7 Natural Remedies for Headaches

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Man rubbing forehead in pain
  • Nearly everyone will experience a headache at some point in their life. Whether it’s a tension headache that starts at the back of the skull and wraps around to the temples or a migraine that begins with a visual aura and progresses into an ache that lands you in bed for hours, headache represents one of the most common medical complaints across the lifespan. Fortunately, research shows that several types of natural remedies for headache may be effective at reducing the pain or frequency of a throbbing head. Try these home remedies to find headache relief.

  • 1
    smiling woman drinking bottled water outside

    Dehydration is a common cause of headache. A lack of adequate water in the body might deprive the brain of oxygen or vital nutrients, sparking a headache. Whenever you get a headache, first try curing it by drinking more water over the course of several hours. Sports beverages might help, but their sometimes excessive sugar and sodium content might not be healthy for everyone. Instead, try eating fluid-filled fruits and vegetables like watermelon, berries and cucumbers for hydration. These foods contain the water and micronutrients your body needs to rehydrate your body and ease your headache pain.

  • 2
    Better Sleep

    Both insomnia and oversleeping can induce a throbbing head, so sleep regulation might be one of the best home remedies for headache. Practice good sleep hygiene by going to bed at the same time every night, using the bed only for sleeping (not for watching television, gaming or reading), maintaining a cool and dark sleeping environment, and rising at the same time each morning. These practices might help you sleep better through the night, avoid oversleeping—and ward off headaches.

  • 3
    Senior woman holding a bottle of pills

    The American Migraine Foundation says magnesium supplements of 400 to 500 milligrams per day may be helpful in preventing migraine with aura and menstrual migraines. This dosage is generally considered safe for most people (though pregnant women should take no more than 400 mg per day). Researchers cannot pinpoint why magnesium for headaches seems to reduce migraine episodes, but many people find relief taking this mineral every day. Magnesium has not been well studied as a remedy for other types of headaches, but it may be worth asking your doctor if it might work for you.

  • 4
    black man receiving facial massage

    Muscle tightness or spasm in the neck, shoulders and upper back can trigger a tension headache, and massage can relieve this source of pain. You can choose a professional massage to relax tight muscles, use massage balls, or even apply heat to your upper back and neck to help relieve a tension headache. Don’t forget that poor work-desk ergonomics, such as slouching in your chair or staring at a monitor screen that’s positioned too high, can cause upper-back muscle tightness that provokes a headache. Use good ergonomics to keep your spine and arms positioned correctly at your workstation.

  • 5
    butterbur, Latin Petasites hybridus or Petasites officinalis

    Another supplement that may be helpful in reducing migraine episodes is butterbur. The American Academy of Neurology states butterbur extract made from the shrub’s roots may reduce the frequency of migraines, though researchers have not investigated the herb’s use for other types of headache. Among headache remedies, butterbur rates highly as a natural approach to migraine prevention. Look for high-quality supplements made from butterbur root or rhizome and take according to the dosage instructions on the package.

  • 6
    Essential Oils
    Assortment of essential oils with tea tree oil in focus

    Essential oils might help relieve your headache pain when used in aromatherapy or as a topical rub. A few research studies have investigated inhaling the essence of lavender oil, specifically, and using the product as a foot rub. Both methods seemed effective at relieving pain. Many headache sufferers report reducing symptoms by using other types of essential oils, both for aromatherapy and as a topical pain reliever. Since essential oils generally are safe to use, you can feel free to experiment to find out which ones help relieve your headache pain.

  • 7
    Women in peaceful yoga pose

    Because muscle tightness, skeletal misalignment, and mental stress all can contribute to headache, yoga can be an effective remedy for reducing headache frequency. Yoga addresses all of these factors that can trigger a headache. Yoga focuses on deep breathing, which reduces stress, along with gentle movements and poses that improve flexibility, decrease muscle tightness, and help maintain spinal alignment. For headache relief, try starting with a beginner yoga class and practice regularly.

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  1. Headache. U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/headache.html
  2. Managing Tension Headaches at Home. U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000421.htm
  3. Headaches: In Depth. U.S. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/pain/headachefacts.htm
  4. Magnesium. American Migraine Foundation. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/magnesium/
  5. How Sleep Disorders Interact with Headache and Migraine. American Migraine Foundation. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/sleep/
  6. Yoga Helps Headache. American Migraine Foundation. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/yoga-helps-headache/
  7. Butterbur. U.S. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/butterbur
  8. Koulivand PH, Ghadiri MK, Gorgi A. Lavender and the Nervous System. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013; 2013: 681304. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3612440/
  9. Sasannejad P, Saeedi M, et al. Lavender essential oil in the treatment of migraine headache: a placebo-controlled clinical trial. Eur Neurol. 2012;67(5):288-91. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22517298 

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Nov 15
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