All headaches have an underlying cause, and all too often, over-the-counter painkillers treat only the symptoms and this could lead to the underlying, bigger problems being masked.
The list of headache causes is seemingly endless and includes tension, caffeine withdrawal, sinus congestion, dehydration, constipation, food allergies, lack of sleep, or spinal misalignment. Once you manage to identify the cause of your headache, chances are that there are natural remedies available that will alleviate these. It has been proven that lavender oil is beneficial for lowering heart rate and reducing anxiety. If you suspect anxiety is causing your headache, you could use this lavender lemonade recipe. Lavender also has a host of other benefits including acting as an antidepressant and a detoxifier.
The side effects of painkillers are often severe. Diarrhoea, nausea, and liver and kidney problems are some of the possible side effects of too much acetaminophen (Tylenol), while Motrin and Advil both contain Ibuprofen, which has been linked to an increased risk of circulation and heart problems, including stroke and heart attack.
Migraines are different types of headaches all together and many researchers believe they are neurological in nature. It is thought that the brain sometimes does not constrict the nerve pathways that open the arteries to the brain and, as blood flows in unchecked, it causes a pounding headache.
Migraines are often associated with certain trigger foods and avoiding these might be key to preventing them to happen in the first place. Identifying which specific food triggers your migraine may be tricky however, as the list of potential culprits is extensive and includes chocolate, red wine, caffeine, processed meat and dairy products.
A number of natural migraine therapies such as feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) and butterbur (Petasites hybridus), have been found to act as effective, natural headaches remedies.
Another completely natural cure for headaches is acupressure (acupuncture without the needles). In this practise, meridians, (channels of energy) are stimulated and that encourages healing throughout the body.
Dr. Linda White writes about natural health for Mother Earth News. In a recent article, she mentioned the three herbs listed above, but also includes gingko biloba, rosemary and chamomile as having proven records in stopping or preventing migraines. She does however caution that although they are not tested or regulated, herbs can still be very potent, and a trusted naturopath or doctor should be consulted before alternative remedies are used.
Dr. White also points out that clinical trials held recently demonstrated that riboflavin, coenzyme Q10 and magnesium (3 nutritional supplements) could be extremely effective at reducing the severity and frequency of migraines.
Although there are many other natural ingredients listed as being a cure for pain in general and headaches in particular, not all of these have been proven scientifically, so be careful what you do! One of the unlikely candidates is cayenne. Using something spicy to cure a headache might sound counterintuitive, but cayenne contains capsaicin. Numerous studies have shown that capsaicin inhibits one of the main elements in pain perception in our bodies. Substance P has an influence on how we feel pain and capsaicin depletes it. In a study published in The Clinical Journal of Pain in 1998, it was shown that when cayenne was applied to the nasal passages a significant decrease in the severity of headaches was reported. This effect was ascribed to the capsaicin in the cayenne.
The only way to really know if these remedies work is to try them, but be careful when you do! The results might be as unexpected as the side effects of drugs.