We’ve all had a stressful day—you’re late, you’re can’t find your keys, you’re overworked, you’ve had too little sleep, the kids are screaming, and the dog just tracked mud on the carpet. There’s just so much you can handle until your head starts throbbing and pounding with pain. A head-splitting headache just made your day worse, and it hasn’t even started yet.
Headaches are a common response to stress. There are three types of headaches, two of which may not be directly caused by stress and one that may be.
Tension headaches: This is the most common type of headache which is characterized by a dull, non-throbbing pain typically accompanied by a tightness in the scalp or neck. Chronic everyday stresses, like traffic jam or missing car keys can trigger tension headaches.
Migraines: The exact causes of migraine are unknown, although some events causing emotional stress can cause migraines. During a stressful emotional event, certain chemicals are released that provoke vascular changes in the brain that cause a migraine. Factors related to stress include excitement, anxiety, shock, depression, and mental fatigue.
Secondary headaches: Under this category falls all headaches that are caused by serious medical conditions, such as brain tumor and strokes. They are not directly caused by stress, although stress makes people susceptible to illness and these illnesses cause headaches.
Headache remedies depend on the type of headache you have. Tension headaches may be helped by taking pain medications. However, taking too much of these could result in more severe problems like rebound headaches. Instead, try the following home remedies and rid yourself of headaches the natural way.
1. Thyme and rosemary rub
Research has shown that thyme and rosemary essential oils contain carvacrol, a substance that acts like a COX-II inhibitor, similar to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. COX-II is an enzyme that is responsible for pain and inflammation, hence inhibiting its action alleviates headache.
Dab a few drops of thyme or rosemary essential oil onto your temples and forehead. Gently massage the oil into your skin. Then sit quietly for a few minutes and allow this home remedy work its wonders.
2. Ginger root
Ginger can help alleviate headaches by inhibiting the production of prostaglandin, a hormone that helps send pain signals to the brain. When a headache occurs, prostaglandin is overproduced.
Steep three quarters of gingerroot in two cups of boiling water for 30 minutes to make a homemade gingerroot tea.
3. Foot bath
Natural healers believe that foot bath is a potent home remedy for headaches. This is because the hot water draws blood to your feet, thus alleviating the pressure from the blood vessels your head.
Add a few drops of lavender and/or mint essential oils into the hot water. Its aroma should provide you with soothing relief.
4. Cold compress
Headaches, particularly migraines, begins when blood vessels in the brain temporarily constricts. When this happens, other blood vessels dilate and expand. These blood vessels throb and become inflamed, causing the pounding pain.
Cold constraints blood vessels. Hence, applying cold compress on the forehead or at the base of the skull lessens the pressure of inflamed blood vessels on sensitive nerves. Wrap a couple of ice cubes in a wash cloth or a bag of frozen vegetables and use as a cold compress.
5. Hot compress
Some headaches are caused by tension and anxiety, causing muscles to tighten up and pinch on nerves and blood vessels. Applying a hot compress on these tight muscles can help loosen them up and relieve the pressure acting on the nerves and blood vessels.
Soak a towel in a very warm water and apply this on your forehead. After a while, try switching it at the back of your head or at the top. You may also try applying hot compress on one part of your head and a cold compress on another. Keep this up for as long as you need to.
6. Strong black coffee
Caffeine helps reduce blood vessel swelling, thus alleviating headaches. Some pain killers, such as Excedrin, contain caffeine.
This isn’t advisable to heavy coffee drinkers though. Caffeine withdrawal can cause headaches, aggravating the problem further.
Almonds contain salicin, a substance that acts like a pain killer because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Salicin is chemically similar to aspirin. It’s also an active ingredient in most popular over-the-counter pain killers.
Pop in a few of these wholesome nuts when you feel a headache setting in. Some people may find almonds as trigger foods, however.
8. Hold a pencil with your teeth
Holding a pencil with your teeth can actually alleviate headaches. This action activates the smile muscles in your face, thus relaxing your jaw. We usually respond to tension by clenching our teeth. This in turn strains the muscles that connect the jaw with the temples, causing tension headaches.
Make sure you are holding the pencil between your teeth. Avoid biting the pencil or clenching your jaw.
These are but some of the few home remedies for alleviating headaches. However, if you find yourself suffering from headaches constantly or it is accompanied with other symptoms, you should consider consulting your doctor for medical advice.