One of the biggest factors that can put a damper over any day is a headache. Headaches make it hard to concentrate or enjoy virtually anything, and they can often sneak up on you without notice and stick around for anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days.
As many as one in six Americans experience chronic headaches, meaning they are a regular part of their lives. This makes even the simplest task difficult to accomplish and leaves little motivation to do much else. All in all, headaches make for a difficult time that can fuel further health problems.
Most people will tell you to reach for an Advil and work it out, but that doesn’t seem like the best option to me. Instead, I like to use herbal remedies to prevent and treat headaches. Herbs and herbal teas have been used for centuries across the world and are still effective methods of dealing with various aches and pains. Some herbs can help aid the symptoms of severe migraine headaches like nausea and vomiting, making it quite easy to treat headaches with home remedies.
Common Causes of Headaches
There are a number of reasons as to why you can get a headache. It might have to do with stress, being tired, missing a meal, poor posture, drinking too much alcohol, dehydration or even an ear infection. Also, some people just have it in their genes and are more prone to getting headaches than others. It might be why you or someone you know regularly experiences migraines and others never have them.
Regardless of why you have a headache, it usually falls into one of two categories: a primary headache or a secondary headache. Primary headaches are caused by chemical activity in your brain, the nerves of blood vessels on your head, muscles in your head and neck, or a combination of these factors. They are not symptoms from an existing disease or another health condition. Some common examples of primary headaches are:
- Cluster headaches: These are one of the most painful types of headaches and often occur in patterns or “clusters.” They can happen at night while you sleep, often causing sufferers to wake up with intense pain around the eye or side of the head.
- Migraine headaches: Also extremely painful, a migraine is identified by an intense pulsing or throbbing sensation behind your eye or somewhere else around the head. It’s often accompanied by symptoms like dizziness, nausea, vomiting and high sensitivity to light and sound. In some cases, they can last for days at a time. They are sometimes preceded by sensations like flashes of light or tingling in the limbs.
- Tension headaches: A tension headache is the most common form of a primary headache, but also the least severe (in terms of pain). Typically, you will feel like there is some pressure against your head.
Now although primary headaches are not part of another condition, external forces can trigger them. For example, they can be triggered by:
- Processed food
- Changes in sleep pattern
- Lack of sleep
- Poor posture
- Missing meals
Secondary headaches, on the other hand, are symptoms associated with another health condition. The associated conditions activate pain-sensitive nerves in the head, and some examples of things that cause them are:
- Blood clots in the brain
- Ear infection
- Panic Attack
- Ice Cream headaches (also known as brain freeze)
Regardless of what kind of headache you have, it can be treated with an herbal home remedy. There are a number of herbs and herbal teas that can relieve pain and the associated symptoms of headaches by relaxing blood vessels, easing inflammation, and helping you relax. And if you choose to make these teas a regular part of your day, you might be able to prevent headaches before they ever start.
6 Herbal Teas to Help Treat Headaches
Feverfew is an herb native to Europe and Asia; it has been used to treat headaches for centuries. The active ingredient in the plant is parthenolide, which has anti-inflammatory and vessel-widening effects. Parthenolide helps relieve muscle spasms and prevent blood vessels in the brain from constricting.
Some evidence indicates it works best as a preventative measure and will not stop a migraine once it’s started, so if you experience migraines it might be worthwhile to make feverfew a part of your daily routine. It can be purchased at health food stores in capsule form, or you can purchase the dried leaves to steep in a tea. The tea will have a bitter flavor and may irritate your mouth, so proceed with caution. About 50-100 milligrams (mg) per day should do, or one to two cups of tea per day. Please note that it could take a few weeks to start working, and that it should be taken with food.
Skullcap is best used for stress headaches, as it has a relaxing effect. Along with making you feel more relaxed, it will relax your blood vessels and allow blood to flow through freely, thus removing some pressure caused by a headache.
The active ingredients in skullcap are flavonoids that possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is a mild sedative, so try not to drink it if you’re on the job or need to be sharp! Prepare skullcap tea by infusing one tablespoon of skullcap in a cup of hot water for 15 minutes. Keep in mind that skullcap might make you feel a little drowsy, like you’re under the influence, for about the first 10 to 30 minutes after taking it.
3. Chamomile tea:
Chamomile tea can also help relieve migraine symptoms for some. It is a mild sedative with relaxing qualities. Like other herbal teas, it can act as an anti-inflammatory and also work to reduce muscle spasms. Chamomile tea can depress the nervous system, allowing for a calming and drowsy effect that should be considered if you have to operate machinery or do something at full attention.
The best way to enjoy chamomile when treating a headache is to make sure you’re comfortable and in a relaxed environment. Steep chamomile leaves or a tea bag for 10 minutes.
4. Ginger root:
This herb has some impressive research findings that indicate it can effectively treat headaches. A 2014 study, for example, showed ginger powder treatment was comparable to the common migraine prescription drug sumatriptan, but had fewer side effects.
Ginger can offer relief in a few ways. First, it has anti-inflammatory effects that can reduce pain and swelling. It can also help with the immediate symptoms of migraines, like nausea and vomiting.
5. Sichuan lovage:
Sichuan lovage has been a traditional Chinese remedy for headaches and migraines, and is available online, in health food stores, and in the offices of Chinese herbalists.
Two to three cups per day can provide headache relief or prevention.
Before including herbal teas into your daily regimen, you might want to check with your physician. Although you’re unlikely to get sick from these teas (you’d have to take a lot to experience toxicity) they can possible have adverse side- effects or negative interactions with certain medications.
If you’re on blood thinners, for example, you might need to avoid herbal teas. For an added benefit, take a magnesium supplement with the tea—magnesium can help reduce headaches, too.
Herbal Tea Recipes
You can also combine teas and other ingredients for headache relief. Here are some recipes that are worth a shot.
- 5 dried plums (prunes)
- 1 tablespoon of green tea
- 2 tablespoons of mint
- 3.5 cup of water
Boil the prunes, green tea, and mint in 3.5 cups of water for 15 minutes. Drink a maximum of three cups per day when you get a headache.
Ginger Lemon Herbal Tea
- 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into rounds
- 1-2 slices of lemon (optional)
- 2 teaspoons of Lemon or Lemon Raspberry Natural Calm (Natural Calm is a magnesium supplement available at health food stores, the pharmacy, and online.)
- 2 cups of water
Combine the water, ginger, and lemon slices in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Once it has come to a boil, reduce to low heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool slightly. Put the Natural Calm in a large mug and pour in the tea. Strain the pieces of ginger and lemon.
Passion Flower Power
- 4 teaspoons of chamomile flowers
- 3 teaspoons of lemon balm
- 2 teaspoons of feverfew
- 1 teaspoon of skullcap
- 1 teaspoons of passion flower
- 1/3 teaspoons of ginger root
Combine the ingredients in a tea infuser or tea pot and brew for 10-15 minutes. If you like, you can use the “parts” method—as long as you stay consistent in serving size—to make a big batch. This tea blend can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to six months.
- 1 tablespoon of feverfew (two to three dried leaves)
- 1 cup of water
This simple but effective recipe can be ready in 30-60 minutes. To add a little more flavor, include a small handful of lavender, chamomile, and lemon.
Handle Headaches with These Home Remedies
By using herbal teas as a preventative measure for your headaches, you can regain the enjoyment of your life. Try and spend some time kicking back in the evening, relaxing with a nice cup of herbal tea. It can set you up for a good night’s sleep and help make sure yesterday’s pain does not affect you tomorrow.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Stickler, T., “Migraine Herbal Home Remedies from Around the World,” Healthline web site, July 8, 2015; http://www.healthline.com/health/migraine-herbal-home-remedies-from-around-the-world#2.
Pareek, A., et al., “Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium L.): A Systematic Review,” Pharmacognosy Reviews, 2011; 5(9): 103-110.
Maghbooli, M., et al., “Comparison between the efficacy of ginger and sumatriptan in the ablative treatment of the common migraine,” Phytotherapy Research, 2014; 28(3):412-415.
Ni, M.S., “Heal Your Headaches Naturally,” Dr. Oz Show web site, August 24, 2011; http://www.doctoroz.com/blog/mao-shing-ni-lac-dom-phd/heal-your-headaches-naturally.
“Feverfew and migraine,” The Migraine Trust web site; http://www.migrainetrust.org/factsheet-feverfew-and-migraine-10904, last accessed September 25, 2015.
“Tea for Migraines,” Migraine.com; http://migraine.com/migraine-treatment/natural-remedies/tea/, last accessed September 25, 2015.
Simon, H., “Migraine headaches,” University of Maryland Medical Center web site; http://umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/migraine-headaches, last accessed September 25, 2015.