Home remedies can often ease the pain of common tension and migraine headaches. Natural remedies for headaches may help prevent headaches, too.
Almost everyone has a headache at one time or another — and for millions of people, headaches are all too frequent. In fact, headache pain is a major reason people miss days at work and school. Headaches result in countless visits to doctors, too, the National Institutes of Health notes.
Although some headaches are the result of serious medical conditions, the vast majority are primary headaches, meaning they are not caused by other health problems. Do-it-yourself headache remedies can often relieve them.
Tension headaches, resulting from muscle contractions in your head and neck, are often described as feeling like there’s a tight band around your head. Migraines produce throbbing pain, usually on one side of your head. You may have other symptoms, including nausea and sensitivity to light.
While some people need prescription medication stronger than over-the-counter headache remedies like aspirin or ibuprofen for their tension and, especially, migraine headaches, drugs are not always totally effective and may have worrisome side effects. What’s more, too much reliance on medication can cause rebound headaches when the drugs wear off, resulting in even more intense headaches.
But here’s good news: Alternative, natural remedies for headaches can soothe and even prevent headaches for many people, according to the National Headache Foundation. Even if you do need pain relievers from time to time, you can use home remedies for headache in conjunction with your medication, if needed.
(Of course, always talk to your doctor if there’s any doubt about the type of headache pain you are experiencing and to make sure any medication you take can safely be combined with supplements.)
Supplements for headaches
Your body needs riboflavin (vitamin B2) to create an energy-producing substance called ATP. Boosting riboflavin appears to help migraine headaches, according to American Academy of Neurology headache treatment guidelines. Over time, taking riboflavin supplements can decrease the frequency of migraine headaches, the National Headache Foundation reports.
Coenzyme Q10, an antioxidant, is crucial for the function of cells in your body. It is considered a possibly effective headache treatment and may be especially helpful in preventing migraines, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) explains.
Magnesium deficiency is related to factors, like painful muscle contractions, that promote tension headaches. What’s more, people who suffer from migraines often have lower levels of magnesium in their bodies compared to those who don’t experience migraines — and magnesium supplements have been found to effectively prevent migraines.
Magnesium in higher-than-normal amounts, however, can cause diarrhea and may interact with some medications, so the NCCIH advises taking supplements in high doses only under your doctor’s supervision.
Extract from the roots of the butterbur shrub have also been shown in several studies to reduce the frequency and severity of headaches, the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society found. Side effects are mild digestive symptoms, like belching.
Consider more home remedies for headache
Headache remedies don’t have to be supplements or medication. Many natural remedies for headache involve other pro-active strategies. For example, taking a hot shower can help relieve tension and sinus headaches. Relaxation techniques, including yoga, meditation, and progressively relaxing your muscles, can often relieve headache pain, too.
Headaches are a common symptom of mild-to-moderate dehydration. Not drinking enough hydrating liquids trigger many types of headaches. So, make sure you drink enough fluids throughout the day. Water is your best choice. Sugary drinks or sports drinks loaded with salt are not as effective and may make dehydration worse, according to the National Headache Foundation.
Other common remedies for relieving headaches are adequate sleep, cool compresses, and diming the lights.
The National Headache Foundation also advises keeping a headache journal. You can help identify potentially avoidable or modifiable triggers for both tension and migraine headaches if you record:
- When and where your headaches occur
- What you ate
- The amount of sleep you had
- Pollen levels in your area
- Any stress you were under
Make sure home remedies for headaches are right for you
Not all headaches require a doctor visit, and the majority are not signs of serious problems. But you should be aware of exceptions. Always talk to your doctor if there’s any doubt about your headache diagnosis.
Instead of relying on home headache remedies, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) urges seeking medical care if you experience these symptoms, which may indicate a serious health problem:
- A sudden, severe headache associated with a stiff neck
- A headache associated with fever, convulsions, confusion, or loss of consciousness
- Headaches following a blow to the head or associated with a painful eye or ear
- Persistent headaches, if you’ve mostly always been headache-free in the past
March 31, 2023
Janet O’Dell, RN