Headaches have a variety of causes, including tension in the neck and shoulder muscles, poor blood flow, inflammation or consuming something specific (a “trigger food”) in your diet. Additionally, headaches are a typical symptom of detox, which can be experienced when some foods are removed from your diet. In this article we look at natural remedies for curing headaches.
Here at the retreat, we serve healthy fresh fruit and vegetable juices and clean nutritionally balanced food (lots of veggies, nuts seeds and wholegrains), which means that there is no caffeine or processed sugars, no meat or dairy, no added salt and very few gluten products served (all of which place stress on our bodies). This means that some people experience headaches because it is the first time that they have removed these foods from their diet in years.
Rather than reaching for the headache tablets, below we give you a few ideas that you can try yourself to help to cure or provide some relief from a headache. As there are many different causes of headache, and only you know what you are feeling, try a few suggestions to see which works best for you.
1. Drink water
Drinking water helps to hydrate the body (sometimes headaches are caused by dehydration). For people experiencing a detox headache, this is one of the best actions, as drinking water helps to flush toxins out from the body faster. As soon as you notice the start of a headache, drink a glass of water, then continue to drink regularly throughout the day. Aim to drink at least three litres of water per day to keep your body hydrated.
Rubbing your body can help to relieve tension headaches and encourage blood flow. Good areas to massage include:
Gently rub in a circular motion, or up and down, at the back of the head at the base of the skull. Sometimes rubbing the head all over can help to bring relief. Other points to massage include the temples or forehead.
Rub the skin between the base of your thumb and first finger for a few minutes. Then swap hands. This is an acupressure point that experts believe links to the part of the brain where headaches originate.
• Back neck and shoulders
We hold so much tension in our neck and shoulders so rubbing these areas can help to relax the muscles. Get a professional to massage these areas for maximum impact.
• Feet (reflexology)
Massaging the feet can stimulate key acupressure points on the feet, leading to improved circulation throughout the whole of the body. You can do it yourself or book a professional for the ultimate relaxation.
3. Apply heat or cold
Everyone´s headache is different, so sometimes applying heat will provide relief and at other times apply cold.
Lie down on your back and place a hot water bottle beneath the base of your skull down towards your shoulders – this helps to relax the muscles in the base of your neck. Remember to cover your hot water bottle with something soft to diffuse the heat better, for maximum comfort.
Sometimes, depending upon the cause of your headache, it may respond better to cold, so apply a cold compress across the forehead or the back of the neck. Or wrap some ice-cubes up in a towel and place them on your head or back of the neck.
4. Omega-3 boost
Omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation, one of the possible causes of headaches. So, give yourself an omega-3 boost by eating ground flaxseed or chia seeds. Add them to your juice or sprinkle onto your breakfast muesli or lunchtime salad. (Remember to use ground flaxseeds so that your body can assimilate them).
5. Natural oils
Either inhale as a vapour (two to four drops in a cup of hot water) or massage gently into the skin at the points suggested above. Good oils to use include:
• Lavender oil
• Peppermint oil – particularly good for relieving tension headaches which is often caused by restricted blood flow, opens the sinuses to increase oxygen
• Basil oil – a good muscle relaxant
If you can find a yoga class nearby that you like then attend regularly to help prevent headaches. If not, some yoga asanas are particularly good for relieving headaches. Try Childs pose, legs up wall, eagle arms – all good for releasing tension and encouraging proper blood flow to the brain. (see our article on yoga asanas for relaxation and headache relief)
7. Deep breathing
Sit for five minutes (or longer if you have time) in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. First observe the breath and then start to deepen the breath, making sure you are breathing fully into the lungs and stomach, then breathe out fully. This deep breathing activates the para-sympathetic nervous system, which helps us to relax. If you want to, imagine breathing into your headache (imagine your head filling up with fresh oxygen) and as you exhale imagine letting go of the pain with the breath.
Get more sleep! Take a catnap or go to bed earlier. Use blackout curtains or an eye mask to ensure you are in the dark (and you can add a few drops of lavender oil to you eye mask for added relaxation).
9.Peace and quiet
Find somewhere quiet to sit on your own. Close your eyes. Allow all thoughts to float away. Become still. Listen to the birds singing, or the waves lapping the beach.
Sometimes, if you are experiencing a detox headache, rebounding (jumping on a mini trampoline) can really help, as this movement supports the lymph system which is working hard to eliminate the toxins from your body. Walking or cycling can also help, so get outside and take some action and deep breaths.
11. Tea bags
Place a wet peppermint teabag on each closed eye or on your forehead, lie back and relax for five to ten minutes (or longer).
12. Drink ginger juice or tea
Ginger has been known to reduce headaches for many years. So, make your own ginger tea by cutting up some fresh root ginger and steeping in hot water for a few minutes, then drink. Alternatively, have a ginger shot – juice one pear or carrot and a chunk of ginger, then drink.
13. Drop your shoulders
We often carry our shoulders too high, tight with tension. So as you breathe in, squeeze your shoulders up towards your ears, then as you breath out through your mouth drop your shoulders as far down as you can. Repeat this ten times.
14. Use your imagination
If you are having difficulties relaxing, use your imagination to create a peaceful scene in your mind, where you can relax. Maybe a forest with a peaceful waterfall, or a beautiful garden surrounded by favourite flowers and butterflies. Listening to a guided visualisation or meditation can also help.
15. Hold a pencil between your teeth
Yes, you did read that correctly! Put a pencil in your mouth. Some headaches are caused by tension in the jaw. By holding a pencil in your mouth, it activates the smile muscles at the side, which relaxes your jaw.
One last thought, if you experience headaches regularly at home, maybe it is something in your diet that is causing it? Common foods that trigger headaches include chocolate, caffeine, dairy, foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG) or pickled or fermented foods. Everyone is different and some people react to some fruits (like grapefruit, avocado) or vegetables (bell peppers, tomatoes, onions), so if you suspect that it might be something you are eating that leads to your headaches, then keep a food diary for a while to monitor when the headaches start and what you might have consumed. You can try an exclusion diet (read more here) or maybe visit a nutritionist who can test for dietary intolerances.
We hope that these home remedies will help to cure your headache or provide some relief. Let us know how you get on!
About the author
- Lisa is one of the founders of La Crisalida Retreats. She is an Epidemiologist, therapeutic hatha and yin yoga teacher and also teaches mindfulness meditation. Lisa has studied NLP and hypnosis, as well as nutrition (she designs the menus).