Seventy-five percent of adults aged 18–65 years have had a headache in the last year and, among those individuals, 30% or more have reported debilitating migraines. In the Lancet: Global Burden of Disease Study, headaches are considered the third-highest worldwide cause of disability. Headache has emerged as a major global public health concern. While many people turn to medication, chiropractic, stress management, and yoga, finding relief for your headache may be as close as your kitchen! Here are my top ten headache home remedies.
Chocolate is rich in magnesium, the most commonly used mineral for headache relief. Research shows people with headaches often have lower levels of magnesium than those that don’t have them. Regular intake of magnesium can reduce the frequency of migraine attacks by 41.6 percent. Chocolate was previously considered a trigger for migraines but research now shows chocolate can actually help relieve migraines by repressing CGRP, one of the proteins involved in a migraine attack. Cocoa beans are also rich in polyphenols, antioxidants that eliminate free-radicals. Free-radicals incite inflammatory reactions especially within blood vessels which can lead to headaches. Cocoa beans also contain caffeine, which has a vasodilation effect on the blood vessels. Opt for dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate and go with at least 70% cacao.
Fresh pineapple is a great headache remedy. It contains a natural proteolytic enzyme called bromelain which has pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. Bromelain also lowers the production of TGF-β, another contributor to inflammation associated with migraines. If you suffer from sinus headaches, the bromelain in pineapple also acts as an antihistamine. If you’re not a fan of pineapple, you can take a bromelain supplement, available at most health food stores.
If you need relief from a headache, reach for a cup of Joe! Before a headache or migraine starts, blood vessels enlarge. The caffeine in coffee contains “vasoconstrictive” properties that narrow the blood vessels and restrict blood flow. If you decide to take acetaminophen or aspirin for a headache, drinking coffee can increase their pain relieving effects by 40%. This explains why Excedrin, the nation’s most popular OTC headache medication contains 65 mg of caffeine in each tablet. While coffee has headache relieving properties, regular caffeine consumption leads to physical dependence on caffeine, which manifests as withdrawal symptoms when a caffeine user abruptly stops using caffeine. A typical feature of caffeine withdrawal is an intense throbbing headache. If you cut back on the java, tapper down slowly to avoid this effect.
Dehydration is a common cause of headaches. When the body is dehydrated, this causes a drop in blood volume, reducing the amount of oxygen available to the brain, which can lead to pain receptors firing. Being dehydrated also causes your blood volume to drop which in turn lowers the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. This can lead to a “pounding” headache at the base of your skull. Cucumbers to the rescue! Composed of 96 percent water, the highly hydrating cucumber is a perfect remedy to combat a headache. Not only are cucumbers contain a lot of water, but they also contain nutrients that play a vital part in hydration like magnesium and potassium.
Feverfew, which has flowers resembling daisies, has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for headaches. It works by limiting the production of prostaglandins, the brain chemicals responsible for contracting blood vessels. The contraction and expansion of the blood vessels can lead to intense throbbing pain at the back of the head. Feverfew contains anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant properties, which are beneficial for those suffering from headaches or migraines. A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial of feverfew in migraine prevention published in the Lancet showed participants in the feverfew group had 4.7 fewer attacks. Feverfew also reduced the severity of nausea and vomiting for migraine sufferers.
You can find feverfew as a tea, tincture, or in capsule form available at most health food stores.
Cherries help reduce inflammation by neutralizing free radicals in the body. Anthocyanins, a type of bioflavonoid, which gives cherries their deep red color, have anti-inflammatory properties similar to those in aspirin. Research shows cherries significantly reduce the number of biomarkers associated with inflammatory diseases. Among these inflammation indicators, blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) were reduced by over 20%!
Eating a dozen cherries can help relieve a headache and also help remedy joint pain and ease PMS symptoms too.
HOT PEPPERS (Chilies)
Hot peppers (chilies) contain a substance known as capsaicin, which is a natural ingredient found in many topical pain relief creams and ointments. Capsaicin has the ability to decrease substance-P, a chemical messenger that carries a signal to the brain that it translates as pain. When you effectively block the messenger, you block the pain too. Hot peppers' effect on successfully treating headache and migraine pain was presented at the American Academy of Neurology (AAN). The majority of headache sufferers they studied consuming hot peppers experienced complete headache relief lasting from 30 minutes to several hours. The researchers believe capsaicin works by desensitizing the trigeminal nerve and depleting CGRP, the neurotransmitter responsible for migraine pain.
After downing those hot peppers that make your tongue burn and your eyes water, you’ll be happy with my next headache remedy. Peppermint is not only refreshing and great at combatting bad breath, it’s also an excellent treatment for tension headaches. Stress is a major cause of headaches and there’s nothing more soothing than the warm menthol feeling you get from drinking peppermint tea. Before you drink peppermint tea, be sure and breathe in the healing steam between sips as this will help free up nasal passages associated with a sinus headache. After you’re done drinking the tea, you can rub the moist peppermint tea bag along your forehead and temples to treat headaches or migraines.
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
Apple cider vinegar is known for its many medicinal properties and headache relief is high on the list! Blood sugar imbalance can lead to a headache (aka the “hangry” headache.) Drinking apple cider vinegar may help prevent headaches or migraines caused by a blood sugar imbalance. Research shows apple cider vinegar can help increase insulin sensitivity in people with diabetes.
Apple cider vinegar is rich in potassium, which could also potentially help prevent migraines. It's thought that inhaling steam vapors of apple cider vinegar may also help with sinus headaches. You can also put cold apple cider vinegar on a washcloth and apply the compress to your forehead to soothe a headache.
A GLASS OF WATER
Sometimes something as simple as drinking a glass of water can get rid of your headache! When you become dehydrated your brain loses water which can cause it to shrink and pull away from the skull. This triggers pain receptors surrounding the brain which creates a headache. Dehydration also causes your blood volume to drop which in turn lowers the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.
My rule of thumb on how much water you need each day is to drink half your body weight in ounces. So if you weigh 150 pounds, ideally you should be drinking 75 ounces of water. Alcohol consumption can cause dehydration so if you regularly partake in having a daily drink or two, you may need to consume even more water throughout the day.
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