5 Natural Headache Remedies, Backed by Science
Headaches are a real pain. But that annoying—and let's face it, sometimes insufferable—pounding is quite common. According to the World Health Organization, as many as three-quarters of adults between the ages of 18 and 65 have had a headache in the last year. The pain "can be classified into primary disorders, like migraines or tension headache, or secondary headaches, which are due to something else, such as trauma to the head or strokes," explains Jocelyn Bear, MD, a board-certified neurologist based in Colorado.
Not all headaches are built the same; there are several types. Tension, one of the most common forms, affecting up to 70 percent of the population, presents as pain located on both sides of the head in a pressure type sensation. Migraines, also common, affect 39 million people in the United States, and are severe, with throbbing pain on one side of the head and often accompanied by nausea and light or sound sensitivity. Cluster, a rare type that involves severe pain on one side of the head, usually around the eye or temple and often includes symptoms such as a drooping eyelid, redness of or tearing of the eye. And sinus, pain located in the cheeks or the forehead.
Each headache variation comes with different triggers, "though common triggers include stress, weather changes, skipping meals, lack of sleep, dehydration, and alcohol," says Adelene E. Jann, MD, headache medicine specialist and clinical assistant professor of neurology at NYU Langone Health. No matter your type, "any headache that comes on very quickly—like a 'thunderclap'—or is associated with neurological symptoms like weakness or numbness on one side of the body, or associated with high fever should be evaluated emergently," Dr. Jann says. "If headaches have been worsening over time, becoming more severe and more frequent, start interfering with your day, or stop responding to over-the-counter treatments, then evaluation by a doctor should be considered."
When it comes to easing aches, many turn to over-the-counter medications. Popping pills, though, can also be a culprit for chronic headaches, says Dr. Bear. "Medication overuse headaches can occur if someone takes too much pain medication—often using medications on a daily basis," explains Dr. Jann. "The headache may improve for a short period of time, but then return when the medication wears off."
Good thing medication isn't the only remedy. There are also plenty of natural ways to alleviate a headache, depending on the type of headaches you get. Here are five science-backed methods worth trying.