Headaches really are one of life’s great injustices. There you are, happily going about your day, and next thing… wham! It hits you seemingly out of the blue, causing your head to throb, your brain to stop working and your life to become instantly hellish.
Headaches are a common human ailment, however, some people are prone to them more than others. In America alone, it is estimated that over 47 million people experience a severe or debilitating headache at least every 12 weeks. And that’s just the really bad ones. Minor headaches are even more frequent companions, and while they may go away after a while, during their course you’d be forgiven for thinking that someone was repeatedly hitting you over the head with a tennis racquet or half-frozen fish.
But it turns out that you don’t need to suffer, and I’m not talking about finding relief at the hands of some liver-damaging, toxin-loaded over-the-counter painkiller. Here are a few easy, natural home remedies you’ve likely already got lying around the house that you can use to give that nasty headache the boot.
1. Lavender essential oil
The power of essential oils cannot be overlooked, and few are more powerful and versatile than lavender. Lavender essential oil has long been used as a cure for headaches, originally as a form of aromatherapy and more recently as a direct topical application.
I always carry a bottle of lavender essential oil with me, and if I’m beset with a headache I mix it with a carrier oil such as coconut oil (not essential, but it helps the oil penetrate deeper and work faster) and rub it on my temples, the back of my neck and behind my ears. I also make sure I place the oil bottle directly under my nose and take a few deep inhalations.
Lavender essential oil also helps you sleep more soundly, and people who are sleep deprived are typically more prone to headaches. If this sounds like you, simply sprinkle a few drops of lavender essential on your pillow once a week, and drift off to sleep on a lavender-scented cloud.
2. Diet changes
Ok, so I know you were looking for some super-easy “remedy” which you could mix up in a bowl or glass at home, knock back, and everything would be easy breezy up in your noggin. Certainly, there’s plenty of things which fit that bill (more on that next), but one of the most effective things you can do to avoid headaches in the first place is to work out what your trigger foods are.
Common foods which are known to trigger headaches include alcohol, caffeine, cheese, MSG, processed food, dried fruit, ice cream, chocolate, gluten and aspartame. Many of these are things you should avoid like the plague anyway (i.e. MSG, processed food, gluten and aspartame), while the others may or may not be an issue for you. The best way to find out is to note down what you’ve eaten immediately preceding a headache. The only way you’ll find your trigger food is by careful observation. Be vigilant, you’ll find that sneaky blighter soon enough!
3. Peppermint essential oil
The only viable contender to the headache-crushing might of lavender essential oil is peppermint oil. Like lavender, peppermint essential oil has long been recognized as an effective treatment for headaches, due to its vasoconstricting and vasodilating properties. These enable peppermint essential oil to help control and balance the flow of blood in your veins, ensuring enough oxygen is making it to your brain via the bloodstream.
Similar to lavender, apply peppermint essential oil to the back of the neck, temples, behind the ears or forehead. But be warned – this is potent stuff! Because of the strength of peppermint, you definitely want to dilute it with a carrier oil. There’s plenty around, like coconut oil, castor oil or olive oil, so just grab whatever you have on hand and mix it with some peppermint oil. Next, gently massage it onto the problem area.
Many people fail to recognize when a headache is being caused by tight or cramped muscles in their neck, shoulders or jaw — it’s far more common than you might think! For that reason, one of the best things you can do to alleviate a headache is to perform a series of stretches designed to loosen the muscles around your head.
Try doing a series of shoulder shrugs, followed by neck isometrics (press your palm into your forehead and hold, then press your hand onto each side of your head), then slowly move your chin forward, upward, then towards each shoulder. You could top this stretching trifecta off with a nice soothing scalp massage to encourage blood flow to your head and directly calm your greater occipital nerve, located at the base of the skull.
Be patient and gentle, and you’re bound to send that headache scuttling from whence it came.
— Liivi Hess
Now that you’re familiar with a number of ways to alleviate headaches at home, how about stopping the problem before it even occurs? Here are ten of the most common food headache triggers, so you can work out what sets off your own headaches.