Headaches are a part of being human. Some people get them regularly, and others get headaches only rarely. Severity varies from person to person, as does the cause of the headache. Even when only mildly annoying, a headache can affect your ability to function fully and alertly. If you’re in a situation where Tylenol, aspirin, or prescription pain medication isn’t an option, nor is doing nothing because you have to be focused on taking care of yourself and others, you need to know how to keep a headache at bay.
Thankfully, there are quite a few natural remedies that can alleviate the pain of a headache. There are also many natural ways to keep headaches from becoming an issue at all, or at least to minimize your risk of being stricken with one. By employing preventative and natural measures, you can successfully reign in the annoyance of headaches without drugs.
Preventative Measures and Action
First and foremost, stay hydrated. Water is the cure for so many ills, and headaches are no exception. Should you find yourself in a situation where water is scarce, be mindful of what else you are putting in your body to ensure it is not using up valuable water. Salt, alcohol, sugar, and caffeine will dehydrate you. While all of those can initially ease the pain of a headache, they can also put you in danger of further headaches after the initial easing of pain. If water is plentiful, it is the easiest remedy for a headache – and if it’s curing your headache, you’ll likely notice you have more energy and feel more alert as well.
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Lack of sleep can be a contributing factor to headaches, as well. In an emergency situation, sleep may be hard to come by, but you should always get as much as you are able to. In fact, studies show that poor sleep contributes to migraines. Even if you don’t end up with a full-blown migraine, lack of sleep and the dull pain of a tension headache are a poor combination that no one wants to deal with. Forcing yourself to be awake does nobody any favors – go to bed early when you are able.
Mild headaches can also be relieved with stretching. Stretching doesn’t require any resources, simply your own energy and a little bit of space. The first section of your body you’ll want to focus on is your shoulders. Are they lifted up and tight? Let them drop and let out a deep breath. You may notice a difference from just this as your muscles loosen up. A stretch nearly as simple is to straighten up your neck, look straight ahead, and then put your chin down. Look back up, then go left, right, then back, finally returning your chin to the front. Put your chin down on your chest again, and gently roll left to right, keeping your child down while doing this. Repeat until you feel loosened up. Doing these stretches relieves headache-causing pressure from your nerves.
Another way to relieve tension that requires no medicine and simple household objects is to bite down on something – a pen or pencil, for example. Doing so will cause you to use certain muscles that become tight, leading to tension headaches. You might feel silly trying this out, but that won’t matter if you can get rid of a tension headache without worrying about how to find pain relief medication.
Many common herbs and spices can also ease the pain of a headache. However, if you are planning on storing these be aware of how long they have been stored for. Many herbs and essential oils do have somewhat short shelf lives and may lose their efficacy. Be sure to store them properly to get as much use out of them as possible, too.
What herbs can help alleviate a headache?
Peppermint is an herb with soothing qualities, and its scent can help to calm nerves and relieve tension, thus lessening your headache. You can boil some water with peppermint leaves and make a peppermint tea to drink (or, if you have them available, use ready-made peppermint teabags). You may also notice that the tea has a strong scent – that’s good, and you should breath it in as you drink the tea. Or, simply breathe in the scent of the steam from your hot tea without even drinking the tea. The strong scent of peppermint alone can relieve tension and ease headaches. You can also use peppermint essential oil to soothe a headache; just rub a small amount on your temples. Dried peppermint has a fairly long shelf life – up to three years, and the essential oil lasts about four years if kept in a cool, dry space.
Feverfew is a famous and oft-cited herb for combatting migraines. It can not only help to lessen the intensity of a migraine once it starts, but has also been credited with preventing the headaches before they start. If you are a regular sufferer of migraines, you might find it worth your while to get a supply of feverfew supplements to keep on hand in case you are in a situation where you don’t have access to your prescription migraine medicine anymore. Additionally, you can grow feverfew either inside (if you have a grow light or a very sunny window) or outside. It’s fairly easy to grow, so if you or someone in your family gets regular migraines it is certainly worth trying to keep a plant. It’s a perennial, so you won’t have to replant every single year, and you’ll have a regular supply of fresh feverfew leaves to help with headache relief. The fresh leaves from the plants can be chewed, about two at a time, to relieve and/or prevent headaches. Some people even include the leaves with their regular meals, in a salad or on a sandwich. Be cautious, though, as if you are new to using feverfew you will want to ensure you are not one of those who experiences swelling of the mouth area from chewing the leaves. Some people also have gastrointestinal issues associated with use of the herb, so try it out cautiously as you first begin using this remedy.
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Cayenne is a spice that you can put to good use as a headache remedy. Commonly available, this spice works to relieve headaches because it contains capsaicin, a pain inhibitor. Using cayenne as a natural remedy is easy enough – just mix a bit (about 1/2 teaspoon or so) with water to dilute the spice, then take a cotton swab, dip it in the mixture, and very gently dab the inside of your nostril with the swab. It’ll be uncomfortable, but as the slight burning sensation subsides, so will your headache. Like most other herbs and spices, dry cayenne pepper has a shelf life of about three years, and should be stored in a dry, cool place. If you have cayenne pepper older than three years, just test it out by giving it a quick sniff – if it doesn’t smell of anything, it’s lost its effectiveness, but if it still has a strong scent, go ahead and use it. You’ll be able to tell pretty easily if it’s still potent.
Ginger is another go-to spice for pain relief. Using ginger to relieve your headaches is pretty simple – steep some fresh ginger root to make a tea, either by itself or with lemon juice. Chewing on some ginger might also help ease side effects of more severe headaches like nausea. You can also grow ginger at home, either outdoors if you live in a warm climate, or indoors in a pot or tub. Doing so will provide you with a supply of fresh ginger root to use not only for headaches, but for a variety of other ailments as well.
Like ginger, apple cider vinegar is can provide relief from many aches, pains, and ills. It has a longer effective shelf life than dry herbs and spices, as it lasts about five years at full potency. After that time, it’s still probably safe, just not as effective. Be sure when you’re storing it that the cap is always screwed on tightly and it’s in a cool, dry place. To use apple cider vinegar as a remedy for headaches, you have a couple of options. You can boil it with water, at about a 1:1 ratio, then breath in the steam from the concoction. If you want to trap the steam as you do this, drape a towel over your head to fully immerse yourself in the scent. You can also mix a small amount of apple cider vinegar with water and drink the mixture. Be cautious of how much apple cider vinegar you are using, as it is very strong and as little as two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar mixed with a cup of water can be effective. To temper the taste of the vinegar, you can also add lemon, honey, or both to the mixture. Lemon has its own therapeutic properties that you might find to be beneficial, and if the headache is accompanied by a head cold, honey can help to soothe your throat.
Adapting to Your Situation
In the modern world, it is very easy to reach for an aspirin to cure your headache. If none is available, though, there is a plant found in nature that is nearly equivalent to aspirin in how it treats headaches – the bark of a willow tree. It’s active ingredient is salicin, and the bark is also useful in treating pains other than headaches, including lower back pain. If you live in an area where willow trees grow, identify one, cut a square of bark, and boil it to make a tea. But of course, as with any other herb or plant, if you are not completely sure, don’t ingest anything from it! You can also simply, but carefully, chew on the bark. Be aware that you are not swallowing any splinters of the bark, though – just the saliva that now has the salicin from the bark in it.
As you can see, nature is bountiful when it comes to headache remedies. While those who suffer from the most severe of migraines may not be able to fully feel the relief of modern prescription pain medications, there are ways to mediate the pain should there be no such medication available. For the more mild headaches that everyone gets, but that still interfere with the ability to fully function, simple steps like drinking more water, getting more sleep, and stretching can help to prevent and relieve the pain. Herbs and plants that are commonly available are highly effective in relieving headaches, and make a valuable addition to any medical storage and preparing you may be doing. While modern medicine has its perks, there are other options and with the right supplies and knowledge you won’t have to suffer even if you don’t have access to prescriptions and technologically-enhanced medical facilities.