Migraine headaches are often debilitating with their intensity. They also often have other symptoms to accompany the painful head throbbing, such as intense nausea and dizziness. But most headaches arise from muscular and nervous tension.
Most over the counter (OTC) drugs for headaches have side-effects. Tylenol brand and their generic counterparts contain acetaminophen, which causes or exacerbates liver damage. There have been several ER (emergency room) visits for people suffering acute acetaminophen toxicity. Some have died.
Aspirin and other similar pain relievers cause gastric distress and ulcers. Constantly taking aspirins can lead to strokes. Beware of this if you're taking daily aspirins to reduce heart attack risk. You're increasing stroke risks and gambling with developing ulcers.
So of course those pharmaceutical solutions should be avoided. Here's how:
Five herbs that eliminate headaches without side-effects
(1) Willow (Salix alba, white willow, willow bark) has a long history of pain relief. White willow extracts were used in the early 1800s. Extracting white willow's active ingredient of salicin, which the body converts to salicylic acid, proved to be too time consuming and costly for rising public demands.
By the mid 1800s, a German pharmaceutical company created a synthetic version of salicylic acid to meet public demand, but it often caused stomach bleeding and severe ulcers. So the salicyclic acid was modified into acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) by the German pharmaceutical company called Bayer. Thus came Bayer Aspirin.
Though not as severe as earlier synthetic substitutes for willow, ASA aspirin still irritates the inner stomach wall. Willow's active ingredient goes into the stomach as salicin and is later converted in the body as pain relieving salicyclic acid, avoiding irritation to the stomach lining.
Willow has been clinically proven to be just as effective for tension headaches and other pains as aspirin.
(2) Butterbur, an old folk remedy for other ailments, has been recently discovered to be effective for migraine headaches. Migraine headaches are less common but more uncomfortable and debilitating than tension headaches.
The May 2000 journal Headache reported rising interest and clinical proof that butterbur was very effective for relieving migraine headaches without side-effects and even preventing future migraine repeat episodes.
Some evidence points to butterbur as effective for even cluster headaches, which generally are short, very intense, and on one side of the head.
One of those clinical trials involved the Albert Einstein College of Medicine's study of 245 migraine sufferers, 68 percent of whom had at least 50 percent reduction of migraine symptoms when using butterbur.
If you wish to try butterbur, make sure it's labeled PA (pyrrolizidine alkaloids) free before you buy it. This indicates liver toxic alkaloids normally in butterbur plants have been removed.
As usual, it's wise to check with a knowledgeable holistic health practitioner to make sure if it's right for you.
(3) Feverfew has been used with considerable success for migraines and even cluster headaches. It is a member of the daisy family, and its leaves are used to create the herb.
Not much is known about how it works, but it's believed that the anti-inflammatory properties from feverfew's parthenolide inhibits chemicals that cause brain blood vessels to spasm.
A 1997 study by D. G. Palevitch and R. Carasso showed that feverfew significantly reduced pain and alleviated nausea and light sensitivity. Many consider feverfew effective as a preventative for the migraine prone.
One source recommends daily dosing of 250 mg of the extract for around a month to minimize migraine frequency and intensity.
Check feverfew out with someone who knows herbs well.
(4) Skullcap is a safe, effective solution for tension headaches and tension itself. It's available in extracts or capsules. But make sure you're getting the real, unadulterated herb. Sometimes skullcap's mixed or even substituted with germander, a known liver toxin.
(5) Ginger and/or Ginko Biloba are both useful for tension headaches and other types of headache stemming from jaw and sinus problems. The ginger is anti-inflammatory. It can be purchased in capsules or you can slice up ginger root thinly and boil it as a tea. Simmer for 30 minutes as part of steeping.
Ginko Biloba capsules or tablets tend to increase mental alertness and improve minor memory issues by dilating blood vessels in the brain. This also helps reduce headache discomfort.
There are a few other herbal remedies that can be used for headaches, such as valerian and passion flower. Both have sedative qualities and are best used before retiring.
Regardless of how safe all of them are, consult an herbalist or health practitioner knowledgeable about herbs to ensure optimum results.
Sources for this article include: