Six nontoxic, safe and natural ways to relieve a headache without resorting to over-the-counter medications with negative long-term side effects.
Headaches are perhaps the most prevalent disorder experienced across all cultures and socioeconomic groups worldwide. Current statistics estimate that 1 in 10 adults suffer from multiple headaches every single week! (1)
I personally think this number is low. Just take a look at the size and selection of the painkiller section at your local pharmacies….much of it, no doubt, to cover the symptoms of recurrent headaches.
Common Reasons for Frequent Headaches
I used to get headaches A LOT as a young adult. This is because my diet included several fast food meals each week and a lot of sugar every single day.
I rarely get headaches anymore, perhaps just 1-2 in an entire year. Usually, they are brought on by stress, lack of sleep, or accidentally eating something that has tons of MSG in it.
Occasionally I will get a headache from shopping in a store that adds synthetic fragrance into the air. I try to avoid those retailers though!
I am very thankful that I don’t suffer from headaches much, so I wanted to share a few words on how you might be able to eliminate issues with headaches too.
MSG is a big headache trigger for some people. And, this stuff is in everything, almost always disguised under one of the dozens of aliases used by the food industry. (2)
Sometimes, the headache will occur many hours later, so it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint the cause.
If you eat out a lot and/or don’t make your meals at home from scratch, you are almost certainly eating a ton of MSG without realizing it. Changing your habits to eat freshly prepared foods and avoiding takeout can go a long way to minimizing issues from headaches.
Sugar and other refined sweeteners are another common headache trigger. Seesawing blood sugar can bring on a nasty headache very fast even in children.
Looking to the diet and eliminating processed, sugary foods and opting for whole foods that are freshly prepared at home as much as possible is the most direct path to making headache issues a thing of the past.
If you must have a sweet treat, always consume it with a healthy dose of traditional fats like butter, cream, ghee, coconut oil, and olive oil.
Consuming fat with sugar will mitigate the blood sugar spike considerably, hopefully avoiding the potential for a boomerang headache effect from the indulgence.
A small percentage of people suffer from sensitivity to electromagnetic radiation.
In Sweden, sensitivity to EMFs is a recognized disability. Estimates are that it affects approximately 3% of the population. A survey of Swiss doctors concluded that 5% of symptoms such as frequent headaches in patients trace back to EMF exposure. (3)
Minimizing EMFs in the home is a very smart step to eliminating this little-known source of frequent headaches.
6 Natural Remedies for Headache
Even for those of us who eat a great diet, headaches still occur occasionally.
As mentioned above, stress, travel, and eating an MSG-laden meal are the usual culprits.
When I get a headache, I resist the urge to reach for the painkillers. These over the counter meds have long-term side effects that are rarely discussed. For example, even the infrequent use of acetaminophen or paracetamol is very strongly associated with asthma in children. A popular brand name for this drug is Tylenol.
The most common serious side effect from Tylenol use in adults is liver damage. I actually have a friend who required a liver transplant from overuse of Tylenol for headaches.
Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs carry other risks. A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that of the 1015 patients admitted for acute kidney injury, 27 cases were due to the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil®) and naproxen (Aleve®). Most concerning, these problems occurred in the vast majority of cases (75%) despite the correct dosage being used!
Once you realize that there is no free lunch with these over the counter painkillers, figuring out some easy strategies for resolving a sudden headache naturally can really come in handy!
Herb and Minerals Blend
This natural blend of herbs and minerals in easy to take capsules is my first go-to when a headache strikes.
It is also available here from third-party sellers sometimes a bit cheaper.
To use, you take two capsules with food up to three times a day as needed. My personal experience is that it works within about 15 minutes.
One observational study found that 79% of participants experienced a decrease in head discomfort after 30 minutes.
My best results occur from using this herb/mineral remedy for headaches brought on by tension, anxiety, stress, or lack of sleep.
When I get a headache, a cup of green tea will usually knock it out very fast. The caffeine dilates the blood vessels in the head, providing relief. For some reason, coffee doesn’t work for me the same way, and can even make the headache worse.
My guess is that the L-theanine in green tea that is not present in coffee is the reason why. L-theanine is an amino acid that slows caffeine absorption. So, you get the benefits of the caffeine slowly dilating the blood vessels in the head without jitters. Matcha green tea powder is especially powerful as it is so concentrated. Be sure to only use a good quality organic brand, though, as tea leaves can contain high levels of fluoride (this is the one I buy).
Unfortunately, if a person regularly consumes a lot of caffeine, using it to get rid of a headache won’t usually work. In fact, trying to get off caffeine can actually be a headache trigger in and of itself.
But, for those of you who don’t consume caffeine often, try a strong cup of green or black tea! It works great for me and others I’ve shared this tip with over the years.
If you are in a place where you can take a hot shower when a headache unexpectedly hits, I recommend doing so! The water should be as hot as you can stand, hitting the top of your head first and flowing downward from there. Only 5 minutes under the hot water works very well for me.
For more stubborn headaches, you might want to take a hot shower every hour or so until it is fully gone. In other words, the first hot shower might alleviate half of the headache, with the next one knocking it out completely.
There is no need to wash your hair or massage your scalp unless you want to. Simply letting the hot water flow over your head and neck works great for dilating those blood vessels in your head and alleviating the throb from a headache.
Rhodiola is an amazing headache reducer. It is an adaptogenic food, meaning it helps your body adapt to stress when consumed. You can take it as a tincture or in whole form. (4)
There are a few ways to use Rhodiola for headaches.
First, you can take a capsule of wildcrafted Rhodioa with a cup of green tea. This brand is excellent.
Secondly, you can use this brand that combines Rhodiola with green tea extract for on-the-road convenience. A third method is to use Rhodiola tincture with the recommended drops per dose added to a cup of freshly brewed green tea.
Those of you who have read this blog for a while know that I do not recommend the internal use of CBD oil as research suggests that the acidity of the stomach can convert some of the cannabidiol into psychoactive THC.
However, using CBD externally on the skin for pain management is very safe even for children. (5, 6)
I use a nickel-sized dollop of this brand of CBD cream, divide it in half, and rub it into each temple thoroughly. Within 10 minutes or so, a headache disappears like magic! This is an especially convenient method if a headache strikes at night.
A friend of mine swears by coffee enemas for getting rid of even the worst headaches.
While the research is sparse to support this, there is significant anecdotal evidence of migraine headache relief from coffee enemas. Some conventional doctors even recommend their regular use for pain management in cancer patients.
The likely reason coffee enemas work is because they stimulate the liver to release glutathione, the Mother of all antioxidants. This sudden surge helps to detoxify the body quickly of whatever is causing the headache. Hence, the rapid relief.
Note: If migraines are a consistent issue, severe gut dysbiosis is the likely culprit. I would suggest making an appointment with a Certified GAPS Practitioner to get you on the path to resolving it. I recommend Monica Corrado at simplybeingwell.com or Biodynamicwellness.com
(1) Headache and migraine – Statistics & Facts
(2) Common industry names for MSG
(3) Swiss EMF Study
(4) Rhodiola Benefits
(5) CBD for Pain
(6) Cannabidiol Use in an Outpatient Palliative Medicine Population
Two large cups of water at the onset helps it go away. I tend to not drink enough and this helps me. The other thing which helps is ice packs on your wrists, back of neck, forehead-a good cool down. Learned this in the hospital. Peppermint also helps. Lack of sleep can cause issues, so sleeping can be good, too.
Belladonna. Homeopathic anti inflammatory. Safe to dose as often as needed. Mine can often be sinus headaches. If belladonna isn’t enough then add sinasilia every 15 minutes together with my homeopathic dr’s immune combo which is a blend of about 7 homeopathics. Wish I had read a blog like this many years ago! I’ve fought head aches way too often… homeopathic dr says that eventually the heads will quit altogether as the homeopathics train the body
What potency of Belladonna?
That CBD cream has a ton of ingredients…it’s your favorite??
Sarah Pope MGA
Yes it is. It works the best of the brands I’ve tried. Notice that many of the ingredients are herbs or oils.
I checked on every ingredient in the Skin Deep database and every single one but two come back green (safe). Two that were far down the list were orange (moderate risk) and none were red (danger).
I consider this cream to be very safe. My kids use it too. They usually use it for sports bruising and athletic strains rather than headaches, by the way.
Your link for the Rhodiola tincture goes back to the Perfect Supplements Rhodiola page.
Sarah Pope MGA
Whoops! Let me fix that. Thank you for letting me know!
Magnesium all the way!!
Sarah Pope MGA
Yes, that works for some people I’ve heard. If you take it internally, it can bring on diarrhea pretty bad though. How do you use it?