Headaches are a common condition that many people deal with on a daily basis.
Ranging from uncomfortable to downright unbearable, they can disrupt your day-to-day life.
Several types of headaches exist, with tension headaches being the most common. Cluster headaches are painful and happen in groups or “clusters,” while migraines are a moderate-to-severe type of headache.
Although many medications are targeted at relieving headache symptoms, a number of effective, natural treatments also exist.
- Drink Water
Inadequate hydration may lead you to develop a headache.
In fact, studies have demonstrated that chronic dehydration is a common cause of tension headaches and migraines
Thankfully, drinking water has been shown to relieve headache symptoms in most dehydrated individuals within 30 minutes to three hours
What’s more, being dehydrated can impair concentration and cause irritability, making your symptoms seem even worse.
To help avoid dehydration headaches, focus on drinking enough water throughout the day and eating water-rich foods.
- Take Some Magnesium
Magnesium is an important mineral necessary for countless functions in the body, including blood sugar control and nerve transmission
Interestingly, magnesium has also been shown to be a safe, effective remedy for headaches.
Evidence suggests that magnesium deficiency is more common in people who get frequent migraine headaches, compared to those who don’t
Studies have shown that treatment with 600 mg of oral magnesium citrate per day helped reduce both the frequency and severity of migraine headaches
However, taking magnesium supplements can cause digestive side effects like diarrhea in some people, so it’s best to start with a smaller dose when treating headache symptoms.
- Limit Alcohol
While having an alcoholic drink may not cause a headache in most people, studies have shown that alcohol can trigger migraines in about one-third of those who experience frequent headaches
Alcohol has also been shown to cause tension and cluster headaches in many people
It’s a vasodilator, meaning it widens blood vessels and allows blood to flow more freely.
Vasodilation may cause headaches in some people. In fact, headaches are a common side effect of vasodilators like blood pressure medications
Additionally, alcohol acts as a diuretic, causing the body to lose fluid and electrolytes through frequent urination. This fluid loss can lead to dehydration, which can cause or worsen headaches (10).
- Get Adequate Sleep
Sleep deprivation can be detrimental to your health in many ways, and may even cause headaches in some people.
For example, one study compared headache frequency and severity in those who got less than six hours of sleep per night and those who slept longer. It found that those who got less sleep had more frequent and severe headaches.
However, getting too much sleep has also been shown to trigger headaches, making getting the right amount of rest important for those looking for natural headache prevention.
For maximum benefits, aim for the “sweet spot” of seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
- Avoid Foods High in Histamine
Histamine is a chemical found naturally in the body that plays a role in the immune, digestive and nervous systems.
It’s also found in certain foods like aged cheeses, fermented food, beer, wine, smoked fish and cured meats.
Studies suggest consuming histamine may cause migraines in those who are sensitive to it.
Some people are not able to excrete histamine properly because they have impaired function of the enzymes responsible for breaking it down.
Cutting histamine-rich foods from the diet may be a useful strategy for people who get frequent headaches
- Use Essential Oils
Essential oils are highly concentrated liquids that contain aromatic compounds from a variety of plants.
They have many therapeutic benefits and are most often used topically, though some can be ingested.
Peppermint and lavender essential oils are especially helpful when you have a headache.
Applying peppermint essential oil to the temples has been shown to reduce the symptoms of tension headaches.
Meanwhile, lavender oil is highly effective at reducing migraine pain and associated symptoms when applied to the upper lip and inhaled
- Try a B-Complex Vitamin
B vitamins are a group of water-soluble micronutrients that play many important roles in the body. For example, they contribute to neurotransmitter synthesis and help turn food into energy
Some B vitamins may have a protective effect against headaches.
Several studies have shown that the B vitamin supplements riboflavin (B2), folate, B12 and pyridoxine (B6) may reduce headache symptoms
B-complex vitamins contain all eight of the B vitamins and are a safe, cost-effective way to naturally treat headache symptoms.
B vitamins are considered safe to take on a regular basis, as they are water soluble and any excess will be flushed out through the urine
- Soothe Pain with a Cold Compress
Using a cold compress may help reduce your headache symptoms.
Applying cold or frozen compresses to the neck or head area decreases inflammation, slows nerve conduction and constricts blood vessels, all of which help reduce headache pain
In one study in 28 women, applying a cold gel pack to the head significantly reduced migraine pain
To make a cold compress, fill a waterproof bag with ice and wrap it in a soft towel. Apply the compress to the back of the neck, head or temples for headache relief.