Holistic headache remedies fall into two categories: Those that provide relief from the headache you’ve already got and those that will help prevent headaches in the future.
For a head that’s aching in the present moment, here are several holistic practices you can try, either singly or in combination:
Boost circulation: Tight neck, shoulder, and upper back muscles can cause a headache or make one worse. To relieve them, locate the sorest spots on the back and sides of your neck and on the tops of your shoulders and rub them or have someone else do so. Rubbing breaks up muscle knots, which constrict blood flow, and boosts circulation that carries away trapped toxins. For best results, apply pressure for a few seconds before beginning to massage these areas. To increase relief, add an herbal liniment, especially one containing capsicum—but wash hands carefully afterward to avoid getting any of these liniments near your eyes the next time you wash your face.
Relieve anxiety: Tension caused by anxiety is a great headache producer, so using herbs that relieve anxiety will also relieve anxiety-induced headaches. Kava-Kava, Valerian, Hops and Passion flower are especially noted for their anxiety-reducing properties, as is the Chinese herbal compound known as Hepataplex, or long dan xie gan tang.
Stretch and breathe: Stretching and deep breathing both help release headache-causing toxins by increasing your brain’s oxygen flow. If you’re sitting or standing in one place and position for a long time, inhale as you lift your shoulders, then exhale as you roll them backward and let them drop.
Go for the right smell: Aromatherapy—the practice of using certain aromas and scents to alleviate physical and emotional problems—can work wonders in relieving headaches. Sniffing a few drops of peppermint, rosemary or eucalyptus oil placed on a cotton ball and held under the nose can bring instant pain relief, as can massaging a drop of rosemary oil into your each of your temples.
An added benefit for these remedies is that you can use them as singles or mix them without concern for side effects.
Long-term holistic remedies may include making lifestyle changes that commit you to a better diet, exercise and work schedule. Here are two long-term steps you should consider:
Breathe better: Making a conscious effort to do a better job of breathing can go a long way toward alleviating headache problems. Perhaps due to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, most of us don’t breathe as deeply as we should or from the right parts of our bodies. Good breathing comes from allowing your belly and lower abdomen to push air into your lungs rather than merely breathing from your chest. Because stress and tension can trigger shallow breathing, making a conscious effort to change breathing patterns is important.
Go for the negative: Ions, that is. Using a negative-ion generator that freshens the air you breathe by removing unhealthy particles has been shown to relieve headaches and reduce the frequency with which they occur. Putting one in the room where you spend most of your time can make a huge difference in how well you feel.