Everyone has their own headache home remedies - but which ones really work? We've collected some of the best remedies to help you deal with the headache that you have right now.
We've narrowed down these headache home remedies to the ones that are intended to bring relief right away. If you're looking for longer term treatments for headache and migraine, check out some of the other articles on this site. Also, our focus in this article is not on medications, foods and supplements, though one or two may be mentioned.
One more disclaimer: If you're having a headache worse than any headache you've had before, or if your symptoms have changed, see a doctor right away. It could be very dangerous to wait!
And how to use them...
Aromatherapy isn't mentioned first because it's the best, but because you can use it with so many other therapies.
First, make sure you're using a pure essential oil (a lot of what is called aromatherapy is actually aromachology. Learn the difference!) Look for scents that are well known as headache killers - peppermint, sandlewood (my favourite), lavender, and eucalyptus. Try using these scents (or mixtures) in a diffuser - let the scent diffuse for 15 minutes at a time.
Certain oils can be used on the temples to relax the muscles and calm the headache. This study of essential oils for headache suggested that peppermint and eucalyptus oils were excellent.
For more on how to use aromatherapy, read Investigate aromatherapy for headache...
Pressure or massage on various parts of the body can do wonders to relieve headache. Here are a few tips:
Although we're not talking a lot about foods in this article, there are a few very quick headache home remedies related to food that are worth mentioning:
A compress is usually some kind of soft material held against the skin
for a period of time. For example, a hot towel can be a compress. But
actually, a compress can be hot or cold or wet or dry.
Now that you know some of the secrets of aromatherapy, you can use what you know to make your own compress. Compresses are fantastic, inexpensive and easy headache home remedies, and you can customize them to be exactly the way you want them. For example, soak a towel in hot water with a few drops of your favourite essential oils.
Besides what we've talked about above, other common herbs for compresses include: chamomile, rosemary, parsley, ginger, and marjoram. You can use hot water and a towel, or chill the towel in the fridge. You could also apply an ice pack to the compress.
Try a ginger compress: Cut and peel one ginger root and boil in 3 cups of water, until the water becomes cloudy. Soak a washcloth in the mixture, and apply to your neck or forehead.
Vinegar compress: Soak a towel or wash clothe with vinegar. Chill in the fridge, then apply to the forehead.
Of course we've already talked about warm and cool compresses. Ice
packs, hot water bottles, compresses, and so on, are very common and
helpful headache home remedies.
But they don't work the same way for everyone. Here are some different things to try:
If you've tried cold, try heat. Or vice versa. Some people find that alternating cold and heat helps.
Try a warm pack on your abdomen, or even on your feet, for headache pain.
There are other ways to warm or cool one part of your body, including a foot bath or even putting your hands in warm/hot water.
Breathing exercises are very useful and easy headache home remedies.
Sit upright in a comfortable chair. Take slow, deep breaths, counting
to 5 as you inhale, then again as you exhale. Also, try breathing more
deeply - from the abdomen, breath in as much air as you can, then exhale
all the way.
WebMD has more tips for breathing exercises here.
It may surprise you, but using "distraction" as a headache treatment is a
well studied remedy. For example, a study published in Current Biology
pointed out that there are biological changes that actually take place
in your body when you're distracted from the pain. Read more in Distraction: It's not all in your head!
Now, try doing something that distracts you. Listen to music, or an interesting podcast, or read a book. Go for a walk, talk to a friend. Whatever you're able to do that distracts you from the pain.
Neck exercises are well known as headache remedies, especially if you have neck pain as well.
Simple, slow stretching movement with the neck can go a long way. Don't overdo it!
Keeping your head straight, try slowly turning your head all the way to the right, wait 10 seconds, then to the left. Repeat. Then try moving downward, hold, then look up, holding again.
Read a few more tips in Exercises to Stretch the Neck.
Visit the Migraine Association of Ireland for even more headache home remedies.
Hopefully that will get you started - but there's lots more! Head back to the home page to check out many other resources to help you fight headache pain.
References: Aromatherapy for Dummies by Kathi Keville; Definitive Guide to Headaches by Dr. Robert Milne, Blake More and Burton Golberg; The Migraine Brain: Your Breakthrough Guide to Fewer Headaches, Better Health by Dr. Carolyn Bernstein and Elain McArdle; and many more.