Headaches can be painful, debilitating, and significantly impact quality of life. Fortunately there are a variety of herbal remedies to treat them. By taking preventative measures, or treating headaches with herbs, you can successfully ward off the pain before it takes hold.

A variety of factors can trigger headaches, including hormonal changes, strong sunlight, stress, and/or allergies to certain foods.


Cluster Headaches

Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) Research done with extracts of the Kudzu plant suggests that it is useful in managing cluster headaches.  In a 2009 study using kudzu to treat cluster headache, researchers determined that kudzu may help decrease the frequency, duration, and intensity of attacks, with minimal side effects.

Of the people who used kudzu, 69% experienced a decrease in the intensity of the attacks, 56% suffered attacks less frequently, and 31% said that their headaches were shorter in duration while taking kudzu.  Researchers suggested that the kudzu root is rich in isoflavones—plant compounds with weak estrogen-like activity, which may be one of its mechanisms for relieving headaches.  This same research also suggests that Kudzu also has the ability to increase cerebral flow to the brain, again relieving headaches. 


Stress Headaches

Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) Apart from its delightful fragrance, Lavender is considered calming to those with nervous tension and stress. Lavender oil can be rubbed into the temples for headache, added to bath water for a stress-relieving bath, or put on a cotton ball and placed inside a pillowcase to treat insomnia. Lavender flowers can be made into a tea and sipped throughout the day to ease nervous tension. 

When essential oils are massaged into the body, or added to the bath, they are infused into the blood stream where they act as a natural painkiller. 

Lavender was used extensively during World War I whenever medical supplies became scarce, to both prevent infection and relieve pain2. The aroma of lavender has been reported to be calming3 and is thought to be particularly useful in stressful situations.


Peppermint (Mentha piperita) Research confirms that topical application of peppermint oil is effective in the treatment of stress and tension headaches. 4,5  Because of its relaxing effect on smooth muscle peppermint essential oil is also an excellent headache cure for the daytime because it refreshes and energises.

Gently massage 1-2 drops of the essential oil into the skin. For headaches, the best places are the temples, forehead, and back of the neck. Depending on the severity of the headache, peppermint oil can also be massaged into the scalp, base of the neck, and shoulders.

Another method of using peppermint oil as a headache cure is to put a few drops of the essential oil onto a handkerchief.  Inhale from the cloth every few minutes until the headache has subsided.


Migraine Headaches

Butterbur (Petasites hybridus)   Butterbur root extract shows potential as an effective and well-tolerated migraine prophylaxis for both children and teenagers.  In a 2005 study 77% of all patients reported a reduction in the frequency of migraine attacks of at least 50%. Attack frequency was reduced by 63%.   91% of patients felt substantially improved after 4 months of treatment. 6

Butterbur acts on migraines in two ways. By lowering the inflammatory chemicals leukotriene and prostaglandin E2, it eliminates the headache symptoms. The second benefit of butterbur is its ability to function as a natural beta blocker controlling normal flow of blood to the brain. This helps control blood pressure and spasmodic capillary action, which also contributes to the onset of migraine.


Feverfew   (Tanacetum parthenium)  Research suggests that the remarkable efficacy of Feverfew in not only reducing the frequency of migraine attacks but also their pain intensity and duration is due to its main constituent parthenolide7.  Feverfew works to prevent migraines in several ways.   This main constituent has been credited with inhibiting the release of serotonin, histamine, and other inflammatory substances that make blood vessels spasm and become inflamed.

Feverfew is best taken in capsule form or by eating 2 fresh leaves every day.

Caution: Feverfew can increase the risk of bleeding, and should not be taken with blood thinners such as warfarin

Overall Caution:   Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use herbs or essential oils for headache prevention.

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