A headache is a symptom, but not a disease. Different underlying conditions, like general malaise, also triggers a headache. However, headache is a common symptom of a migraine. A migraine can be defined as a clinical condition characterized by tingle like sensation followed by an intense headache on the temporal nerve of the brain which is situated at the side of the head. A headache usually occurs due to stress, sudden changes in blood circulation or neuro-chemical transport, genetic factors, and hormonal alteration.
A headache is felt at the side as well as at the front part of the forehead. The progression of a headache in case of a migraine attack is gradual. The discomfort increases with light and sound effects. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted in 2011 reported that 22.7% population had a migraine.
Instant headache relief can be obtained by administering the oral painkillers available in the drug stores, which are associated with many side effects. But diseases like a migraine, cervicogenic or tension related headache cannot be permanently relieved by these medications. There is no medication discovered to treat such types of headache. Natural treatment is an alternative measure to safely abate the headache attack. Different natural ingredients and some traditional treatment methods are effective measures to reduce the frequency and severity of headaches. Practicing some stepwise physical movements also naturally treat a headache.
A chronic headache without any serious underlying cause like a brain tumor is effectively treatable with natural treatments. Some of the following natural treatments are clinic-based and conducted under the supervision of an expert, but some are home-based remedies.
Acupuncture is one of the traditional Chinese medicinal therapy. Pressing through needles in certain points of our body, which is also known as acupoints, are responsible for treating the underlying cause of a migraine-related headache and also relieve the symptom.
A systematic literature review has demonstrated that homeopathic treatment is effective to treat a migraine, cervicogenic or tension-related headaches.
Ginger is a common kitchen ingredient which usually adds a spicy taste to our food items. Traditionally, ginger has a medicinal background and used for many clinical conditions including nausea and vomiting which may be associated with a severe headache. The presence of two hundred key constituents in ginger oil acts together against the production of prostaglandin and can give a relief from a headache. Hyperacidity can also trigger a headache and ginger improves stomach health and effective in headache relief. All these beliefs are scientifically proved through a recent study conducted by researchers from headache clinics in the US. The report revealed that ginger supplement is useful for prevention of severity of a migraine-related headache and also subsides the associated symptoms like nausea and vomiting. It is advisable not to take a ginger piece directly as it has blood thinning property.
Preparation of ginger tea
Chop the freshly cut 1 ½ inch ginger piece. Add chopped ginger to a pan with 1 cup of water and boil it till the volume become half, then strain the extract and gradually drink the ginger tea by taking a sip.
Mint leaf is a chief source of peppermint oil. The typical smell obtained from peppermint oil is due to the presence of menthol, a volatile substance which imparts cooling effect. Mint leaves are easily available as kitchen items. In the summer season, mint leaves are usually added in many food preparations to obtain a cooling effect. Scientifically this gives added benefits that help to reduce stomach problems including nausea and provides relief from spasms. The cooling effect of peppermint act as a stress buster and it also improves the blood flow in the brain by promoting muscle contraction and relaxation of the smooth muscles of the blood vessels. The best result is obtained by applying the peppermint oils locally on the affected site. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey conducted in the year 2002 reported that 12% headache suffered patients among the 30,000 population used peppermint oil to get relief from pain. Vapor inhalation of boiled mint leaves also helps to give headache relief. Adequate scientific studies are yet to be conducted to justify this fact.
Preparation of topical application
To get the best result, peppermint oil is mixed with eucalyptus oil and ethanol (a type of alcohol). At first, crush mint leaves and eucalyptus leaves, then take a cotton cloth, spread the crushed leaves, add 15 – 20 drops of ethanol and then quickly fold the cloth. Lie on the bed and then cover the forehead with this cotton piece. Close your eyes and take rest.
Drinking of tea, specifically green tea and chamomile tea have benefits of relieving headaches as they are useful for treating the conditions like muscle cramps and stomach spasms which are associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS triggers headaches associated with a migraine. Postmenopausal syndromes also elicit a headache and can be controlled by drinking unsweetened tea. Tea helps to control the hormonal changes. Both, green tea and coffee contain caffeine which is useful to get rid of anxiety and can reduce swelling of the blood vessels. But, it is advisable to take tea instead of coffee, as too much coffee drinking may create withdrawal syndrome which also includes a headache.
Some patients get headache relief by using ice bags on the forehead. Ice bags provide cold compression. If an ice bag is unavailable then keep some ice cubes inside the hand towel and fold it. Then keep this on your forehead which may constrict blood vessels and reduce the throbbing sensation. Some time alternative hot and cold compression is also effective.
Effective stepwise physical movements
• Press the muscles of the forehead, start from the upper part of the eyebrows and then gradually release the pressure.
• Close your eyes and tightly squeeze the eyelids and generate pressure. Then gradually release the pressure and open your eyes evenly.
• Expand your cheek muscles then relax.
• Tightly grasp your jaw and then rid off the pressure.
• Place your tongue tip at the roof of your oral cavity and generate pressure. Then bring the tongue at its original position.
• Join both the lips and hold them tightly. Then gradually open them.
• Generate pressure at the backside of the head by pressing against the support (floor, pillow, and chair) and then release the pressure.
• Lift your shoulders up and hold them as much as near to the ears, then again go back to your original posture.
• Breathing exercise utilizing the diaphragm (dome-shaped elastic rim like structure present between the chest and abdominal cavity) reduce the frequency of a headache.
Scientific evidence not adequate to support these home-based treatments but modern medical treatment services are supporting to establish these remedies.
Headache relief is based on medicines that can either reduce the excitability of the central nervous system or antagonize the inflammatory phase. Some botanicals have this potency to comply with these mechanisms and thus effective to treat a headache. Following are some herbs evidentially proved that they can relieve a migraine-associated headache.
The scientific name of this herb is Tanacetum parthenium L., which belongs to the Asteraceae family. This herb inhibits prostaglandin synthesis and provides an anti-inflammatory effect. Four placebo-controlled randomized clinical trials reported this herb has a prophylactic effect against a migraine. Another clinical trial conducted on 170 a migraine affected people reported treating patients with feverfew herb significantly reduces migraine frequency.
The root extract of Petasites, which is scientifically known as Petasites hybridus is an effective treatment for migraine prevention. The common name of Petasites is butterbur, which has calcium regulatory effect and inhibits peptide leukotrienes. Inhibition of COX-2 mediated prostaglandin 2 release and leukotrienes synthesis can be possible by oral intake of this herb and relief headache.
Ginkgo biloba extract has bioactive compound Ginkgolide B, which has glutamatergic transmission modulating effect in the central nervous system and antagonistic effect against the platelet-activating factor receptor. Both of these mechanisms assist to improve a headache.