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One of the worst headaches that I have experienced, was a spinal headache. They had injected my spine with contrast dye, hoping to see the extent of the damage that needed to be fixed in my upcoming surgery to untether my spinal cord. At the time, I couldn't fathom what my Doctor meant when he had told me to lay down for a few hours afterward, otherwise, it might go to my head. The worst headache I had ever experienced was nothing compared to the resulting spinal headache that followed.
Headaches and migraines are a symptom of an underlying problem
As we talked about in part one, all headaches are a symptom of another problem, whether it be a magnesium deficiency, detoxing, lack of sleep, or something far more serious. Once you find the problem, you can start to treat your headache to keep it away for good! While there are many ways to treat the pain of a headache, it's good to know what type of headache you have, before trying to get rid of the symptoms! Once you and your medical practitioner diagnose your underlying issues, you can begin to assuage the pain. For my own headache pain, I love to combine the power of my Headcase aromatherapy roll-on with an herbal tea/tincture, and an Epsom salt bath. It works every time!
A warm cup of tea can help soothe a headache
Used for centuries as the main way to take medicine, herbal infusions, or tea, are well suited to help treat headaches and migraines. Just the soothing action of sipping the tea warm/hot can aid in relieving some headaches, but the herbs used to make the tea can also help aid in relieving the pain! There are many herbs with anti-inflammatory properties, stress/tension/anxiety relieving properties, and even analgesic (pain-relieving) properties, that are very helpful with headaches. Some of my favorite herbs to use for headaches are:
- Basil – A natural muscle relaxant, basil is very effective for tension and stress headaches. Basil is an excellent antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and a muscle relaxant, making it a great addition to any migraine tea.
- Black/Green/White tea/Yerba mate – Caffeine has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. It not only works for those experiencing headaches due to caffeine withdrawal, it also works as a catalyst with pain relievers, making them more effective at kicking a tension headache to the curb. While you can use coffee for this same purpose, I find that tea is far gentler on the constitution.
- Chamomile – A natural anti-inflammatory that has been clinically studied for its use in pain relief, chamomile contains glycine, a chemical that can help relieve muscle spasms and act as a nerve relaxant.
- Cramp Bark – Appropriately named, cramp bark is known to contain yiopudial, a chemical that is supposed to provide cramp relief. It has been used as a sedative for the uterus as well as for PMS, menstrual cramping, headaches, migraines, muscle pain, and more!
- Feverfew – Used as far back as Ancient Greece for all sorts of ailments, including fevers and headaches, feverfew has been used, with a considerable amount of success, for headaches and even cluster headaches. A very small 2011 study published in the Pharmacognosy Review found that feverfew can help prevent and treat migraines. The study found that people who took the herb for up to six months experienced fewer headaches. Their headaches tripled once they started taking the placebo instead.
- Ginger root – Used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine, one clinical study showed ginger as capable of relieving menstrual cramps as ibuprofen. In a 2014 study published in the Journal of Phytotherapy Research showed that ginger powder benefits were comparable to sumatriptan, a common migraine prescription, but with fewer side effects.
- Lavender buds – A natural analgesic (pain reliever) and anti-inflammatory, lavender is a widely known herb to help with headaches and migraines. jA 2012 study published in the European Journal of Neurology found that inhaling lavender oil during a migraine may help calm or conquer some symptoms more quickly. This can be done with herbal tea as well!
- Lemon balm – Lemonbalm naturally soothes frazzled nerves and relieves tension of all sorts. A natural relaxant, lemonbalm can also help with other migraine symptoms such as nausea, irritability, stress, and more.
- Passionflower – A natural pain reliever and mild sedative, passionflower is known to relieve muscle and uterine spasms, relieve stress and depression, headaches and migraines, and even calm nerves.
- Peppermint leaf – Naturally rich in menthol, one of its main abilities is to help relax and soothe a tension headache or migraines. A study from researchers at the Neurological Clinic at the University of Kiel, Germany, found that a combination of essential oils, including peppermint essential oil, had “significant analgesic effect with a reduction in sensitivity to headaches.”
- Potato (raw slices) – Potatoes have been used in European folk medicine for over 200 years. Nowadays you would never think to grab a potato for a migraine, but country folk medicine has shown time and again, the use of thick slices of raw potato, helps calm migraine pain. Traditionally, the slices are wrapped in a thin cloth and then wrapped around the head or rubbed directly onto the temples to ease tension and pain.
- Rosemary leaf – A natural anti-inflammatory, rosemary has been used for all sorts of pain including muscle and joint pain, circulatory problems, and even migraines! A fresh spring in your tea can help boost your brain power while soothing the pain in it!
- Skullcap – Used in many sleep teas, skullcap is a very relaxing herb that is great for use in any tension or stress headache tea.
- Turmeric root powder – This natural anti-inflammatory has been studied a lot lately for its amazing ability to reduce inflammation and pain in joints and muscles. Used for centuries in both TCM and Ayurvedic practices, turmeric has been known to aid in relieving migraines and headaches as well.
- Valerian root – A natural sleep aid but also a great natural pain reliever, valerian root has been used for centuries for pain relief, anxiety, and stress relief.
- Willow bark –Rich in salicin, the active chemical constituent in aspirin, willow bark is great for all sorts of pain, muscle spasms, and headaches. I always find headache relief when I add willow bark to my tea or tincture. People who are allergic to aspirin or salicylates should not take willow bark. Those with tinnitus, peptic ulcers, or bleeding disorders also should not use it.
It is important to note that many of these herbs can interact with blood thinner medications and even some other pain relievers for some people. If you are on any prescription medications, it is advised to consult with your Doctor or Naturopath, to be sure that the herbs you choose are right for your body! For headaches that do not go away with a diet/lifestyle change, and are persistent for more than a week, it is advised that you contact your medical practitioner to make sure something more serious isn't going on!
DIY Headache Tea & Tincture
Since no two headaches are the same and no two people are the same, I have provided a couple alternate variations for this recipe to try and cover a wide variety of needs. As we learned in part one, headaches are a symptom of another problem, and until addressed, your headaches may keep returning. This tea should help to ease tension and relieve some of the pain, but it is not a cure for your headache itself.
- 1 part black tea
- 1 part Passionflower
- 1 part Chamomile flowers (optional)
- 1 part Willow bark
- 1/2 part Peppermint leaf
- 1/4 part feverfew
- Caffeine sensitivities – For a small portion of the population, caffeine can be too stimulating or even can be a trigger for their headaches. If that is you, omit the black tea from this recipe!
- Aspirin sensitivities – If you are taking blood thinners or have a sensitivity to Aspirin, either omit the willow bark or substitute it with cramp bark! Willow bark contains the active ingredient in aspirin!
- Warming instead of cooling – If you would rather a warming version of this tea, rather than the cooling version, omit the peppermint and add 1/4 part cinnamon chips and 1/4 part ginger root.
- Combine herbs together in a bowl. Store in an airtight container when not in use. Label blend and date made.
TO USE – TEA
Combine 1 tsp. of tea to 8-12 oz. boiling hot water. Allow to steep for 10-15 minutes before straining and drinking. Drink 1-2 cups at the onset of pain and as needed after. This tea can be drunk either hot or cold, depending on how you are feeling!
TO USE – TINCTURE
Following the directions here to make tinctures, fill a wide-mouthed mason jar 1/3 full with dried herbal mixture. Fill mason jar to the top, covering herbs, with 80-100 proof vodka. Allow to steep in the jar for 4-6 weeks, shaking daily to mix. Strain tincture using a cheesecloth or strainer. At the sudden onset of headaches and pain, take 1/2-1 Tbsp. of the tincture every 30 minutes until symptoms subside. You can make this with vegetable glycerin (a sweet tasting option that is great for children but doesn’t have as long of a shelf life as alcohol), or even apple cider vinegar. Tinctures made with alcohol are the most effective.
Not for use if you are pregnant or nursing. Do not drink this tea if you are currently taking blood thinners or have liver disease.
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