Headaches are very common chronic afflictions. Here are some way to determine headache types and appropriate interventions.
Considerations that I would keep in mind, assuming serious ills such as a malignancy has been ruled out, include: migraine and other circulation based headaches such as cluster, allergic and sinus headaches, as well as stress headaches.
Evaluation of Headaches
You can evaluate your own headaches and try some natural remedies based upon your findings. Here’s how to do it. You may choose to do this independently or with a health care practitioner. Note the type of pain, location, quality, duration, triggers, what makes it worse, what makes it better. Consider if they are related to menstrual patterns if you are a woman. When did the headaches first occur? Examine your lifestyle patterns including rest and exercise. Do they relate to pain or lack of pain in any way? Do you have other symptoms? Does a certain type of headache run in your family? Are symptoms triggered by certain foods, light, seasons and weather? Is the headaches work related? On a pain scale of 1-10 how would you rate their intensity? Does heat or cold affect your headaches by precipitating them or by relieving them? What treatments have you tried? What worked? What did not work?
Keep a diary of your diet and symptoms. Note if moods, stress and any of the above factors are present when headaches flare up.
Stress headaches are characterized by the feeling of a band around the forehead or neck often accompanied by tight neck muscles. The pain may be tight, steady or throbbing.
Treatment focuses on prevention and lifestyle. Try adding a couple of drops of essential oil of lavender or basil to a bath. Make a compress of lavender flowers. Apply it to your neck or forehead to enhance relaxation. To prepare the compress, infuse 1 tsp flowers with 1 cup water. Strain and apply a soft cloth dipped in the infusion warm or cool as desired to the affected part of your head or neck. Try to relax and take time out for yourself. I recommend making a relaxing herbal tea. Here is a recipe that I recommend:
- 1 part lemon balm
- 1 part lemongrass
- 1 part lemon verbena
- 1 part oat straw
- 1 part passionflower
- 1 part rose petals
- 1 part skullcap
- 1/8 part orange peel
Blend together. Infuse 1 tsp herb with 1 cup water. Let infuse 20 minutes, covered. Strain. Drink warm or cold 3-4 cups daily as a preventative.
For an acute headache, I recommend valerian tincture 1:5, 3 ml. three times daily.
Massage, time out, and time with nature are important parts of a wellness plan to prevent stress headaches.
Consume foods and herbs that are rich in calcium, magnesium and B vitamins. Some suggestions include raspberry leaf, nettle, whole grains and a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
These are often long-lasting, intense one-sided headaches. They can be associated with menses. Nausea and vomiting may occur. Pain may be throbbing or constant. Migraines sometimes run in families. Food allergies or specific foods such as processed meats, red wine, chocolate and some cheeses are common triggers.
I like to use feverfew as a preventative measure and for acute migraine. My preference is to chew 1-3 fresh leaves 3 times daily. I do not use the dried herb. If the fresh plant is not an option, then I recommend a tincture, 1:5, made with the fresh plant; 1ml 3 times daily.
For acute attacks, I have had limited success treating migraines. Taking 2000 mg of vitamin C sometimes helps when taken immediately when the headache starts. I have tried using willow, cayenne and peppermint, all with limited success. Much of your focus needs to be recognizing triggers, including foods which provoke your migraines.
Cold compresses of peppermint tea sometimes help. Underlying imbalances, such as hormonal issues may need addressing. Magnesium and calcium supplements may be helpful. Dandelion leaf can help if fluid retention is an issue related to menses related migraines. Primrose, black current seed or borage seed oils may be beneficial for prevention.
I have found that the feverfew is very helpful in reducing the frequency and intensity of the headaches. Sometimes, conventional medications may be needed.
These are characterized by nasal stuffiness, or runny nose, and tenderness in the sinus region. A face ache, earache and frontal headache may be present. Sinus headache sufferers often have a history of allergies. Sinus headaches are often seasonal in nature.
An elimination diet or rotation diet may be needed. If the cause is pollen, try drinking a nettle tea 3 times daily for 3 months prior to when the allergic reactions seasonally occur. Co Q 10 daily may be helpful. Consuming local honey or bee pollen regularly is very helpful. A healthy balanced Mediterranean diet is often effective.
For acute episodes, an aromatherapy diffuser with eucalyptus oil may help. My favorite herb for sinus headaches is goldenrod. I make a tea and drink 3 -4 cups hot daily while I have a headache. It works extremely fast and well. A steam may also be made with eucalyptus or ginger. If a sinus infection is present, then I add a tincture of: echinacea, boneset, elecampane, barberry, and garlic (20 percent each herb). I take 2 ml; 4 times daily. You may make an herbal gargle. Make a tea of sage 2 parts; rosemary 1 part; slippery elm 1 part; and cayenne 1/8th part. Add 1 teaspoon of salt per cup. Gargle as desired.
Take the time to determine the cause of your chronic headaches. There is much that you can do to prevent and relieve them. Of course, you should seek the advice of a health care expert if you have any questions or if you do not obtain relief from home remedies.