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Unraveling the Mystery of Headaches

If you've ever experienced the throbbing discomfort of a headache, you know just how much it can disrupt your day. Whether it's a tension headache squeezing at your temples or a pounding migraine wreaking havoc on your plans, dealing with headaches is no fun. But fear not, because in this blog post, we're going to dive into the world of natural remedies that can help you find relief from those pesky head pains.

First and foremost, let me emphasise the importance of seeking guidance from a healthcare professional like myself if you're experiencing frequent or severe headaches. While natural remedies can be incredibly helpful, it's essential to rule out any underlying health issues and ensure you're choosing the right approach for your unique needs.

Now, let's embark on a journey to explore the wonders of natural solutions for headaches. Picture yourself surrounded by the soothing embrace of nature, with gentle breezes and the sound of birds chirping overhead. Together, we'll uncover the magic of herbal allies, lifestyle adjustments, and stress-busting techniques to help you kiss those headaches goodbye.

But before we delve into the remedies, let's take a moment to highlight the importance of self-care and listening to your body. Your headaches may be trying to tell you something, whether it's a need for rest, hydration, or stress management. Pay attention to the signals your body is sending you and prioritise your well-being.

Now, let's explore some natural approaches to headache relief:

Understanding the Biology of Headaches

Headaches can stem from various factors, including tension, dehydration, hormonal fluctuations, dietary triggers, stress, and environmental factors. Understanding the root cause of your headaches is key to finding effective relief.Certainly, let's delve deeper into the biochemical and physiological aspects of each type of headache:

Tension headaches: 

 - Biochemical and Physiological Factors: Most common form of headache. These headaches are intermittent, moderate and are accompanied by a concomitant feeling of tenderness, tightness or stiffness in muscles of the back, neck, jaw and/or shoulders [1]. This muscular tension can lead to reduced blood flow to the scalp and surrounding areas, causing pain. Biochemically, the release of certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, may play a role in modulating pain perception and muscle tension. Commonly felt in the temples and/or fronto-occipitally. Duration ranges from 30 minutes to several days.

   - Other Factors: Stress, poor posture, prolonged sitting or standing, overexertion, and even jaw clenching or teeth grinding (bruxism) can contribute to tension headaches.


   - Biochemical and Physiological Factors: Migraines involve complex neurovascular mechanisms. It is believed that alterations in the levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) contribute to the initiation and propagation of migraines. Additionally, there is evidence of abnormal cortical processing and activation of the trigeminovascular system, leading to pain and other migraine symptoms. [2]

   - Triggers: Hormonal changes, certain foods (such as aged cheeses, processed meats), environmental factors (like bright lights, strong odors), stress, changes in sleep patterns, and weather changes can trigger migraines.

Cluster headaches: 

   - Biochemical and Physiological Factors: The exact cause of cluster headaches remains unclear, but abnormalities in the hypothalamus, a brain region involved in regulating circadian rhythms and autonomic functions, may be implicated. Dysregulation of neurotransmitters such as histamine, serotonin, and CGRP could also play a role in the pathophysiology of cluster headaches. [3]

   - Other Factors: Cluster headaches often follow a circadian pattern and may be triggered by alcohol consumption, certain medications, changes in sleep patterns, or exposure to tobacco smoke.

Sinus headaches:

   - Biochemical and Physiological Factors: Sinus headaches are primarily due to inflammation and congestion of the sinus passages. This inflammation leads to increased pressure within the sinuses, resulting in pain and discomfort. Biochemically, the release of inflammatory mediators like histamine and leukotrienes contributes to sinus inflammation. [4]

   - Other Factors: Sinus headaches are commonly associated with sinus infections (sinusitis), allergic reactions to environmental allergens (such as pollen, dust mites), nasal polyps, or structural abnormalities in the nasal passages.

In addition to tension headaches, migraines, cluster headaches, and sinus headaches, there are several other types of headaches. Here are a few:

1. Rebound Headaches (Medication Overuse Headaches): These headaches occur as a result of overuse of pain relief medications, such as analgesics or triptans, taken for primary headaches like migraines or tension headaches. Over time, frequent use of these medications can lead to a cycle of headaches, prompting more medication use and exacerbating the problem.

2. Hormone Headaches: These headaches are associated with fluctuations in hormone levels, particularly estrogen, and are more common in women. They often occur during menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, or with the use of hormonal contraceptives. Many female sufferers of headaches notice an increase in headaches attacks at the time of menstruation. Menstrual or hormonal headaches occur at the point in the menstrual cycle when levels of both oestrogen and progesterone decline – it is believed that falling oestrogen levels and/or low oestrogen:progesterone ratios precipitate these headaches.

3. Exertional Headaches: These headaches occur during or after physical exertion, such as exercise, sexual activity, or straining during bowel movements. The exact cause is not fully understood but may involve increased blood flow and pressure in the blood vessels of the head and neck.

4. Hypertension Headaches: While high blood pressure (hypertension) doesn't typically cause headaches, very high blood pressure levels can lead to headaches. These headaches are often described as pulsating and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as blurred vision, chest pain, or shortness of breath.

5. Cervicogenic Headaches: These headaches originate from disorders or dysfunction in the cervical spine (neck) and are often associated with neck pain or stiffness. They can be triggered or worsened by certain neck movements or poor posture.

6. Post-Traumatic Headaches: These headaches develop following head injury or trauma, such as a concussion. They can vary in intensity and duration and may be accompanied by other symptoms like dizziness, memory problems, or sensitivity to light and noise.

7. Primary Stabbing Headaches (Ice Pick Headaches): These are sudden, intense, and brief headaches that occur spontaneously without warning. They typically last for a few seconds to a few minutes and often feel like sharp stabbing or jabbing pains.

8. Trigeminal Neuralgia: While technically not a headache, trigeminal neuralgia causes severe facial pain that can be triggered by facial movements, such as chewing or talking. The pain is often described as stabbing or electric shock-like and can be debilitating.

9. Eyestrain headaches: headache occurs due to over use of eyes and/or improper lighting and visual impairment. Pain is commonly frontal or supraorbital and is frequently worse after prolonged or intense use of eyes.

12. Metabolic headaches: headaches associated with metabolic disorders and derangement of metabolism. Common metabolic triggers include hypoxia, hypercapnia, hypothyroidism and hypoglycaemia.

13. Trauma headaches: this form of chronic headache pain occurs following surgery, car accidents, or any other physical trauma (including brain tumours). The headache may be localised to the site of injury or it may be generalised, variable by intensity, frequency or duration. Generally these headaches are made worse by emotional disturbances and change of position.

14. Toxic headaches: these are headaches associated with toxic states (e.g., heavy metal toxicity, auto-intoxication due to Leaky Gut Syndrome, high endotoxin load due to a sluggish liver function, etc). Pain tends to be moderate, generalised and pulsating but constant. Toxic headaches are also often produced by a fever that comes with conditions such as pneumonia, measles, mumps and tonsillitis.

15. Vascular headaches: these headaches are thought to involve abnormal function of the brain's blood vessels or vascular system. The most common type of vascular headache are migraines (see MIGRAINE Treatment Protocol for details). These headaches are commonly preceded by an aura (flashing lights or zigzag lines, or temporary loss of vision) 10 to 30 minutes before an attack and are generally unilateral and extremely painful.

Each type of headache may have its own underlying causes, triggers, and treatment approaches, highlighting the importance of accurate diagnosis and tailored management strategies.

Aetiology / Risk factors

There are numerous causative factors and risk factors that can contribute to the incidence of headaches.  Some of the most common ones include the following:

  • Improper eyeglass prescription

  • Poor lighting

  • Eyestrain

  • Lack of exercise

  • Lack of sleep

  • Magnesium-deficient diet

  • Alcohol or alcoholism

  • Caffeine sensitivity, excess or withdrawal

  • Poor posture and muscular tension

  • Infections and fever    

  • Uraemia

  • Drug use

  • Toxic burden

  • Heavy metal toxicity

  • Hormonal imbalances (i.e., oestrogen)

  • Hypoglycaemia

  • Allergies

  • Physical Trauma

  • Dental Issues

  • Medication Overuse

  • Overexertion

  • Barometric Pressure Changes

  • Emotional Factors

  • Family history of tension headache

  • Chronic stress or anxiety

  • Depression

  • Irritability

  • Overwork syndrome

  • Temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction (often caused by grinding teeth)

  • Cervical spine mechanical problems

  • Hypothyroidism

  • Low adrenal function

  • Dehydration

  • Gut Health

  • Artificial sweeteners (up to 14% incidence in aspartame users)

Natural Remedies for Headache Relief

Now, let's explore some natural remedies that can help alleviate headaches and promote overall well-being (this is not an extensive list nor has it been personalised to you):

Herbal Allies: Certain herbs have been used for centuries to relieve headaches and promote relaxation. Here are a few (this is absolutely not them all) herbal remedies to consider:

Certainly, let's delve into the scientific basis behind the use of these herbs for headaches:

1. Feverfew:

   - Mechanism of Action: Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) contains compounds like parthenolide, which exhibit anti-inflammatory and vasodilatory effects. Migraines are thought to involve inflammation and abnormal dilation of blood vessels in the brain. Parthenolide inhibits the release of inflammatory substances such as serotonin and prostaglandins, which may contribute to migraine pathology [5].

   - Clinical Evidence: Several clinical trials and meta-analyses have investigated the efficacy of feverfew in migraine prevention. While results have been somewhat mixed, some studies suggest that feverfew supplementation can reduce the frequency, duration, and severity of migraine attacks, possibly by modulating neuroinflammatory pathways.

2. Peppermint:

   - Mechanism of Action: Peppermint oil contains menthol, which has analgesic and muscle-relaxant properties. When applied topically or inhaled as a vapor, menthol can produce a cooling sensation and inhibit pain receptors, providing relief from tension headaches. Additionally, peppermint's aroma may have calming effects, helping to reduce stress and tension [6].

   - Clinical Evidence: While research on peppermint specifically for tension headaches is somewhat limited, studies have shown that topical application of peppermint oil can alleviate muscle pain and tension. Its effects on tension headaches may be attributed to its ability to relax the muscles of the head and neck.

3. Ginger:

   - Mechanism of Action: Ginger (Zingiber officinale) contains bioactive compounds such as gingerol and shogaol, which possess anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. By inhibiting inflammatory pathways and reducing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, ginger can help alleviate headache symptoms associated with inflammation in the blood vessels [5].

   - Clinical Evidence: Several studies have investigated the potential of ginger for migraine relief. While more research is needed, some evidence suggests that ginger supplementation may be beneficial in reducing the intensity and duration of migraines. Its anti-nausea properties may also be helpful for migraineurs who experience nausea during attacks.

4. White Willow Bark:

- Mechanism of Action: White willow bark contains salicin, a compound that is metabolized in the body to salicylic acid, which is similar to aspirin. Salicylic acid inhibits the production of prostaglandins, which are chemicals in the body that promote inflammation and pain sensation. By reducing prostaglandin levels, white willow bark may help alleviate headache pain, including tension headaches and migraines.

- Clinical Evidence: While there is limited clinical evidence specifically on white willow bark for headaches, some studies have shown its efficacy in reducing pain associated with various conditions, including headaches. A systematic review published in the American Journal of Medicine found that white willow bark extract was effective in reducing pain compared to placebo in patients with chronic low back pain.

5. Butterbur:

- Mechanism of Action: Butterbur contains petasin and isopetasin, which have anti-inflammatory properties and may also act as smooth muscle relaxants. Migraines are thought to involve inflammation of blood vessels in the brain, as well as abnormal muscle contractions. By reducing inflammation and relaxing smooth muscles, butterbur supplements may help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines.

- Clinical Evidence: Several clinical trials have demonstrated the efficacy of butterbur extract in reducing the frequency and severity of migraines. A meta-analysis published in Neurology found that butterbur extract was significantly more effective than placebo in preventing migraines, with a similar efficacy to traditional migraine medications such as beta-blockers and antiepileptic drugs.

6. Ginkgo Biloba:

- Mechanism of Action: Ginkgo biloba extract contains flavonoids and terpenoids, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is believed that ginkgo biloba may help reduce headaches, including migraines, by improving blood flow to the brain and reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.

- Clinical Evidence: While the evidence for ginkgo biloba specifically for headaches is limited, some studies have suggested its potential benefits. A systematic review published in Phytotherapy Research found that ginkgo biloba extract was effective in reducing the frequency and severity of migraine attacks in some patients. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings and determine the optimal dosage and duration of treatment.

7. Skullcap:

- Mechanism of Action: Skullcap contains flavonoids and other compounds that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and calming effects. It is believed that skullcap may help reduce tension and inflammation that contribute to headaches, although the exact mechanisms are not fully understood.

- Clinical Evidence: There is limited clinical research on skullcap specifically for headaches. However, some studies have suggested that skullcap may have potential as a natural remedy for headache relief. For example, a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that skullcap extract had analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects in animal models of pain.

8. Valerian Root:

- Mechanism of Action: Valerian root contains compounds such as valerenic acid, which act on gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain, leading to sedative and anxiolytic effects. By promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety, valerian root may help alleviate headaches related to stress and tension.

- Clinical Evidence: While research on valerian root specifically for headaches is limited, some studies have suggested its potential benefits for anxiety and stress reduction, which are common triggers for tension headaches. A systematic review published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine found that valerian root extract was effective in reducing anxiety symptoms compared to placebo in several clinical trials.

9. Passionflower:

- Mechanism of Action: Passionflower contains compounds such as flavonoids and alkaloids, which have been shown to have sedative and anxiolytic effects. It is believed that passionflower may help reduce stress and anxiety, which are common triggers for tension headaches.

- Clinical Evidence: While research on passionflower specifically for headaches is limited, some studies have suggested its potential benefits for anxiety reduction. A systematic review published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics found that passionflower extract was effective in reducing anxiety symptoms compared to placebo in several clinical trials. However, more research is needed to determine its efficacy specifically for headache relief.

Overall, while these herbal remedies show promise in the management of headaches, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional before using them.

Lifestyle Adjustments: Making simple changes to your daily routine can have a big impact on headache frequency and severity. Here are some lifestyle adjustments to consider:

  • Stay Hydrated: Dehydration can trigger headaches, so be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day [7].

  • Practice Good Posture: Poor posture can contribute to tension headaches, so be mindful of your posture and take breaks to stretch and relax your muscles [1].

  • Manage Stress: Stress is a common trigger for headaches, so finding healthy ways to manage stress is essential. Consider practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga [7].

  • Get Adequate Sleep: Lack of sleep can exacerbate headache symptoms, so aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night [7].

  • Limit Caffeine and Alcohol: Both caffeine and alcohol can trigger headaches in some individuals, so it's important to consume them in moderation [7].

  • Meditation: Meditation is a powerful tool for reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Try incorporating a daily meditation practice into your routine to help prevent headaches [10].

  • Deep Breathing Exercises: Deep breathing exercises can help activate the body's relaxation response, reducing stress and tension. Try taking slow, deep breaths for a few minutes whenever you feel stressed or anxious [10].

  • Gentle Exercise: Gentle exercise such as walking, yoga, or tai chi can help reduce stress and tension in the body, preventing headaches [1].

  • Follow the 20-20-20 Rule: Every 20 minutes, look away from your screen at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This helps relax the eye muscles and reduces eye strain.

  • Take Regular Breaks: Schedule short breaks every hour to stand up, stretch, and move around. Use this time to rest your eyes and focus on objects at varying distances.

  • Practice Eye Exercises: Perform simple eye exercises during breaks to help reduce eye strain and promote relaxation. These may include blinking exercises, eye rolls, or focusing on near and far objects.

Nutritional Support: Certain nutrients and dietary changes can help prevent and alleviate headaches. Here are a few dietary tips to consider:

  • Magnesium: Magnesium deficiency has been linked to headaches and migraines, so be sure to include magnesium-rich foods such as leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and whole grains in your diet [8].

  • Fish Oil: Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil have anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce inflammation in the body, including inflammation that contributes to headaches. Supplementing with fish oil may help reduce the frequency and severity of headaches, particularly migraines.

  • Alpha-Lipoic Acid: Alpha-lipoic acid is a powerful antioxidant that may help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which can contribute to headaches. Some research suggests that supplementation with alpha-lipoic acid may help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines.

  • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, has been shown to be effective in reducing the frequency and duration of migraines. It is believed to play a role in energy metabolism and mitochondrial function, which may contribute to its headache-reducing effects.

  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): CoQ10 is an antioxidant that is involved in energy production within cells. Some studies suggest that supplementation with CoQ10 may help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines, possibly by improving mitochondrial function and reducing oxidative stress.

  • Balanced Diet: Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help prevent nutrient deficiencies and stabilise blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of headaches [9].

  • Identify Trigger Foods: Certain foods and food additives can trigger headaches in susceptible individuals. Common triggers include histamine, processed meats, aged cheeses, chocolate, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners. Keeping a food diary can help you identify and avoid trigger foods [9].

Incorporating these natural remedies into your daily routine can help alleviate headaches and promote overall well-being. Remember to listen to your body, prioritise self-care, and seek guidance from a healthcare professional if you're experiencing frequent or severe headaches. With a holistic approach to health and wellness, you can kiss those headaches goodbye and embrace all that your wonderful life has to offer.

If you have any questions or would like personalised guidance on managing your headaches naturally, don't hesitate to reach out. I'm here to support you.

Wishing you a headache-free day!

Suzzi <3 


  1. ‘’The cervical spine in tension type headache’’ Authors: Fernandez-de-las-Penas, C., Cook, C., Cleland, J, Florencio, L. 2023. Aug;66, This study delves into the relationship between tension-type headaches and cervical spine issues, aiming to understand how neck problems contribute to or influence this common headache condition.

  2. ‘’Similarities and differences between migraine and other types of headaches: Migraine mimics’’ Authors: Unal-Cevik, I., Arslan, D. Journal: Neurology Perspectives. 2023 Jun;3(2), 100-122 This study elucidates the nuanced parallels and distinctions between migraine and alternative headache types, particularly highlighting instances of migraine masquerading as other forms of headaches.

  3. ‘’Diagnostic protocols and newer treatment modalities for cluster headaches’’ Authors: Prasad, S., Mehadi, A., Kaka, N., Jhaveri, S., Patel, N., Augustine, I., Issani, A. Journal: Disease-a-Month. 2022. Aug;68(8), This study investigates the diagnostic methods and emerging treatment options for cluster headaches, aiming to improve the accuracy of diagnosis and explore innovative therapies for this debilitating condition.

  4. ‘’Primary headache syndromes and sinus headache: An approach to diagnosis and management’’ Authors: Cashman, E., Smyth, D. Journal: Auris Nasus Larynx. 2012. Jun;39(3), 257-260, This study presents an approach to accurately diagnose and manage primary headache syndromes, emphasizing distinguishing features from sinus headaches to optimize treatment strategies and improve patient outcomes.

  5. ‘’Gastroprotective herbs for headache management in Persian medicine: A comprehensive review’’ Authors: Naeimi, M., Gorji, N., Memariani, Z., Moeini, R., Kamalinejad, M., Kolangi, F. Journal: Journal of Integrative Medicine. 2020. Jan;18(1), 1-13. This study provides a thorough review of gastroprotective herbs for the management of headaches, offering valuable insights into traditional approaches that may complement or inform modern therapeutic practices.

  6. ‘’Peppermint essential oil: its phytochemistry, biological activity, pharmacological effect and application’’ Authors: Zhao, H., Ren, S., Yang, H., Tang, S., Guo, C., Liu, M., Tao, Q., Ming, T., Xu, H. Journal: Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy. 2022. Oct;154. This study explores the phytochemistry, biological activity, pharmacological effects, and various applications of peppermint essential oil, shedding light on its potential therapeutic benefits and practical uses across different domains. 

  7. ‘’The role of diet and lifestyle in adolescents with headache: a review’’ Authors: Moschiano, F., D-Amico, D, Ramusino, M., Micieli, G. Journal: Neurological Sciences. 2013. May;34. 187-190. This study discusses how diet and lifestyle choices can affect headaches in adolescents, emphasizing the need for lifestyle adjustments in managing this condition.

  8. ‘’The role of nutrients in the pathogenesis and treatment of migraine headaches: Review’’ Authors: Nattagh-Eshtivani, E., Sani, M., Dahri, M., Ghalichi, F., Ghavami, A., Arjang, P., Tarighat-Esfajani, A. Journal: Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy. 2018. Jun;102. 317-325. This study examines the influence of nutrients on both the development and management of migraine headaches, providing insights into potential dietary interventions for migraine sufferers.

  9. ‘’Association between inflammatory potential of diet and self-reported severe headache or migraine: A cross-sectional study of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey’’ Authors: Liu, H., Wang, D., Wu, F., Dong, Z., Yu, S. Journal: Nutrition. 2023. Sep;113. This study demonstrates a correlation between the inflammatory nature of diet and the prevalence of self-reported severe headaches or migraines. 

  10. ‘’Modulation of inflammatory response and pain by mind-body therapies as meditation’’ Author: Moreno, J. Journal: Brain Behaviour and Immunity Integrative. 2024. Jan;5. This study reveals the potential of mind-body therapies such as meditation to modulate both inflammatory responses and pain, suggesting their beneficial role in managing conditions associated with inflammation and pain.


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