Headaches affect everyone from time to time, but for some people they can be a regular occurrence. In most cases, a headache will go away by itself after a few hours, or can be nipped in the bud by using over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
However, if you are suffering from frequent headaches, you might be surprised to learn that taking too many painkillers can actually make your headaches worse! For this reason, people often ask us how to get rid of a headache naturally.
So how do you get rid of a headache without taking medication? Luckily, it’s easier than you might think. Here are our top ten all-natural home remedies for headaches. Why not give them a try?
- Eat and drink regularly
Hunger and dehydration are two of the most common causes of headaches. Therefore, it is essential to eat and drink water at regular intervals throughout the day, even if you do not feel hungry or thirsty.
Drinking water is also a quick and easy way to relieve a headache without medication. Try taking small sips regularly rather than knocking back several glasses in one go. Once you are sufficiently hydrated, your headache should begin to disappear.
- Look at your diet
Eating regularly is important, but you should also pay attention to what you eat as certain foods are known to trigger headaches.
Some of the most common headache trigger foods and drinks include alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, sandwich meat, and chocolate. If you suffer from frequent headaches, try keeping a journal noting down everything you have eaten and drunk each time you have a headache. If you see a pattern emerging, try eliminating those foods from your diet and see if your headaches improve.
- Rest and relaxation
Lack of sleep and stress are both common causes of headaches which often go hand in hand. Ideally you should aim to get around eight hours sleep each night. Any more or less than this could lead to headaches. Ensure a good night’s sleep by having a regular bedtime and keeping your bedroom cool, dark, and comfortable. Don’t eat late at night, and avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening.
Relaxation techniques are another great way to calm your mind before bed, or any time you feel your stress getting the better of you. One of the simplest techniques to try is mindful breathing. All you need to do is breathe normally while paying attention to the subtle changes in your body as you inhale and exhale. Try doing this for 1–2 minutes and see how much calmer you feel.
You may not feel like exercising when you have a headache, but staying active when you are well is a great way to improve your health in general. Exercises such as running and cycling are great for improving your circulation which could help to prevent headaches. More gentle practices like yoga and tai chi are also beneficial as they can help to relax your neck muscles and improve posture, both of which are a great way to get rid of headaches naturally.
- Use hot and cold compresses
When a headache strikes, try relieving it by using hot or cold packs on the affected area. For migraines, try placing a cool, damp cloth over your forehead and resting until your headache passes.
For tension-type headaches, you might find a heat pack placed on the back of your neck helps to relax your muscles and soothe your headache away.
- Herbal remedies
There are several herbal remedies which are traditionally used to treat headaches naturally. Two of the most common of these are feverfew and butterbur. Although these are natural remedies, it is a good idea to talk to a physician or herbalist first to make sure that they are safe for you.
One herbal remedy that is safe for most people to try at home is ginger. You can buy supplements containing this herb, or brew your own warming ginger tea. Just take a thumb-sized piece of ginger, slice it thinly and steep in hot water for 10–20 minutes before drinking. Try adding a little honey if you find the ginger flavor too strong.
Magnesium is thought to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches when taken as a dietary supplement. However, high doses of magnesium can cause unpleasant side effects such as diarrhea.
If you would prefer to boost your magnesium intake naturally, try adding more magnesium-rich foods to your diet. These include leafy greens, nuts, whole grain cereals, fish, meat, and dairy products.
The smell of certain essential oils can help to relieve headaches for some people. Two of the most effective aromatherapy oils for headaches are peppermint and lavender. If you want to know how to get rid of a headache using aromatherapy, here’s what you need to do.
Try rubbing a couple of drops of peppermint oil onto your temples or find a soothing balm containing menthol, the cooling compound found in peppermint oil. You can also enjoy the calming aroma of lavender oil by rubbing a couple of drops just beneath your nostrils, or diffusing it in your home.
- Try acupuncture or acupressure
Acupuncture is the ancient Chinese art of using fine needles to treat a wide variety of conditions, including headaches. Acupuncture benefits headaches by boosting the action of endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers. It is also a fantastic stress reliever and may help to improve your sleep and energy levels too!
There has been a lot of research on acupuncture for headaches, and the results are generally very positive. Although acupuncture couldn’t exactly be called a home remedy for headaches, you could try using acupressure instead. Acupressure is a form of massage based on the principles of acupuncture and is safe to try on yourself any time you need some fast relief.
- Things to avoid
If you suffer from regular headaches, there are a number of things you can avoid to prevent them from happening in the first place.
Alcohol is a major cause of headaches as it causes dehydration and also relaxes the blood vessels, increasing circulation to your head. Caffeine, or rather caffeine withdrawal, can cause headaches too. Therefore, it is a good idea to keep alcohol and caffeine to a minimum and if you want to cut down, do so gradually over time.
Another thing to avoid is straining your eyes. Take regular breaks from looking at electronic screens, and consider turning the brightness down on your computer or phone if necessary. You should also get your eyes checked regularly to make sure your eyesight is not causing headaches.
When to See a Doctor About Your Headaches
Most headaches can be treated with these home remedies, but there are still a few occasions when you should talk to your physician.
Make an appointment if you have recurring headaches, or if they are not relieved by over-the-counter medication. Headaches accompanied by nausea, vomiting, weak or numb limbs, jaw pain, or visual disturbances could also be a sign of a more serious underlying condition and should be checked out.
Seek urgent medical attention if you have a headache following an injury, or if your headache came on suddenly and is very severe. Headaches with drowsiness, confusion, fever, stiff neck, or rashes also need to be investigated as soon as possible.