Natural Treatments for Headache
By Dr. Mao Shing Ni
MOST PEOPLE GET OCCASIONAL HEADACHES as a result of catching a cold, staying up too late, or drinking too much, enduring the consequences the next morning. One in six Americans experiences chronic headaches, which can be caused by sinus problems, muscle tension, eyestrain, jaw clenching, a virus, or allergies. Headaches can be experienced at the front of the head, the temples, the back of the head near the neck, and the top of the head. Factors that worsen headaches include poor eating habits, stress, and lack of sleep. Headaches can occur during the day or in the evening, while you are active or at rest. In complicated cases like migraines or neurological headaches, the headache may be accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and vomiting.
According to Chinese medicine, pain is the body’s signal that there is a blockage of energy and blood. Causes of the stagnation include developing a cold, depression, or trauma to the energy meridian as a result of physical injury. By identifying the underlying cause of the headache, I deliver targeted therapies to my patients, including acupuncture for pain relief, herbal medicine for inflammation and muscle spasms, diet therapy to eliminate allergies, and meditation to reduce stress and tension.
Below I’ve summarized my favorite home remedies for headaches. Note that headaches may be caused by severe medical conditions like glaucoma and brain hemorrhages. If you experience severe, debilitating headaches that don’t respond to over-the-counter medication, or if you wake up in the middle of the night with excruciating head pain, visit your physician or the emergency room immediately.
DIET FOR HEADACHE
Energy and blood flow rely heavily on what we consume on a regular basis- the foods we eat eventually end up in our blood and meridians in the form of energy. Proper eating habits can help maintain a good flow of energy and blood to the head, preventing headaches.
- Eat wholesome foods free of preservatives, additives, and other artificial ingredients. Artificial colors and preservatives such as sulfites in wines and dried fruits can cause headaches.
- Add a good amount of fiber-rich foods, including whole grains, green leafy vegetables, parsley, chrysanthemum flowers, mint, green tea, onions, ginger, pearl barley, carrots, prunes, buckwheat, peach kernels (eaten like raw nuts), and almonds.
- Eat regularly, more frequently, and in smaller quantities. Do not eat on the run or while under stress. Do not eat late at night or lie down immediately after eating.
- Avoid greasy and fried foods. When oils are heated they produce chemicals that can cause headaches. Spicy, stimulating foods and heavy starchy foods should be avoided as well. Drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages can raise blood pressure and cause headaches, although sometimes caffeine can temporarily relieve headaches. Giving up coffee abruptly can cause withdrawal headaches at first. Drinking alcohol can also cause headaches.
HOME REMEDIES FOR HEADACHE
- Make a rice porridge by simmering 1 cup of white rice with 2 chopped green onions, 1 garlic clove, and 5 slices of ginger in 6 cups of water for 20 minutes, keeping the pot covered. The spices will make you sweat and boost your immune system, which helps to fight virus and bacteria. This porridge is also good for treating high blood pressure, PMS, and tension headaches.
- Make a tea by boiling 5 prunes, 1 tablespoon green tea, and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint in 3 1/2 cups of water for 15 minutes. Strain, and drink 3 cups a day until the headache subsides. You may also eat a handful of prunes 3 times a day until the headache subsides.
- Make fresh carrot juice and drink a glass every 4 hours until the headache subsides. Also put carrot juice in a small squirt bottle, and squirt a little carrot juice into the left, right, or both nostrils, depending on where the headache is located.
- Put 5 drops of lavender essential oil in 1 cup of warm water. Soak a small towel in the water, and then wring it dry. Place it on your forehead as a compress to alleviate a headache.
DAILY SUPPLEMENTS FOR HEADACHE
- Magnesium (500 milligrams) and calcium (1,000 milligrams) can help control muscle spasms and can help relieve tension headaches.
- The amino acid 5-HTP (100 milligrams), fish oil (1,000 milligrams EPA; 800 milligrams DHA), vitamin B2 (riboflavin; 400 milligrams), chromium (200 micrograms), folic acid (800 micrograms), and vitamin C (1,000 milligrams) can be helpful for temporary relief of headaches.
- Niacin (vitamin B3; 500 milligrams) is useful for treating acute headache attack. Take 3 times a day when you have a headache.
HERBAL THERAPY FOR HEADACHE
Herbs can be found in health food or vitamin stores, online, and at the offices of Chinese medicine practitioners. Herbs should be used according to individual needs; consult with a licensed practitioner for a customized formulation. To learn more about the herbs listed here, go to www.askdrmao.com.
- Make a tea by boiling 2 tablespoons each of chrysanthemum flowers, cassia seeds, and mint leaves in 4 cups of water for 15 minutes. Strain, and drink 3 cups a day until the headache subsides. These herbs help clear the sinuses and reduce the pressure in the head.
- Feverfew has been used since ancient times for treating headaches, and some studies show that it may help reduce the frequency and severity of headaches.
- Traditional Chinese herbs used for headaches include mint, ligustici, angelica, notopterygii, siler, schizonepetae, green tea, and licorice.
MEDITATION FOR HEADACHE
I recommend avoiding vigorous exercise during headache episodes, as exercise may worsen the condition. Taking a walk in fresh air will help stimulate blood flow and increase oxygenation to the head. Gentle walking can nip the headache in the bud before it starts- as soon as you feel a headache coming on, step out into the fresh air and go for a 10-minute walk, breathing deeply and vigorously. A regular regimen of moderate cardiovascular and stretching exercises can help maintain good health and proper circulation.
Daily meditation practice and tai chi exercises can also help. Here is a simple visualization meditation called White Light Meditation that I teach my patients.
- Sit or lie down comfortably. Clear your mind, relax your body, and breathe deeply and slowly.
- Inhale, and visualize a white light or clear mountain spring water entering your body at the top of your head and flowing down to your abdomen.
- Exhale, and visualize the white light or water continuing its downward course from your abdomen to the bottom of your feet, where it drains out.
- Repeat the breathing cycle and visualization for 10 minutes. Do this meditation often as necessary- it often brings on a quick reduction in symptoms.
SELF ACUPRESSURE FOR HEADACHE
- Locate the acupoint Wind Pond (GB-20), in the natural indentation at the base of your skull on either side of your neck. Press and lift up toward the base of your skull with your thumbs and lean your head back. Use the weight of your head against your thumbs for steady pressure on the acupoint. Hold for 5 minutes, breathing deeply and slowly.
- Find the acupoint Greater Yang (Taiyang), in the indentation of the temples. Stimulate the point with the knuckles of your thumbs or the tips of your index fingers. Massage in a circular motion for 5 minutes.
- Find the acupoint Valley of Harmony (LI-4), in the web between the thumb and index finger on your right hand. Apply steady pressure with your left thumb until you feel soreness. Hold for 2 minutes. Repeat on the left hand.
- You may wish to check out whether there are any physical imbalances in your spine, neck, or jaw, as these imbalances can exacerbate headaches. Proper structural adjustments may be helpful- consult a chiropractor or an osteopath.
HEADACHE: WHAT TO AVOID
- Some medications that cause headaches, including birth control pills, antihistamines, vasodilators (such as nitroglycerin), isosorbide dinitrate, anti-arrythmic agents (such as quinidine), digoxin, and ergotamine. Hormone therapy can also cause headaches. Consult your physician for alternatives.
- Caffeine, recreational drugs, and alcohol. Lack of sleep is another major cause of common headaches. The common cold and neck injuries also may cause headaches.
- High blood pressure and blood sugar fluctuations; they should be regulated and controlled, as both of these conditions can cause headaches.
©2015 Dr. Mao Shing Ni
Read Secrets of Self-Healing: Harness Nature's Power to Heal Common Ailments ... By Maoshing Ni