Medical herbalist Nicola Parker explores natural remedies for headaches
For some people, headaches are a plague of discomfort, occurring numerous times a week or even daily.
If you get frequent headaches, it is a good idea to get checked with your GP as they can often offer various diagnostic tests to discover why the headaches are occurring.
If you have already done this and been told everything is fine, then it may be wise to look into different methods of dealing with chronic headaches. While pain killers can be provided on prescription or bought over the counter, not everyone is comfortable using them long term and many people prefer to look towards prevention, rather than symptom treatment.
The most obvious way to prevent headaches is to make sure you drink enough water throughout the day, ideally a litre and a half, which is about six average sized glasses. Also, check with your optician to ensure you are wearing the correct prescription glasses or contacts. If you work at a desk all day, make sure you check your posture and consider seeing a physio or an osteopath if you are getting neck, back and shoulder pain too.
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If you have checked all these things but are still getting regular headaches, the next thing to check is your magnesium levels. This isn’t a something that your GP will usually test, but it’s easy to check on your own. Cramping muscles, restless legs or twitchy muscles are key signs of low magnesium. Other symptoms may include bad period pain or a sluggish bowel. Magnesium helps to relax the muscles and many headaches are caused or aggravated by tension in the back and neck muscles. Low levels of magnesium can prevent this tension from releasing.
Headaches related to low magnesium tend to be dull aches that last for many hours or even days at a time. You may find the pain is there when you wake up and lingers as a dull background ache not responding well to normal pain killers. Tea, coffee, cola and salt all deplete magnesium, so if these foods are present in your diet on a daily basis, taking Magnesium citrate tablets for a short period may help very quickly.
Not all headaches are caused by muscle tension and in severe cases, the problem isn’t headaches at all, but rather migraines. Migraines can be especially aggressive. They often happen on one side and can occur with nausea, visual disturbances and debilitating pain that makes day to day activities impossible. Some migraines can be related to a womens menstrual cycle, so it can be difficult to put your finger on the cause and get the right treatment.
For migraines I use a herb called feverfew. In my clinic, I often blend feverfew with powerful pain relievers, as well as looking into and attempting to manage causes and triggers. Over the counter, I keep in a feverfew remedy called MigraEeze.
Migraeeze is a licensed herbal remedy, to aid the relief of migraine pain. Feverfew has long been known as a migraine herb, a classic remedy mentioned in much of our traditional literature. Feverfew is anti-inflammatory and many herbalists use it for the treatment of menstrual cramps, especially in cases where period pain is accompanied by migraine. In fact, I have yet to make a mix for menstrual cramps without feverfew playing a starring role.
People who use MigraEeze use it in one of two ways, depending on their goals. It’s possible to either take one tablet a day to prevent the symptoms or to keep them in your cupboard and take one as you need it when you feel the symptoms coming on.
For severe migraines, I recommend trying the first approach for at least a month, to see if the herb is right for you.
Magnesium and MigraEeze work brilliantly together, easing muscle tension, reducing inflammation and promoting circulation to the area of pain.
If you’re just starting out on your journey into natural remedies for headache or migraine, consider pairing the two up for a month and monitor your progress. Alternatively, for a more in-depth look at the problem, consider consulting a herbalist who may be able to dig a little deeper and offer something stronger for long term support.
l For more information, or to book an appointment with Nicola, contact her clinic on 01524 413733.