The Best Natural Remedies for Headaches

Headaches are so common that as many as 75% of people aged 18 to 65 have had one in the last year. People of all ages, genders, and races have headaches. However, for many people, headaches are infrequent and will resolve on their own. Many of those who get headaches more frequently are looking for the best natural remedies for headaches, to skip out on the harmful side effects of over-the-counter relief and the potential for addiction.  Before we dive into those natural remedies, let's take a quick look at what causes headaches.

What Causes Headaches?

the best natural remedies for headaches man holding one hand to temple in pain from migraine headache close up

A variety of things can cause headaches, and there are many different types of headaches. The most common types of headaches and what causes them include:

  • Tension headaches can be caused by the contraction of the face, head, and neck muscles. Multiple factors may be associated with these types of headaches, such as environmental and physical factors.
  • Cluster headaches are severe, but they're also rare. These headaches are debilitating and cause severe sudden pain. The exact cause of these headaches is unknown.
  • Migraine headaches may be more severe than tension headaches and often last 4 – 72 hours. Migraines can occur for numerous reasons, including food sensitivity, emotional stress, hormonal changes, and more.

Depending on the type of headache, the impact on a person's life may be minimal or severe.

How Headaches Affect Your Life

Headaches can affect your life in many ways, but most people can resolve them without impacting their lives greatly. However, migraines and cluster headaches can cause:

  • Loss of sleep
  • Light sensitivity
  • Severe pain
  • Avoiding going out
  • Missed work

Cluster headache pain can be so debilitating that it leads to chronic pain that impacts a person's life severely. You'll want to see a doctor for cluster headaches because they cannot be resolved using most traditional or natural remedies.

In all scenarios, if you've tried everything you can at home to help your headache and haven't found any relief, there may be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed by a physician.

Top 10 Best Natural Remedies for Headaches

1. Add Magnesium into Your Diet

Magnesium is a safe and effective way to help reduce headaches, and it is an essential mineral in many bodily functions, including:

  • Nerve transmission
  • Blood sugar control
  • Circulation
  • Etc.

Studies indicate that people with low magnesium levels have more migraines than people without deficiencies. Additionally, more studies show that just 600mg of magnesium daily can reduce headache severity and frequency.

2. Take a Nap

Did you know that lack of sleep is often a cause of severe headaches? For example, people that sleep under six hours per day have a much higher chance of suffering from headaches than those who sleep longer.

Sleeping between seven and nine hours per night can help reduce headache risks.

But if you do develop a headache, try taking a nap to see if it helps you get rid of your headache.

3. Peppermint Essential Oils

Peppermint is one of the most important essential oils to keep in your home. If you have peppermint oil handy, you can rub it into your temples to help reduce headache symptoms. One study found that peppermint essential oils were effective at relieving tension headaches when rubbed into the temples.

Unlike lavender oil, which we'll discuss next, peppermint oil's effectiveness at relieving headaches was only studied topically. There was no mention of whether aromatherapy using peppermint essential oils produced similar results.

4. Lavender Essential Oils

the best natural remedies for headaches lavender essential oil for migraine headache relief close up

If you're a fan of aromatherapy, add some lavender essential oils into your machine and see if it helps relieve your symptoms. One study on migraine pain showed that inhaling lavender essential oils was able to reduce the symptoms and pain associated with migraines.

In the study, people inhaled the oils or applied them to their upper lip so that they would inhale them when they breathed.

You can try both methods to see which one works best for you.

5. Frankincense Essential Oil

One study found that frankincense can be effective for relieving pain caused by cluster headaches because of its powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

Frankincense is also great for reducing stress and promoting a relaxing, soothing environment. One 2019 study found that frankincense essential oil reduced stress and improved sleep for mice. And because of frankincense's antioxidant properties, it also helps reduce the damage that stress can have on cells.

6. B-Complex Vitamins

B-complex is a group of B vitamins that most people lack in their diets. These vitamins are very important because they assist with neurotransmission and also help your body convert food into energy.

You'll find numerous studies (here, here, and here) that show the following B vitamins may be effective at helping reduce headache symptoms:

Since a B-complex vitamin includes all of these B vitamins and more, it has the potential to greatly diminish your headaches.

7. Drink Coffee or Tea

Coffee and tea – the caffeinated kind – can help calm your headaches. However, you want to sip on these drinks and allow the caffeine to work its magic. Caffeine is great because it boosts alertness and can make you happier. It can also help constrict blood vessels.

Constricting the blood vessels can be very beneficial and has been shown to positively impact headaches.

Teas of all kinds, if they have caffeine, can be beneficial for your headaches. However, ginger tea has also been shown to be very powerful for relieving headaches. A study of 200 people that took ginger powder found that the tea was just as effective as traditional medication for reducing pain.

Additionally, the study was performed on people who have migraines often. Therefore, if ginger can help people who suffer from migraines, it can certainly help alleviate a traditional headache.

Interestingly, there are studies that show caffeine can also improve the effectiveness of ibuprofen and similar medications that treat headaches.

Note: Caffeine can be addictive and will have withdrawal symptoms, which include headaches. If you've recently tried to stop drinking caffeine and found that you have headaches, this is likely a caffeine headache. As your body adjusts to less caffeine, these headaches will subside, although they can be very intense at first.

8. Butterbur Extract

Butterbur is an herbal remedy that many people use in 50 to 150 mg doses per day to reduce their headaches. One study of interest (found here) showed that this remedy works for adults and children.

However, there are a lot of low-quality extracts that can cause liver damage.

Ideally, you'll pay more for purified forms so that you don't have to worry about potential liver damage. We encourage you to read two studies on this extract before trying it for yourself (here and here).

9. Try Feverfew

Feverfew is another supplement that people take to help them reduce their headache frequency and stop headaches, too. However, the studies that are of good quality seem to be inconclusive.

There's a lot of anecdotal evidence that suggests that this supplement can help with recurring headaches.

If you do give this supplement a try, the dosing of most studies seems to be between 50 and 150 mg taken daily.

10. Drink More Water

We all hate hearing it. But one of the purest natural remedies for headaches is drinking water. In fact, most tension headaches are caused by dehydration. If you're suffering from a headache, try to drink a few glasses of water. 

Statistically, it takes 30 minutes to three hours to start feeling relief from headaches caused by a lack of water.

You can avoid future headaches by:

  • Drinking a glass of water during each meal and when you wake up
  • Eating foods that have a high water content
  • Consciously choosing water over soda or other sweet drinks

Even if water doesn't solve the headache completely, it can help reduce symptoms.

Final Thoughts

Some of the best natural remedies for headaches are likely already in your home. You can try one or multiple remedies to see if they help alleviate your headaches. 

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