Modern Day Doctor | Ancient Wisdom

Top Natural Remedies for Headaches: Soothe Your Pain Without Pills

According to studies from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), headaches are one of the top reasons people stay home from work or school, and it is one of the most common reasons people visit the doctor. While headaches are common, they aren’t usually problematic. However, for some people, they can be more serious and more unbearable.

According to the International Headache Society, there are more than 150 types of headaches There are two main types: primary and secondary headaches. A primary headache is when the headache is the main issue. Primary headaches are not usually dangerous, even if they are painful or disruptive. 

The most common types of primary headache include:

  • Tension headache
  • Migraine headache
  • Cluster headache

Lifestyle factors such as alcohol intake, processed foods, and sleep issues are a few common causes of primary headaches.

A secondary headache is a symptom of another health condition. Many secondary headaches aren’t considered dangerous and go away once the underlying cause is resolved, such as:

  • Dehydration headaches
  • Sinus headaches
  • Medication overuse headaches
  • Environmental, such as loud noises

Secondary headaches that should be taken seriously include:

  • Spinal headaches
  • Thunderclap headaches (they come on suddenly, like a clap of thunder)

These headaches can be a sign of a more serious condition like a spinal or brain injury, brain bleed, or sudden change in blood pressure.

Naturally Sue Wellness Logo

Fast Forward to Feeling Better

Healing that Addresses the Root Cause


Symptoms of a headache include pain, pressure, or throbbing to the head, neck, or face. According to the American Headache Society, symptoms of headaches can be different for everyone, depending on the type of headache. A migraine is a type of headache that is much more painful and intense. It might be felt only on one side of their head for some people, while others feel it all over. Migraine can also include other symptoms, such as:

  • visual disturbances (bright spots, flashes, or shapes)
  • loss of vision
  • pins and needles in arms or legs
  • difficulty speaking

Often headaches are treated with over-the-counter medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). However, relief from these medications may be temporary and can have side effects. Long-term use is not recommended. Many natural remedies for headaches work just as well or better than conventional treatments. 


Dehydration is one of the most common causes of headache, and one of the most avoidable, according to the American Headache Society. It occurs if the body does not get or maintain enough fluids. Dehydration can cause poor concentration, fatigue, excessive thirst, and dry mouth along with headache. Evidence suggests that drinking water regularly and consistently helps reduce the severity, frequency, and duration of headaches. 

To prevent headaches caused by dehydration, drink water throughout the day, starting when you wake. In addition to water, other ways to stay hydrated include herbal teas and a healthy consumption of fruits and vegetables. 

The Connection Between Dehydration and Headaches

Headaches can result from dehydration by reducing blood flow to the brain and increasing muscle tension. Headaches triggered by dehydration can have symptoms of low blood pressure and dizziness similar to migraine symptoms and sinus headaches.

Keeping yourself well hydrated is
crucial in preventing dehydration headaches and easing headache pain. You can get properly hydrated not only by drinking water and other fluids but also by eating hydrating foods. Staying well-hydrated is not only important for preventing headaches, but it is also crucial for many bodily systems and functions.

When you feel a headache coming on, try drinking a glass of water instead of taking pain medication. Water is a good first step to alleviating the headache or reducing the intensity of the pain. 

Tips for Staying Hydrated

If you’re extremely thirsty, or you have dark-colored urine, you’re likely dehydrated. If you are experiencing either of these symptoms, increase fluid intake to help get your hydration back on track and prevent any health issues, like headaches, from occurring. 

Follow these simple tips to stay hydrated:

  • Drink water regularly throughout the day, starting first thing after waking. Aim for at least 8 glasses of water a day. 
  • Incorporate hydrating foods into your diet, such as fruits and vegetables. 
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol – both can trigger migraine, tension, or cluster headaches.


Essential oils have been used as a natural solution to treat headache pain by many naturopaths because they offer natural pain relief. They are simple, effective, and easily accessible, making them an affordable alternative to using medication. Research shows that essential oils are very effective in relieving headache pain. The most common essential oils used to relieve headaches are:

  • Lavender
  • Peppermint
  • Eucalyptus

These essential oils each have their unique healing properties that make them useful in getting rid of headache symptoms. They can be used in a variety of ways, such as in a mist or diffuser, or massaging it directly on the body in an oil or lotion. 

Whether the essential oils are diffused or massaged onto your wrists or temples, their essence and healing properties make them a useful treatment for acute headache pain while promoting a state of relaxation for your mind and body.

Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender essential oil is one of the most well-known oils for natural headache relief. It has well-documented effects for calming and stress reduction. Since stress and tension are often triggers for headaches, including tension headaches and migraines, the lavender essential oil is a good first choice for relief. 

Lavender oil can be used in a variety of ways to relieve headache pain:

  • Put a few drops into a bath or shower
  • Use a steamer or diffuser 
  • Use a spray 
  • Massage lavender oil or lotion onto your wrists, temples, forehead, or back of your neck

Peppermint Essential Oil

Peppermint essential oil is refreshing, soothing, cooling and stress-reducing. The properties of peppermint can help with blood flow to relieve the pain of a headache, including migraines. 

Practice using peppermint essential oil for head relief in the following ways:

  • Massage onto the temples, forehead, and back of the neck
  • Place one drop on the roof of your mouth for 30 seconds
  • Rub a few drops between your fingers and deeply inhale the scent

Peppermint oil is also a great natural remedy to combat nausea, which can sometimes accompany headaches in some people.

Eucalyptus Essential Oil

Eucalyptus essential oil is useful when your headache is caused by a stuffy nose or sinus congestion. Eucalyptus oil helps to reduce inflammation and open nasal passages that are caused by sinus congestion.


Use eucalyptus essential oil to relieve sinus headache symptoms and help you breathe better in the following ways:

  • Apply the oil topically and rub into the temples or top of the nose 
  • Combine with a carrier oil or lotion on the chest to help breathe better
  • Rub on the bottom of the feet


The foods you eat can contribute to frequent headaches. According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), certain types of foods and drinks may elicit headaches and migraines. According to the American Headache Society, making adjustments to your diet is a good first step in naturally preventing or reducing headaches caused by dietary choices.

Including nutrient-dense foods in your diet is not only good for your body, but a healthy diet has been shown to lessen the occurrence and severity of headaches. 

Foods to Avoid

  • Headache-trigger foods include:
  • Caffeine
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Alcohol
  • Chocolate
  • Foods containing MSG
  • Foods high in nitrates and nitrites, like cured meats
  • Aged cheeses
  • Foods high in histamines
  • Citrus fruits

Often eliminating certain foods will also trigger headaches temporarily. Eliminating caffeine, sugar, and alcohol can cause withdrawal symptoms, like headaches until the withdrawal process is over (1-3 days).

Studies show that adjusting your diet to avoid, eliminate, or reduce the amount of trigger foods or beverages that you eat and drink can reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches.

Foods to Include

To help with headache prevention and alleviating headaches, incorporate nutrient-dense foods into your daily dietary routine. Foods that are rich in magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids, and foods that contain B-complex vitamins have been shown to have a positive impact on preventing and reducing headaches. Examples include:

  • B-complex vitamin – lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, leafy greens, and seeds
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – Wild salmon, bluefin tuna, herring, flaxseed oil, walnuts, and chia seeds
  • Magnesium – Almonds, avocado, bananas, spinach, and dark chocolate

You can get these nutrients from food, but headache sufferers may benefit from additional supplementation. For instance, it is well documented that magnesium oxide prevents migraines and menstrual headaches just as well as conventional treatments, and it does so without side effects. 



A daily habit that includes stress-reducing activities and ease of muscle tension can help manage severe headache pain. Activities that naturally relieve pain include:

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Deep breathing
  • Progressive muscle relaxation

Research suggests that using a variety of relaxation techniques can help enhance a state of relaxation and keep headaches at bay.

Yoga and Meditation

Studies show that routinely engaging in yoga and meditation has shown to be effective at lowering the occurrence of headaches as well as the intensity of pain. Yoga and meditation are great stress-relieving activities. Yoga helps clear your mind while also loosening muscle tension, and increasing flexibility through combining breathwork with yoga poses.

Meditation is a relaxation tool that allows you to focus on your breath and calm your mind and body all at once. Studies support the use of meditation as an effective technique for pain tolerance and coping with migraines.

Making a habit of yoga and meditation into your routine not only reduces stress but are useful tool in preventing headaches altogether, especially for those who suffer more frequently than most.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a technique that involves tightening muscles and then letting them relax. Mindfully moving from body part to body part, tensing, and then releasing muscles promotes deep relaxation. PMR is known to induce a state of calm, ease stress and anxiety, and bring the body to a relaxed physical and mental state, which is useful for managing headache pain and reducing the frequency of migraines. Studies show that participants who used PMR for migraine care saw a significant drop in the rate of occurrence of migraines. 

Deep Breathing Exercises

Another approach to headache relief is deep breathing. Focus on slow, deliberate inhales and exhales. Breathwork can be done anywhere, any time, and for any length of time. It is incredibly effective at easing pain. Deep breathing increases the flow and levels of oxygen levels throughout your body and brings on a state of calm. Studies show that incorporating deep breathing exercises into your routine can reduce headache pain and strengthen your body’s ability to handle stress. Some say practicing deep breathing first thing in the morning can help manage stress and prevent headaches throughout the day. 


Herbs have been used for centuries for healing a variety of health issues. Many of these herbs have anti-inflammatory properties and promote relaxation, which can benefit those who suffer from headaches.

Research supports the use of these natural herbal remedies for headache and migraine pain. Using herbal treatments can help relieve headache pain instead of relying on over-the-counter or prescription medication. Herbal treatments can also be used as a preventative treatment for headaches. Herbal remedies that are often used to promote relaxation and reduce headache pain include feverfew, butterbur, and ginger.


Feverfew is an herb that has been used as a pain reliever to help heal many conditions for hundreds of years. It is especially useful in treating headaches and migraines. Feverfew is an anti-inflammatory, which makes it effective in reducing the occurrence or stopping migraine attacks altogether. It can be taken in capsule form, dried or fresh leaves, and extracts. 


Butterbur is another herbal remedy that has been used for centuries for various medicinal purposes. Today it is a popular herbal treatment for managing migraines and other headaches due to its anti-inflammatory properties. The Academy of Neurology recommends butterbur as a prophylaxis treatment to prevent migraines from occurring. The leaf and root extracts are typically what is used to treat migraine headaches. 

If you are allergic to plants like ragweed, daisies, and marigolds, talk with your naturopath when adding butterbur herbal supplements into your headache relief routine. While proven safe, some people prone to allergies may be sensitive to it. 



Ginger has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy for a myriad of health issues, including pain, nausea, and headache. Because of its potent anti-inflammatory properties and its healing effects on pain and nausea, it is studied for use as a treatment for migraine headaches.

Ginger can be used in several ways:

  • Herbal supplement
  • Herbal tea
  • Eating ginger
  • Essential oil
  • Cold Ginger compress 


Acupuncture and acupressure are ancient healing techniques that stem from Traditional Chinese Medicine. These techniques are used to stimulate the flow of energy throughout the body. It is believed that stuck energy causes disease in the body, resulting in health issues. In acupuncture or acupressure, specific points on the body called meridians are stimulated to help get the energy (Qi, or chi) unstuck. A wide variety of health issues, including headache and migraine pain have been treated using this practice. Acupuncture and acupressure have been studied and proven effective in treating pain from headaches and migraines. In one systematic review, the occurrence of headaches was cut in half by those given acupuncture. The study also showed that the effects of acupuncture lasted for more than 6 months after treatment.

Both acupuncture and acupressure are effective for managing headache pain and rate of occurrence.

Acupuncture for Chronic Headaches

Acupuncture has become a mainstream, natural treatment for various health issues. People who get headaches regularly can find long-term relief by using acupuncture. It is widely used as an alternative to taking medication.
Studies have shown that acupuncture is not only effective at lowering the rate of headaches, but it also helps with the intensity of pain. Acupuncture also works well at preventing future headaches. Depending on the type of headache you have, different acupuncture points are stimulated for treatment. According to NIH studies, acupuncture is more effective at relieving migraines than a placebo.

It can take several, routine acupuncture treatment sessions to be effective in reducing chronic headache pain and symptoms. Usually, 5-8 one-hour sessions are all that is needed. In acupuncture, the practitioner uses small thin needles to stimulate specific points on the body called meridians. The theory is that when meridians are blocked, stimulating them helps to keep the flow and balance of energy in the body running smoothly and can relieve, prevent, or treat disease in the body. 

Acupressure Points for Headache Relief

Acupressure is similar to acupuncture but less invasive. Acupressure involves applying pressure to your energy lines instead of needles. Applying pressure to these points activates the flow of energy and improves headache symptoms. 

One study showed that chronic headache sufferers saw better results after one month of acupressure when compared to one month of muscle relaxant treatment. Acupressure had long-lasting effects and was still effective 6 months later. 

Acupressure can be done at home for headache relief, so it’s an easy remedy to apply if you get headaches often. To use acupressure for headache relief, apply constant pressure or gently massage in a circular motion to the following areas:

  • Third eye – space between your 2 eyebrows
  • Drilling Bamboos – Inside of each eye, where the nose bridge meets the brow bone.
  • Gates of Consciousness – the hollow spaces on either side of the spine on the back of
  • the neck, just beneath the base of the skull
  • Shoulder Well – the space about halfway between the base of the neck and the shoulder joint.
  • Union Valley (Hegu point) – in the space between the thumb and index finger


Simple behavioral measures, like temperature therapy, can often be the most effective way to handle headaches and migraines. Temperature therapy is a treatment that uses heat or cold to bring down pain. It is an effective, quick treatment for pain and inflammation without having to rely on over-the-counter medication, like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). 

Ice is a tried and true treatment for pain and inflammation for any ailment or injury, and it works just as well for headache pain. In one NIH study, participants saw substantial pain relief when they used a frozen neck wrap at the onset of a migraine. To do this at home, apply a cold compress or ice pack to your head or neck for 15-20 minutes at a time as soon as you feel a headache coming on. Cold temperatures have a numbing effect, which helps dull pain. 

Ice packs are inexpensive and readily available. They are also a relatively safe way to minimize headache pain and discomfort. A gel ice pack is the most comfortable option because it conforms to the shape of your head. Crushed ice cubes, a bag of frozen peas, or a bag of frozen blueberries are a good option for a homemade ice pack that can conform to the head.

Precautions and Considerations

When ice is applied directly to the skin it can cause ice burn. When using ice to relieve a headache, use an ice pack. Otherwise, put a barrier, like a cloth, between the skin and the ice to prevent ice burn.


Poor sleep is a major cause of headaches and migraines. Sleep, mood, and headaches are all controlled by similar regions of the brain and they share similar brain signals, which may be why headaches are triggered after a bad night’s sleep.   

Both too little and too much sleep have been associated with migraines and other headache disorders. Research from NIH suggests that headache treatment cannot be effective without also addressing sleep issues. 

Sleep Deprivation and Headaches

Research has established a solid relationship between sleep problems and migraines and various other types of headaches. The body’s pain threshold is compromised when there is a lack of sleep. People with chronic headaches experience more severe pain when sleep is interrupted. Figuring out the cause of your poor sleep is an essential first step in addressing why you may not be sleeping well. Conditions that may cause insomnia or lack of sleep include:

  • Snoring
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Illness
  • Sleep apnea
  • Tooth grinding
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Dehydration
  • Jet lag
  • Alcohol
  • Poor dietary choices
  • Old mattresses or pillows

Fixing the root cause of your sleep issue will likely also address the cause of your headaches.

Oversleeping and Headaches

Too much sleep can also contribute to headaches. This phenomenon is known as “sleep inertia” or “sleep hangover.” Researchers believe migraines and oversleeping share certain brain chemicals that overlap.  

A few ways in which oversleeping might contribute to headaches include:

  • Disruption of Circadian Rhythms – Oversleeping can disrupt your body’s natural circadian rhythms, which regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Changes in the sleep pattern can lead to headaches as your body adjusts to a new routine.
  • Dehydration – During extended periods of sleep, your body may become dehydrated. Dehydration is a common cause of headaches, so oversleeping without proper hydration can contribute to head pain.
  • Changes in Blood Sugar Levels – Oversleeping may affect blood sugar levels and contribute to headaches, especially in individuals who are sensitive to fluctuations in glucose levels.
  • Muscle Tension and Stiffness – Prolonged periods of sleep can lead to muscle tension and stiffness, particularly if you maintain a fixed or awkward sleeping position. Tension in the neck and shoulder muscles can result in headaches.
  • Sleep Apnea – Sleep apnea can lead to fragmented sleep and morning headaches.
  • Hypersomnia – a medical condition that causes people to suffer from extreme sleepiness throughout the day that is not helped with more sleep. Just like with insomnia, people with hypersomnia are at risk for chronic headaches in addition to a host of other issues like anxiety, low energy, and memory issues.

Addressing the root cause for oversleeping or undersleeping is a first-line therapy for addressing reasons for headaches.


Sleep and headaches are interconnected and complicated. The relationship between them continues to be studied. But we know that too little sleep can trigger headaches. Too much sleep has been shown to be a major root cause of migraines and other headache disorders. The first-line therapy for headache disorders is to address a person’s sleep. One of the most important ways to combat these problems is to get the right amount of sleep, which is 7 hours for adults, and more for younger people. If you consistently experience headaches related to changes in your sleep patterns, it’s advisable to stick to a sleep schedule, stay hydrated, and eat nutrient-dense foods. There are many at-home remedies to help relieve headaches if you do get one. 


Table of Contents

Recent Posts

Share this Post

You May Also Enjoy

Holistic Treatment for Anxiety

Understanding Anxiety Anxiety is a complex condition that can have both physical and psychological components. From a holistic medical perspective, anxiety involves the interplay between genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Here are a few takeaways from a holistic viewpoint: It’s

Read More »

Increasing Fertility Naturopathically

The month of April sees National Infertility Awareness Week, a full seven days dedicated to a struggle that roughly 17.5% of women in the world experience.  Infertility can be one of the most isolating experiences for both men and women.

Read More »


Sign up for my newsletter for the latest holistic health advice. By signing up, you will receive my Healthy Lifestyle guide right away to your inbox! This guide will have the most important tips and tools to get started on a holistic lifestyle!

We will never spam you or share your email with anyone. In addition to the guide you’ll also receive semi-regular email updates with tips, tools, offers and exclusive resources. All emails include an unsubscribe link, you may opt-out at any time. Read our Privacy Policy to see how your data is handled.

open magazine featuring Dr. Susan Cucchiara''s 12 steps to health success publication