Headaches are a very common form of pain and can be a nuisance when someone has one. Rather than reaching for over-the-counter painkillers, there are many natural methods that people can try to help them get rid of a headache.
In this article, we look at a range of home and natural remedies for headaches. People can try many of these remedies right away, and some of them might help to prevent headaches in the future.
Drinking enough water may help prevent headaches or reduce their severity.
Dehydration can be an underlying cause of many simple headaches. It may also alter how a person feels, acts, or thinks.
As a study in the journal Antioxidants notes, even slight dehydration may alter how people think and function, making them feel worse, with or without a headache.
Water may help make someone in this situation feel better, although some studies are more cautious.
A critical reading of one study published in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice noted that drinking water did not reduce how long people had their headaches, but it did make them subjectively feel better.
Staying hydrated may be as simple as carrying a water bottle around and sipping on it throughout the day. Eating foods high in liquid, such as fruits, smoothies, or soups, may also improve hydration.
A cold compress may be a simple headache solution that many people have on hand. Applying an ice pack or another cold item to the head or neck may help constrict the blood vessels and reduce inflammation in the area. Doing so could temporarily relieve headache pain.
In other cases, such as with a tension headache where the muscles are too tight, a warm compress may help relax these muscles and bring relief.
A warm compress could be as simple as a heated towel. People may be able to get the same effect from a tepid shower or bath.
In some cases, there is a physical reason for a headache. Check for anything that is putting too much pressure on the head. This may be a ponytail or bun that is too tight or a hat or headband that has been on too long.
Some people who get headaches become sensitive to light. Bright office lights or even the bright light from a smartphone may make symptoms worse.
It may help to rest in a dark or dimly lit room while recovering from a headache.
Herbal tea may be a useful way to add water to the diet while also enjoying the benefits of other natural compounds.
For instance, ginger tea may help with a migraine. One 2013 study found that ginger powder had similar effects to a common medication for reducing migraines. A simple tea of warm water and ginger powder may help with symptoms.
Other potentially calming teas include herbs such as peppermint, chamomile, and lavender.
Exercise may help keep the body healthy and promote better circulation, which might reduce the chances of a headache showing up.
One 2018 review of research published in the journal Children noted that too little exercise may actually influence headaches among adolescents. Regular, moderate exercise may help, such as briskly walking or riding a bike for 30 minutes a day.
Sometimes food intolerances may be the underlying cause of symptoms such as a headache.
If a headache seems to show up after meals, it may be helpful for people to keep a food journal of everything they eat each day. This may enable them to identify and avoid any foods that could trigger a headache.
Different issues may lead to headaches, and sleep problems are among the more common ones.
Getting too much or too little sleep or not sleeping soundly may influence a headache in some people, as they have not fully rested their body.
Acupuncture is part of traditional Chinese medicine, where practitioners place small needles into the surface of the skin. The aim is not to cause pain but to stimulate the body's own energy.
The review published in Children notes that research has shown acupuncture to be an effective way to prevent migraines and tension headaches or reduce their frequency.
Massaging certain pressure points may help relieve tension in the head and reduce a headache. Many people do this instinctively, such as rubbing the back of the neck or pinching the top of the nose when they feel stressed.
There may be some truth to these instincts. Many people find that massaging the temples, jaw, or neck may help relieve tension and reduce a tension headache that comes from being too stressed.
Some other areas to try massaging include the area between the eyebrows and the two spots at the base of the eyebrows on either side of the bridge of the nose. These spots may hold tension from the eyes or head, and massaging them could help relieve this tension.
Massaging the neck near the base of the skull may also help release tension.
Relaxation techniques include practices such as deep-belly breathing, guided meditations, and actively focusing on relaxing the muscles.
Drinking a beverage with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, or soda, may sometimes help ease a headache.
Some pain medications designed for headaches include caffeine, as the compound may improve their effectiveness.
As a review published in the Journal of Headache and Pain notes, caffeine by itself may help reduce symptoms of a tension headache or migraine. Caffeine tends to relax the blood vessels, which may support circulation and ease tension.
Aromatherapy that uses some essential oils may also relieve symptoms of a headache. The 2018 review in Children noted that inhaling lavender essential oil for 15 minutes reduced the severity of headaches, according to one study.
The smells of essential oils may bother some people, and experimenting with different oils that individuals find relaxing may be a way to ease headache symptoms.
Adding magnesium to the diet, as a supplement, may help reduce headaches or prevent them in these cases.
Some B vitamins may help protect against headaches or reduce them. One 2015 review in Biomed Research International noted that vitamins, including folate and the vitamins B-6 and B-12, may all play a role in preventing migraine headaches or reducing headache symptoms.
The B vitamins are readily available as supplements with several brands that people can buy online.
Vitamin E may also play a role in headache symptoms. A 2015 review of vitamin supplementation noted that vitamin E might relieve headache pain and migraine symptoms from menstrual migraines with a low risk of side effects.
This may be valuable for women who experience migraines during their menstrual cycle, as vitamin E may help keep their hormones balanced to prevent symptoms.
The review did call for larger studies before making any claims about the vitamin, however.
Some people may not respond well to drinking too much alcohol. A headache is one of the more common side effects of a hangover. This may be because alcohol acts as a diuretic, making the body release more water via the urine.
These kinds of headaches do not only occur with bouts of heavy drinking. Even with light or moderate drinking, alcohol may lead to mild dehydration symptoms in some people or make headaches worse.
Anyone who is uncertain if alcohol affects them in this way could try limiting their drinking and seeing if it changes or prevents their symptoms.
For people who often experience migraines, avoiding strong smells may be a wise step to take when trying to prevent them.
One 2013 study found that odors from sources such as perfumes or other strong-smelling chemicals may trigger migraines after just a few minutes of exposure.
It may help if people avoid sources of these smells, such as department stores, others who wear a lot of perfume, or chemical smells from cleaning products.
There are many different types of headache, and one natural remedy may be more suitable than another to ease a specific kind. Some common headache types include:
- Tension headaches. The most common headache, these often occur after a person has become overstressed and their muscles have tensed. Pain appears in the middle and top of the head, which may feel as if it has a tight rubber band around it.
- Sinus headaches. This type involves pain behind the eyes and nose and a general congested feeling in the head. A similar headache occurs when a person has a hangover.
- Cluster headaches. These headaches may appear throughout the day, causing a stabbing, sharp pain that occurs in one spot of the head.
- Migraines. Migraines usually cause a throbbing pain behind the eyes that grows and pulses throughout the head. The person may also become very sensitive to light, activity, or movement.
There are several natural and home remedies that people can try to get rid of a headache without using medication. Some of these may work better with different types of headache.
In the end, some headaches may still not respond to these methods, and taking an over-the-counter drug, such as ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), or naproxen (Aleve), may bring relief.
It is essential not to ignore a persistent headache. An ongoing symptom may be a sign of an underlying issue. People may want to discuss a persistent or particularly severe headache along with other symptoms with a doctor to find and resolve a problem.