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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 can be used to treat headache symptoms, a number of effective natural treatments also exist.
Keep reading for 18 effective home remedies to naturally get rid of headaches.
Causes of headaches
Headaches have a number of causes, some of which are much more serious than others.
- lack of sleep
- caffeine withdrawal
- alcohol use
- nutrient deficiency
However, serious injuries and underlying health issues can also cause headaches.
For example, headaches can result from potentially life threatening conditions, including tumors and blood clots, as well as from traumatic brain injury (5).
Medication overuse and infections of the central nervous system can cause headaches as well (6).
Additionally, some people are more likely to experience headaches than others.
People with obesity, those with sleep disorders, those who smoke, and those with high caffeine intake are more at risk of experiencing headaches. People with a family health history of headaches are more prone to headache disorders too (6, 7, 8).
Natural remedies for headaches
1. Drink water
Inadequate hydration may lead you to develop a headache.
What’s more, being dehydrated can impair concentration and cause irritability, making your symptoms seem even worse (10).
To help avoid dehydration headaches, focus on drinking enough water throughout the day and eating water-rich foods like fruits and vegetables.
2. Take some magnesium
Magnesium is an important mineral necessary for countless functions in the body, including blood sugar regulation and nerve transmission (12).
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 than in those who don’t (13).
For example, supplementing with 600 mg of magnesium citrate may be effective for reducing headaches in people with migraine (15).
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 and ask a healthcare professional if you have questions related to dosing.
Pure Encapsulations Magnesium Citrate is a great choice for people who want to try magnesium for headaches. Each capsule contains 150 mg of magnesium citrate.
Pure Encapsulations products are tested by third-party, independent laboratories, including Eurofins, Intertek, and Silliker (16).
3. 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 (17).
There are several ways in which alcohol is thought to trigger headaches, including by provoking inflammation, activating certain neuronal pathways, contributing to dehydration, and widening blood vessels, though the exact mechanism is still unclear (17).
People who experience frequent headaches could try cutting back on their alcohol intake to see if it benefits their symptoms.
4. Get adequate sleep
Sleep deprivation can be detrimental to your health in many ways and may even cause headaches in some people.
In fact, research shows that poor sleep quality and insomnia are associated with increased headache frequency and severity (19).
Sleep apnea, a health condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and then starts again during sleep, is associated with morning headaches, while insomnia is linked to increased headache severity in those with tension headaches (20, 21).
For maximum benefits, aim for the “sweet spot” of 7–9 hours of sleep per night (23).
5. 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 (24).
It’s also found in certain foods, such as aged cheeses, fermented foods, beer, wine, smoked fish, and cured meats.
Studies suggest that consuming histamine may cause migraines in those who are sensitive to it (25).
Some people cannot excrete histamine properly because they have impaired function of the enzymes responsible for breaking it down (26).
6. Try 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.
If you experience frequent headaches, try diffusing essential oils or rubbing a small amount of an essential oil, like peppermint or lavender oil, mixed with a carrier oil, like jojoba, onto your wrists or temples.
There are a number of high quality essential oils available, with Eden Botanicals being one of the best brands to consider.
7. Try a B-complex vitamin
Some B vitamins may also have a protective effect against headaches.
B-complex supplements 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, meaning that any excess will be flushed out through the urine (35).
If you’re looking for a high quality B-complex supplement, you may want to try Nordic Naturals Vitamin B Complex. It contains highly absorbable forms of B vitamins, including methylcobalamin and 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF).
The supplement is third-party tested, and customers can obtain a certificate of analysis on the Nordic Naturals website.
8. Soothe pain with a cold compress
Using a cold compress may help reduce your headache symptoms.
Applying cold or frozen compresses to your neck or head area decreases inflammation, slows nerve conduction, and constricts blood vessels, all of which could help reduce headache pain (36).
Studies suggest that cold therapy may benefit those experiencing certain types of headaches, including headaches caused by nitrate medication used to treat heart conditions like chest pain (37).
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 your neck, your head, or your temples for headache relief.
9. Consider taking coenzyme Q10
Studies have shown that taking CoQ10 supplements may be an effective natural way to treat headaches.
For example, one study in 80 people diagnosed with migraine demonstrated that taking 100 mg of CoQ10 per day reduced migraine frequency, severity, and length (39).
A 2021 review that included 6 studies found that treatment with 30–800 mg of CoQ10 per day was effective for reducing migraine frequency and duration (40).
Thorne Research CoQ10 (previously Q-Best 100), which provides 100 mg of CoQ10 per 1-gelcap serving, is a good option for people who experience migraine.
Thorne Research is a well-trusted supplement company that is certified by several third-party organizations, including the Therapeutic Goods Association, a regulatory agency run by the Australian Government Department of Health (41).
10. Try an elimination diet
Studies suggest that food intolerances can trigger headaches in some people (1).
To discover whether a certain food is causing frequent headaches, you may consider trying an elimination diet that removes the foods most related to your headache symptoms.
A 2016 study in 50 people with migraine found that eliminating migraine-triggering foods from the diet significantly reduced migraine attack frequency, duration, and severity (42).
11. Drink caffeinated tea or coffee
Sipping on beverages that contain caffeine, such as tea or coffee, may provide relief when you are experiencing a headache.
It also helps increase the effectiveness of common medications used to treat headaches, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen (43).
However, caffeine withdrawal has also been shown to cause headaches if a person regularly consumes large amounts of caffeine and suddenly stops.
Therefore, people who get frequent headaches should be mindful of their caffeine intake (44).
While there are many excellent tea brands on the market, Stash Teas is known for offering a wide variety of flavors, including Green Chai, Orange Spice, and Double Bergamot Early Grey.
12. Try acupuncture
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves inserting thin needles into the skin to stimulate specific points on the body (45).
This practice has been linked to a reduction in headache symptoms in many studies.
A 2020 overview of 15 systematic reviews concluded that acupuncture may be an effective therapy for people with migraine (46).
What’s more, a 2022 study that included 156 people with migraine found that treatments with both 5 and 10 sessions of acupuncture were effective for reducing frequency of migraine attacks and migraine severity (47).
If you’re looking for a natural way to treat chronic headaches, acupuncture may be a worthwhile choice.
13. Relax with yoga
Taking up yoga may even help reduce the intensity and frequency of your headaches.
One study investigated the effects of yoga therapy on 60 people with chronic migraines. Headache frequency and intensity were reduced more in those receiving both yoga therapy and conventional care than in those receiving conventional care alone (49).
Additionally, a 2020 review that included six studies found that yoga helped improve headache frequency, duration, and intensity in patients with tension-type headaches (50).
14. Avoid strong smells
Strong odors like those from perfumes and cleaning products can cause certain individuals to develop headaches.
This hypersensitivity to odors is called osmophobia and is common in those with chronic migraines (52).
If you think you may be sensitive to smells, avoiding perfumes, cigarette smoke, and strongly scented foods may help decrease your chance of getting a migraine.
15. Try an herbal remedy
Research suggests that certain herbs, including curcumin, chamomile, and butterbur, may reduce headache symptoms.
For example, a 2020 review of 19 studies found positive preliminary findings for curcumin as a preventive treatment and for chamomile as an acute treatment for migraine (53).
Even though some herbs are safe to take, it’s important to be cautious when supplementing with herbs, as many can interact with commonly prescribed medications and may be unsafe for people who are pregnant or have certain health conditions (54).
Of the herbal supplements mentioned in the review listed above, curcumin and chamomile are generally considered safe. However, it’s important to check with a healthcare professional before using any herbal remedy to treat headaches.
Thorne Meriva-SF is an excellent choice for those looking for a high quality curcumin supplement to prevent migraines, and Nature’s Way Chamomile may be helpful if you’re looking for immediate headache relief.
16. Avoid nitrates and nitrites
Nitrates and nitrites are food preservatives commonly added to items like hot dogs, sausages, and bacon to keep them fresh by preventing bacterial growth.
Foods containing them have been shown to trigger headaches in some people (55).
Nitrites may trigger headaches by causing the expansion of blood vessels (56).
In order to minimize your exposure to nitrites, limit the amount of processed meats in your diet and choose nitrate-free products whenever possible.
17. Take some ginger
A 2021 review that included three randomized control trials found that treatment with ginger supplements helped reduce pain in people with migraine (58).
What’s more, the ginger treatments helped reduce nausea and vomiting, common symptoms associated with severe headaches (58).
If you’re interested in taking a ginger supplement, Pure Encapsulations Ginger Extract is a high quality supplement that provides 500 mg of ginger root extract per capsule.
You can also make a powerful tea using fresh ginger root. Not only is it cost-effective to make, but drinking the tea is a healthy way to stay hydrated.
18. Move more
One of the simplest ways to reduce headache frequency and severity is to engage in physical activity.
There are many ways to increase your activity level, but one of the simplest ways is to increase the number of steps you take throughout the day.
Tips for preventing headaches
If you’re looking for ways to prevent headaches, the following evidence-based tips may help:
- Stay hydrated: Staying hydrated throughout the day is a simple way to reduce the risk of headaches while benefiting your overall health. Hydration needs vary, depending on factors like activity levels, body size, and more, so let your thirst be your guide (62).
- Identify underlying causes: There are many potential underlying causes of headaches, including nutrient deficiencies. If you’re experiencing frequent headaches, see a healthcare professional for a thorough checkup to rule out potential causes (2).
- Eat regularly: Undereating and restricting calories could cause you to develop a headache. Make sure you’re consuming enough calories throughout the day, and don’t go long periods of time without eating (63).
- Get the right amount of sleep: Both sleep deprivation and oversleeping may trigger migraines. It’s important to get the right amount of sleep, not too much or too little. Aim for 7–9 hours of sleep per night (23).
- Try to manage your stress: Stress may trigger some types of headaches and take a toll on overall health. Incorporating healthy stress management practices like exercise, medication, and yoga into your life may help reduce your stress level as much as possible (64).
There are many other ways to help reduce headache frequency, duration, and severity. You can work with a healthcare professional to come up with a plan that works best for you.
When to see a doctor
The occasional mild headache isn’t usually a cause for concern, but if you’re experiencing frequent headaches or a lasting, severe headache, it’s critical that you seek medical care.
Headaches can be a symptom of a serious underlying health issue, such as a tumor, a blood clot, or another medical condition that requires immediate medical attention (5).
A doctor can help rule out potential underlying causes of your headaches and give you the right care.
It’s especially important to seek immediate medical attention if you’re experiencing a headache after an injury or trauma, such as a fall, or if you experience a sudden, very severe headache, as this may be a symptom of a serious medical condition.
Frequently asked questions
What is the fastest home remedy for a headache?
There are several home remedies that may help treat headaches.
For example, if dehydration is causing a headache, drinking water can help quickly improve the symptoms (11).
Taking pain relievers such as ibuprofen can also help reduce headache pain (67).
Relaxing in a dark room, using a cold compress, smelling some peppermint or lavender essential oils, drinking some caffeine, and avoiding loud noises may also help reduce headache severity.
However, keep in mind that these remedies may not be effective for everyone. Effective treatments depend on the type and cause of the headache you’re experiencing.
Are there any home remedies for headaches that you should avoid?
It’s important to avoid taking herbal supplements to treat a headache unless you’ve checked with a healthcare professional first to ensure the supplements are safe for you. Many herbal supplements can interfere with common medications and aren’t safe for everyone (68).
You should also avoid drinking too much caffeine, as this can make you jittery and interfere with sleep (69).
Is there anything that makes headaches worse?
Bright lights, loud noises, and strong smells may make headache symptoms worse.
If you’re experiencing a significant headache, it’s important to relax in a calm, dark, quiet environment.
The bottom line
Because people experience negative effects from frequent headaches, it’s important to find natural and effective treatment options.
Yoga, nutritional supplements, essential oils, and dietary modifications are all natural, safe, and effective ways to reduce headache symptoms.
While traditional methods such as medications are often necessary, there are many natural and effective ways to prevent and treat headaches if you’re looking for a more holistic approach.