Why do you have a pounding headache? It can be difficult to pin down. But the good news is that everything from herbs to massage can soothe your throbbing temples! Whether you’ve tried painkillers and they aren’t working or prefer something more natural, here are five ways you can stop a headache, sometimes before it even starts.
Olive Oil for Headache Relief
It’s one of our favorite tips from our book Who Knew? Household Shortcuts: As soon as you feel a headache coming on, head for your kitchen! Scientific studies have shown that just a few teaspoons of olive oil eaten at the onset of a headache can have an anti-inflammatory effect, reducing pain as well as ibuprofen does. Mix it with balsamic vinegar and enjoy it on a salad or some bread.
Boost Low Blood Sugar
If you tend to get headaches in the late mornings, late afternoons, and after a long nap, they might be due to low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia. These headaches can be helped by eating foods that release sugar slowly, such as bananas, whole grains, and oats. Getting adequate protein with each meal—30 grams is a good start—can keep your blood sugar levels from fluctuating and may also prevent headaches.
Many headaches are caused by dehydration. Before you reach for the pain reliever, try drinking two or three glasses of water or an energy drink like Gatorade. You may find you’re back to normal in no time.
Old-Time Headache Remedy
It may be an old wives’ tale, but Bruce’s grandfather used to swear that an effective way to treat headaches is to cut a lime in half and rub it on your forehead. In a few minutes, the throbbing should subside.
Rest Your Eyes
Less-than-perfect eyesight can trigger headaches because the muscles around the eyes squeeze in order to focus. If your headaches come on after reading or working at a computer, make sure you give your eyes a rest every 15 minutes by focusing on a distant object for at least a minute. You may also want to get your eyes examined to see if you need glasses or a new prescription.
Watch What You Eat
Headaches may be caused by reactions to foods and food substances such as MSG, chocolate, gluten, alcohol, sulfites, nitrites, and fermented foods, such as cheese and yogurt. Since it can sometimes take up to 72 hours for a headache to occur after eating one of these foods, it can be difficult to find a correlation. Keeping a detailed diary of what you eat and when your head hurts can be helpful, or just try to limit these foods entirely.
Herbal Help for Headaches
Feverfew, a relative of the sunflower, has been shown to help reduce inflammation that causes headaches. Look for it in capsule form in your health food store. While you’re there, grab some peppermint oil. Rubbing a small amount into your hairline and temples will create a tingly aroma that will encourage relaxation. Ginger can also reduce inflammation—try adding freshly crushed ginger root (about one inch) to boiling water to make a potent tea.
Ease Muscle Tension
Tense muscles in the head, neck, and shoulders can constrict blood flow and make your head pound. Practicing yoga, seeing a massage therapist or chiropractor, or trying these simple stretches can relieve tension. You may also be unconsciously clenching your jaw when you’re stressed. Try paying closer attention to your body, and the next time you notice yourself clenching, place a pencil between your teeth and hold it. It will serve as a reminder not to bite down hard. With time, you may be able to train your jaw not to clench, thus avoiding those painful headaches.
How to Get Rid of Headaches with Acupressure
Much like acupuncture, acupressure involves stimulating trigger points on your body to heal all sorts of ailments, including nausea, sinus allergies, insomnia, and—yes—headaches. For headaches, this trigger point is on your hand: the thick, fleshy patch of skin between your thumb and forefinger. Using firm pressure, massage this “web” part of your hand in a circular direction for a few minutes; then repeat on your opposite hand. Your headache should eventually subside, as this trigger point is believed to connect directly to the source of pain.
Nuts for Headaches
Did you know that almonds can help a headache? They contain a compound called salicin, an all-natural pain reducer similar to aspirin. Eat a “dose” of 20 almonds per day for a tasty way to prevent head pain before it starts.