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Headache Prevention and Remedies

by Laurel Redmon

Frequent use of prescription pain medication for headaches may initiate a cycle where the headache recurs after the pain medication has worn off.  Some believe that behavioral treatments (e.g. biofeedback, hypnosis, exercise, yoga) as well as adding herbal and/or vitamin supplements to your diet can ameliorate a headache sufferer’s quality of life and lessen the need for prescription drugs.


Paying attention to what causes headaches and avoiding those things is another good preventative technique.  Frequent headache triggers include stress, disrupted sleep patterns, bright light, noise, alcohol, caffeine, dehydration and certain foods or allergic reactions to foods.  For every cup of caffeinated fluid or alcohol, you must drink 1 cup of water to prevent dehydration.


Some people suffer from sensitivities to foods preserved with sulfites.  Be aware of foods with labels containing sulfur dioxide, potassium bisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, sodium sulfite, sodium bisulfite, or sodium metabisulfite.  Some common foods containing these preservatives are baked goods, beer, canned fruits and vegetables, condiments, dried fruit, jams, molasses, pickled foods, potato chips, shrimp, soup mixes, tea, trail mix, vegetable juice, and wine.  Look for alternatives to these foods that do not contain sulfites.


It may be helpful to keep a headache diary to help identify headache triggers.  Notice when headaches occur and any activities, food or drink in the time prior to its onset.



    Hypnosis is a method of training the body to relax.  This technique has been shown to reduce both the intensity and frequency of headaches.

    Meditation, yoga, qi gong and tai chi also help you learn to relax.

    Aerobic exercise is an excellent stress buster, improves circulation and enhances the body’s natural pain-killers.



    A mixture of magnesium, riboflavin and feverfew has been shown to significantly reduce the number and intensity of headaches, though it may take several months for the supplement to become effective.  A daily dose of 300 –500 mg of magnesium (as magnesium oxide or chelated magnesium), 400 mg of riboflavin, and 100mg of feverfew is recommended. 

    Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) has been shown to reduce the frequency of headaches.  Suggested dose is 75 mg per day.

    Food such as fish that are rich in essential fatty acids can reduce the inflammatory response involved in migraines.  It is suggested to eat cold-water, deep-sea fish twice per week and take a fish oil supplement (certified contaminant-free) containing 350 mg of eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and 200 mg or docosahexanoic acid (DHA) with meals.

    Chamomile, Lemon balm, Lavender, Peppermint, Rosemary, Skullcap, Valerian, St. John’s Wort, Wood Betony, Vervain and Thyme are some herbs that are helpful to drink as tea or take in tincture or capsule form.

    Bathing with Lavender, Peppermint and Rosemary – either dried herbs or essential oils – can be relaxing, comforting and pain relieving.

    Daily intake of apple cider vinager helps correct/maintain the body’s acid-alkaline balance.  Drink 2 teaspoons, three times daily in a glass of water to ward off attacks.  Drink an extra dose when a headache begins.  During a headache, heat equal parts of water and apple cider vinager on the stovetop until fumes rise.  Inhale the vapors until your headache subsides.






skullcap and valerian




lemon balm, lavender, black cohosh, vitex and meadowsweet


valerian, skullcap, oats and hops


kola, ginseng, and damiana


A generally therapeutic herbal headache blend includes:

3 parts skullcap

3 parts lemon balm

3 parts passion flower

2 parts feverfew

1 part Jamaican Dogwood

 At the onset of a migraine drink a cup of coffee with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice added.  Caffeine can increase the pain relieving effects of analgesics.  It can intensify the effects of other substances in the formula.

 Coffee substitute:

4 cups water

2 tsp. Crushed roasted dandelion root

½ tsp. Crushed cinnamon bark

½ tsp. Crushed ginger root

½ tsp. Crushed decorticated cardamom root

½ tsp. Crushed star anise

Milk and Honey (optional)

Bring water to a boil and remove from heat.  Add herbs.  Cover and steep for 15 minutes.


Aromatherapy can both prevent and alleviate stress-triggered headaches and can be used to relieve a headache in progress.  Applying essential oils to your temples, forehead and the nape of your neck can be comforting and pain relieving.  Some essential oils to try include:












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