Headaches are symptomatic of a variety of underlying conditions which have to be identified before treatment should be undertaken. Herbal medicine aims to correct the underlying imbalances in the body rather than to simply provide temporary symptomatic relief. The following are the most common types and causes of headache.
Tension Headache: Relaxing herbs such as chamomile, skullcap, betony, lime flowers, passionflower or valerian are recommended. Or try a few drops of lavender essential oil in the bath. Massage, yoga and meditation will also help you to relax.
Neuralgic Headache: Nerve pain such as that accompanying shingles or a trapped nerve can be relieved by St.John’s wort, vervain and skullcap. Oats are a wonderful ‘nerve food’. Severe pain can point to a serious underlying disorder and requires expert advice.
Migraine Headache: these are often caused by stress or food sensitivities (the major culprits include wheat, dairy products, chocolate, cheese, red wine, caffeine). They may be prevented to a certain extent by taking feverfew each morning, but it is best to try to identify the ‘trigger factor’. Try keeping a diary of what you eat to see if a pattern emerges. During an attack, try any of the ‘tension headache’ herbs.
Sinus Headache: Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a bowl of boiling water and, with a towel over your head, inhale the steam to clear the sinuses. Teas made with chamomile, elderflowers, eyebright, thyme, peppermint or hyssop are all useful too. Try to reduce the amount of dairy products in your diet as these can encourage the production of mucus.
High Blood Pressure: Lime flower tea is relaxing and helps to lower high blood pressure.
Menstrual headache: Tincture of cramp bark, raspberry leaf tea or Agnus-castus capsules are helpful here, as are any of the relaxing herbs listed above. 500mg Evening primrose oil three times a day may also be of benefit.
Hangover: Try to drink lots of water if you've been out on the town! Dandelion root coffee or milk thistle will help your liver to flush out the alcohol. Any accompanying nausea can be allayed by taking peppermint, ginger or fennel.
In rare cases, headache may be caused by a serious underlying disorder. If your headaches are very severe, of sudden onset, recurring, or are getting worse, you should consult a qualified practitioner for advice. Always seek professional advice where children are concerned.
For additional advice on headaches, see www.headacheexpert.co.uk
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For your safety I am prohibited from giving specific medical advice to individuals over the internet or telephone so please do not waste your time or mine by emailing or calling me with detailed information about your health problems - I can only undertake face-to-face consultations for what should be obvious reasons. Diagnoses cannot be made remotely, and I am unable to offer any advice or treatment until I am completely satisfied that I know what I'm dealing with! The herb profiles and treatment suggestions on this website will help enable you to choose which herbs might be appropriate for minor ailments. For more serious or chronic conditions you should seek professional advice. This is particularly important if you are taking medication from your doctor or pharmacist, as some herbs can interact adversely with other drugs. If you would like to have a consultation with a medical herbalist then you should click here then scroll to 'Professional Organisations' at the bottom of the page to find a qualified practitioner in your area.
Christine Haughton, MA MNIMH MCPP FRSPH
Wold Farm, West Heslerton, Malton, North Yorkshire YO17 8RY, UK
Last updated 17th June 2013 ©Purple Sage Botanicals