pain (substance P) by stimulating a pain response in another area of the body. When applied topically, cayenne pepper  it relaxes the muscles and relieves the symptoms of headaches.

Compress: A head compress either hot or cold works for headache; warm compress relieves tension headaches while cold compress relieves migraines. You can apple cider vinegar to the compress to make it more effective.

When to seek for medical help?

Headaches can be effectively handled with home remedies if it is not caused by an underlying medical condition but urgent medical attention is needed when these signs and symptoms are noticed.

  • Fever greater than 102 F
  • Stiff neck
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting and nausea if it is not related to a hangover or flu
  • Change in vision
  • Change in sensation on one side of the body
  • Change in behaviour that may be caused by the development of some serious infection
  • Fainting
  • Confusion or trouble understanding speech
  • Numbness, weakness or paralysis on one side of the body
  • Trouble speaking

The 17 types of headaches are;

  1. Primary tension headaches that are episodic
  2. Primary tension headaches that are chromic
  3. Primary muscle contraction headaches
  4. Primary migraine headaches with aura
  5. Primary migraine headaches without aura
  6. Primary cluster headache
  7. Primary paroxysmal hemicrania (a type of cluster headache)
  8. Primary cough headache
  9. Primary stabbing headache
  10. Primary headache associated with sexual intercourse
  11. Primary thunderclap headache
  12. Hypnic headache (headaches that awaken a person from sleep)
  13. Hemicrania continua (headaches that are persistently on one side only. right or left [unilateral])
  14. New daily-persistent headache (NDPH) (a type of chronic headache)
  15. Headache from exertion
  16. Trigeminal neuralgia and other cranial nerve inflammation
  17. Secondary headaches due to:
    • Trauma
    • Disorders
    • Infection
    • Structural problems with the bones of the face, teeth, eyes, ears, nose, sinuses or other structures
    • Substance abuse or withdrawal

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