Natural Remedies and Best Medicines for Immediate Headache Relief

Fact checked by Olga Sadouskaya, MD
Clinical Pharmacologist, Chief Medical Officer

Headaches are a prevalent medical issue that a significant number of people experience on a regular basis. They may be inconvenient at first and quite debilitating if they occur often.

There are numerous pharmaceutical options for alleviating headache pain, but there are also some natural remedies worth trying.

What is the best medicine for a headache?

Your doctor might prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for a headache, as they provide relief quickly. Sometimes, you may feel better without going to the doctor. If you need pain relief, try these over-the-counter options:

  • Acetaminophen (paracetamol)
  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

Although acetaminophen is widely available and widely used, studies suggest that aspirin is the most effective over-the-counter medicine for pain relief. Consult your medical professional for advice.

You should never take more than the prescribed quantity of any over-the-counter pain reliever. Too much drug usage might result in “rebound” or “medication overuse” headaches. It’s not only the heart and lungs that it may damage; the kidneys and liver are at risk, too.

Over-the-counter pain medicines may not be enough for certain people, so your doctor may prescribe stronger drugs. If you don’t find relief with over-the-counter drugs, seek professional help from your health care provider.

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Is ibuprofen or Tylenol good for any type of headache?

It’s perfectly OK to use ibuprofen or Tylenol which contains acetaminophen (also known as paracetamol) for headaches. These medicines are available without a prescription. You might also try taking a hot shower, sleeping for a little while, or snacking on something light.

How to cure a hangover headache

Headaches brought on by a hangover are never enjoyable. You’re probably aware that consuming an excessive amount of alcohol may result in a range of symptoms the following day. One of these common complaints is a headache.

It’s not difficult to come across a large number of so-called “cures” for hangover headaches that you may prepare at home or even purchase in shops.

However, few of them have any credible scientific studies to back up their claims that they are effective.

The easiest strategy to prevent a headache caused by a hangover is to limit the amount of alcohol you consume in a single sitting. Various treatments that have been shown to be effective with scientific research are as follows:

NSAIDs

NSAIDs inhibit the formation of enzymes that cause headaches and migraines. A small dosage of an NSAID may help alleviate the pain associated with a hangover.

When you’re drinking or hungover, you should never take acetaminophen. Taking acetaminophen with alcohol is dangerous because it hinders the liver’s ability to digest the drug.

Healthy energy drinks

Drinking alcohol requires constant hydration. It’s important to replenish your electrolytes after drinking alcohol since it might cause dehydration. Restoring your electrolyte balance and keeping yourself hydrated may both be aided by drinking a healthy energy drink.

N-acetyl-L-cysteine

N-acetyl-L-cysteine is an amino acid found in the body that aids in its defense against acetaldehyde. Many of the symptoms of a hangover, such as headaches, have been linked to acetaldehyde.

Moderate physical activity

Drinking the night before an exercise session is not a good idea. However, even a little activity may boost your metabolism and speed up the elimination of alcohol and its byproducts.

Natural ways to get rid of a headache

While there are many medications available to get rid of a headache, some people prefer to treat their headaches with natural remedies.

There are a number of effective natural headache relief options — from applying pressure to the temples and gently massaging the neck to using essential oils or herbs to help ease the pain. Here are some of the natural remedies you can try to see what works best for you.

Stay hydrated

Dehydration may lead to headaches; therefore, it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking water and eating meals high in water content, such as fruits and vegetables.

A glass of water as one of the ways to treat a headache naturally

Take magnesium

Numerous bodily processes rely on magnesium, including blood sugar management and nerve transmission. People who experience migraines on a regular basis may be more likely to be magnesium deficient.

Treatment with supplementary magnesium, in a variety of dosages and forms, has shown promise in reducing both the frequency and intensity of migraine headaches.

Restrict alcohol use

Drinking alcohol may not induce headaches for the vast majority of individuals, but research shows that for roughly one-third of people who have headaches regularly, alcohol is a migraine trigger. Those who experience headaches on a regular basis may find relief by reducing their alcohol use.

Stay away from histamine-rich foods

Histamine is a naturally occurring molecule with functions in the immunological, gastrointestinal, and neurological systems. Aged cheeses, fermented foods, beer, wine, smoked salmon, and cured meats all contain it.

People who are sensitive to histamine may find relief from symptoms like headaches by avoiding meals high in histamine.

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Get enough rest

Insomnia is connected to increased headache intensity in people who experience tension headaches. Sleep apnea, a disease in which breathing regularly stops and begins during sleep, is also associated with morning headaches.

The sweet spot for sleep is between seven and nine hours, so that’s where you should be aiming for optimal advantages.

Try essential oils

Essential oils are volatile liquids that contain aromatic chemicals from a wide range of plants, sometimes at a very high concentration. Although some may be consumed orally, most of these herbs and spices are applied topically for their medicinal effects.

Peppermint, lavender, and eucalyptus essential oils have all been shown to effectively relieve headache symptoms.

Take a B-complex vitamin

The B vitamin family is a collection of water-soluble micronutrients that has several functions in the body. Some of the functions they aid in include the creation of neurotransmitters and the conversion of food into energy.

Vitamin B supplementation, namely riboflavin (B2), folate (B9), B12, and pyridoxine (B6), has been found in a number of trials to alleviate headache pain.

Taking a B-complex pill, which includes all eight B vitamins, is a healthy and economical method to alleviate headache pain. Taking B vitamins on a daily basis is considered safe since they are water-soluble and excreted in urine.

Apply a cold compress

The pain from your headache could be eased by using a cold compress. Headache discomfort may be alleviated by using cold or frozen compresses on the neck and head. This is because they reduce inflammation, impede nerve transmission, and constrict blood vessels. Hence, it is one of the immediate headache relief options.

Drink coffee or tea

When you have a headache, you could feel better if you drink anything with caffeine in it, such as tea or coffee. Caffeine’s ability to elevate mood, heighten awareness, and reduce blood vessel dilation may make it an effective treatment for headaches.

It also boosts the efficacy of other pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, which are often used to treat headaches. However, if you’re a heavy coffee drinker and you abruptly cut back, you may have withdrawal headaches.

What are safe headache relief options in pregnancy?

Headache relief in pregnancy can be a little worrisome for pregnant people. However, acetaminophen may be used by most pregnant people for the treatment of infrequent headaches. It’s one of the best medicines for headaches during pregnancy.

Your doctor may also suggest trying out some other medicines. Do not use any medicine, including herbal remedies, without consulting your doctor first.

Other ways to treat a headache

Headache-relief exercises

Certain exercises can help to relieve tension in your neck and shoulders, improve blood circulation, and ease your headache. Let’s take a look at some of those headache-relief exercises that you can do at home.

A woman doing nex exercises as one of the natural headache relief options

Side neck bend

The easy side-bending neck stretch is great for relieving stress in the head, shoulders, and upper back. It’s a flexible motion that can be done seated or standing.

  • Start by sitting down or standing up. Keep your spine straight, loosen up your shoulders, and rest your arms next to your body.
  • Bring your right ear closer to your right shoulder. Stretch your left hand toward the floor, then bend your fingers up. Wait 30 seconds.
  • Get back to where you started. Do it again on the other side.

Thread the needle

Try this position to relax your upper back and loosen up your shoulders. To help relieve stress, add a mild twist of the low back.

  • Start on your hands and knees. Keep your hands about shoulder-width apart and your knees about hip-width apart. Keep your back straight and the tops of your feet on the mat or floor.
  • Reach your left hand under your right arm. Keep your knees and feet still and bring your left ear and shoulder down to the mat or floor. Wait 30 seconds.
  • Get back on all fours. Repeat on the other side.

Downward-facing dog

People who experience migraine headaches may get relief from this technique because it increases blood flow to the brain and decreases overall body stress.

  • Start on your hands and knees. Keep your hands about shoulder-width apart and your knees about hip-width apart. Keep your spine neutral.
  • Push your hands into the floor and tuck your toes under. To straighten your legs, lift your hips. Don’t lock your knees.
  • Lengthen your spine so that your body looks like an upside-down V. Stretch your heels toward the floor. Wait 30 seconds.

Is peppermint oil effective at treating a headache?

When it comes to treating headaches and migraines, peppermint oil is a commonly used essential oil. Because it includes menthol, it has the potential to relax muscles and make the pain more bearable.

What are special headache glasses?

People who experience migraines are often hypersensitive to light, both natural and artificial. Some people believe that the more intense the light is, the greater the level of discomfort or agony they experience.

Sunglasses designed to prevent headaches block out certain wavelengths of light, which are known to bring on or exacerbate an attack.

Conclusion

People who want to avoid the use of medicine to treat their headaches have a number of options available to them, including home cures and natural treatments. Some of these may help better for certain kinds of headaches than others.

In the end, some headaches may still not react to these measures, and in such cases, it may be helpful to take an over-the-counter medication. It is imperative not to ignore a headache that persists.

See a physician about a headache that is especially severe or chronic to identify and treat the underlying cause.

January 5, 2023