March 26, 2010

Ten Natural Remedies for Headache Pain

Headache pain can be a deep burden. For good reason, the majority of us have pain relievers in our homes, desk drawers, office cabinets, handbags, briefcases, travel bags, nightstands, and medicine cabinets. Without relief, we can’t function well, think straight, or sleep at night. The easiest solution in our fast-paced lifestyle is to take pills to alleviate the suffering.

These pills, however, are not without cost. If you experience headaches, your body is already telling you it is burdened in some way. To add synthetic substances to an already burdened body only adds to the problem, but needing quick relief, we often do it anyway.

From a holistic perspective, any type of pain is a message directly from our wisest self. Head pain tells a story of a life out of balance. It says a great deal about our society as a whole when almost everyone owns pain pills. Knowing various solutions to our ailments empowers us to step away from the madness and back toward the balance point.

The first thing to consider when you have headaches is whether you are constipated. Taboo subject, I realize, but relevant because your bowels must keep moving. Next, is your blood sugar balanced, are you hydrated properly, and is your liver functioning well? Take care of these and you’ll see your head pain decrease dramatically. Keep in mind, you have control over all of these. They are directly related to your own actions: what you eat and drink.

Other contributing factors include eye strain, chemical exposure, allergies, hormone fluctuations, structural misalignment, worry, muscle tension, and general stress. Your headaches are most likely a combination of several interrelated things. So what more can you do if you want to help your body come back into balance and live a more holistic lifestyle?

Begin by listening to your headaches as your wise messenger. What are they telling you? Are you eating too much sugar, drinking too much alcohol, having allergies to certain foods, or simply not nourishing yourself? Are you allowing yourself enough time in the day to sit back, rest your eyes, and relax? Is your liver overburdened so it cannot process toxins through you? Is your mind carried away with worries and frightening thoughts? Has your upper body become tight and tense due to the workaday world?

I am fairly certain you might say, “All of the above.” This is why we have painkillers within an arm’s reach. But there are many things you can do so your headaches become a condition of the past. Some of them work slowly which is a drawback for the fast-paced among us. For example, burdock is not a quick fix, but it will powerfully heal you from the inside out over time.

There are numerous effective remedies. I offer ten here to get your started. The tinctures, teas, and essential oils can be found at natural food markets or purchased at For essential oils, be strict about only using the highest quality, pure oils. I prefer Young Living which isn’t sold in stores. If you want to use them, send a request through my website and I will refer you to a distributor.

Ten simple and inexpensive remedies to ease headache pain:

1. Nettles tea helps stabilize your blood sugar and relieve chronic headaches. It can also be used in tincture form.
2. Dandelion root and leaves nourish and strengthen your liver so it can better process toxins in your body. Eat the leaves in salads, use a tincture, or drink as a tea.
3. Burdock root works well with dandelion on headache pain by cleansing the blood and nourishing your liver. Add fresh burdock to soups or use as a tincture.
4. Violet leaf tea sipped throughout the day calms the mind and soothes headaches and frazzled nerves.
5. Oats strengthen the nervous system, bring clarity to thinking, and can reduce pain. Add oatmeal to your diet.
6. The essential oil of peppermint deadens pain with an anti-inflammatory effect. You can apply it to the bottom of your feet, temples, or directly on the painful site. Avoid contact with your eyes.
7. The essential oil of lavender is calming, relaxing, and balancing. Apply on temples or behind your neck.
8. Listen to Baroque music. It brings your brainwaves into alpha, where you can relax and ease your mind.
9. Put your feet into a tub of water to which you have added a cup of Epsom salts and a few drops of lavender or rosemary essential oil. This will help detoxify you and balance your energy.
10. Breathe slowly with awareness. Stretch or practice yoga to calm your nerves and bring oxygen into your body.

If any of the herbs appeal to you, inquire with your naturopath, herbalist, acupuncturist, or holistic doctor as to which would be best for you, especially if you have a medical condition or take medication. To learn more about these herbs in a fun and entertaining way, read Healing Wise by Susun Weed.

Becoming Whole Again

A holistic approach to healing is becoming better known as people increasingly take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing. Some folks are disappointed by the limitations of surgery and medication or just weary of living in pain, either emotional, physical, or spiritual. I wouldn’t knock surgery and medication, as they can save lives, help us through intense pain or the surgeries themselves, and bring us out of acute trauma. But they are overused and abused when they are bandages for deeper issues. Then they become part of the problem.

Last week an acquaintance had knee surgery. I asked if she had seen any holistic practitioners before deciding on surgery. Yes, she had seen four doctors. I replied, “I mean holistic practitioners, an acupuncturist, any type of natural healer...” Her brow furrowed and she looked puzzled. I decided to write about it.

A couple of days later I was asked to write articles on holistic healing but not include “spiritualism” and instead stick with scientific studies. I declined the request, indicating that holistic healing includes an integrative approach to wellness. That means the body, mind, emotions, spirit, subtle energies. It also means the heart is involved, something incongruent with modern science unless we are talking about the individual, fist-sized human heart. There are excellent scientific studies on the effectiveness of acupuncture, homeopathy, meditation and other holistic modalities, all of which deal with subtle energies and help you heal from the inside out, but it is important for people connect to their whole essence, which is not the focus of most scientific research.

Holistic healing means taking responsibility for your own wellbeing. It means you are aware that you are a wholly integrated being, not just a physical body with unrelated parts. One part of you cannot be separated from another. You are also a matrix of subtle energies that are not simple to prove through the scientific method, but are empirically validated through thousands of years of practice, testimonials, and first-hand reports.

Fortunately the mind-body connection is widely researched so we are aware that our physical symptoms cannot be separated from our thoughts and emotions. We already know that over 30% of us, on average, will feel better when we are told we are being given something that will make us feel better. Enter the power of the mind to affect change in the body.

In my own empirical studies, pain in the body, growths, discomforts of all kinds are associated with a combination of lifestyle issues, emotions, belief systems, and unconscious elements. I have also seen soul pain linked to disease. In other words, the truth, passion, and purpose of the soul has been neglected, avoided, or buried. This condition often emerges as a physical malady that begins subtly and grows until we can no longer avoid it. We often hear of people who change their lives entirely after a troubling illness. The illness itself becomes the wake up call to get back onto one’s unique, fulfilling life path.

So if we are holistic beings, meaning no part of us exists in isolation, then why do we treat our bodies, our painful knee for instance, as if it exists on its own, in isolation? Partly because doctors study the body in this fashion and treat us in the same model. Insurance companies pay for treatments that agree with this model. But also, on a personal level, as years pass by many of us begin to feel disconnected in some way. This comes from ignoring emotional signals, not maintaining the integrity of our minds, and shutting off the whispers of the soul. In many ways, I think our societal structures encourage these separation behaviors. But your physical self cannot be separated from your thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. This is why adopting a holistic perspective toward your own well-being is important. It helps us to view ourselves as whole, helps us get to the root cause of our ailments, and makes us aware of when we are being treated just as a “knee” or a “heart.”

We are integrated human beings keeping the balance within what we might consider to be our own unique orchestra. When all the instruments are in harmony, there is a symphony. When one element is off, the entire orchestra knows it and the experience is one of dissonance. Similarly, your body also knows when one element is off and it will send you clues to warn you. As soon as you hear the first clue, bring yourself back into balance. Ask what aspect of yourself is needing attention. The pain might be in your knee, but the cause might be in your shoulder, your mind, your emotional reactions, a lack of flow of subtle energies, or all of the above. This knowledge is where true healing is found.