From Our Medicine Cabinet: Treating Headaches….Naturally

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Extreme fatigue and headaches were the forerunners announcing that both my and my mother’s health was on a rapid downhill slide.

As a teenager, when my diet consisted of fast-food nearly every day for lunch, I was getting 3 to 4 headaches a week and they often turned into debilitating migraines.  My vision was often affected and there were times that all I could do was go home and go to bed.  I was taking ibuprofen constantly.

My mother’s headaches were even worse, sometimes a migraine would be triggered by simply bending over to pick something up. Often, she would wake up in the morning with a headache that would last for days.

If you are an autoimmune sufferer then you are most likely intimately acquainted with headaches too.  One study on lupus and headaches concluded “Migraine is more prevalent in SLE patients, associated with depression like in the general population…” (Tjensvoll, 2011).  Another study found that 84% of reporting fibromyalgia sufferers had “substantial or severe impact from their headaches” with migraine being diagnosed in 63% (Marcus, 2005).

Through our research, we now understand that our headaches back then were triggered by systemic inflammation and homocysteine attacking our blood vessels.

Overhauling our diets has diminished our headaches by almost 90% and they have also changed in type, frequency, duration, and pain level. Diet has been by far the most important part of drastically reducing our headaches. However, headaches are still one of the first warning signs if we become lax in taking care of ourselves. We now find that they are not caused by same sort of systemic inflammation, but are more often caused by muscle tension from being hunched over a computer or the occasional headache related to fluctuating hormone levels. We use massage to greatly reduce these types of headaches too, but once in a while we still get them.

Nowadays, however, we don’t pop an ibuprofen, but rather, we deal with them naturally with an herbal protocol designed to reduce inflammation and simultaneously provide pain relief. Internally, we use white willow capsules and ginger capsules to control the pain and inflammation.  Externally, we often use Sizzling Hot Snake Oil Salve to rub on the painful areas in the neck or back and then follow with a heating pad on top to help relax the muscle and allow the salve to penetrate.  Finally, we use our Headache Oil to rub on our temples for pain management.  If it is a sinus headache then I will commonly use our Rosemary Compound Oil topically over sinus areas.  These natural remedies can be highly effective in dealing with headaches.

Here are the things we use:

White Willow Bark Capsules-White Willow Bark is the precursor to today’s aspirin. German chemists isolated from the bark what they determined to be the active ingredient and named it salacin. Bayer entered the picture and made a synthetic version of salacin and called it acetylsalicylic acid or aspirin. Willow Bark is a proven painkiller used for inflammatory conditions like headaches, arthritis, menstrual cramps, bursitis, tendinitis and pain caused by inflammation.  Unlike its aspirin counterpart however, White Willow Bark usually causes no irritation to the stomach lining because it contains natural buffers.  Aspirin, however, can lead to ulcers and actually cause the lining of your stomach to bleed a teaspoon of blood.  While aspirin is shown to work more quickly than White Willow Bark, the bark may actually have longer lasting effects.

Ginger Capsules– Ginger has been shown to be effective in relieving the pain of conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis by stopping the immune system’s production of inflammatory leukotrienes.  The potent anti-inflammatory compounds in ginger called “gingerols” make it a powerful tool for dealing with the inflammation of headaches as well. Gingerols also help reduce the tissue inflammation that causes stiff, aching muscles and joints.  Perfect for my tension headaches. When we get a headache, we start by taking 2 white willow capsules and 2 ginger capsules.  Then every 30 minutes after, we take one white willow and one ginger capsule.  We repeat with one white willow and one ginger capsule every 30 minutes until the pain subsides.

Headache OilPalliative relief to help you get through. This blend of essential oils has analgesic and anti-inflammatory benefits.  Essential oils can actually penetrate the skin. Rub on your temples. This topical oil helps me to get through when the pain is unyielding.

Sizzling Hot Snake Oil Salve-all natural but serious relief.  Rub on muscles and then apply a heating pad over the area to help penetrate.  This is my go to for tension headaches.  You can also use it for sinus headache issues by putting a little on the inside of your nostrils.

These natural remedies can provide relief without the adverse side-effects of many commercial headache medications. So they are wonderful things to have on hand in your natural medicine cabinet.

 

What is your favorite natural remedy for treating headaches?

 

References:

Mountain Rose Herbs

The World’s Healthiest Foods: Ginger

Marcus, D.A., C. Bernstein, T.E. Rudy. Fibromyalgia and headache: an epidemiological study supporting migraine as part of the fibromyalgia syndrome. 2005. Clin Rheumatol 24(6):595-601. Epub 2005 May 18.

Tjensvoll AB, E. Harboe, L.G. Gøransson, M.K. Beyer, O.J. Greve, A. Herigstad, J.T. Kvaløy, R. Omdal. Migraine is frequent in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus: a case-control study. 2011. Cephalagia 31(4):401-8. Epub 2010 Jun 7.

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