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 Herbal Medicine: Headache 
 
Pain that occurs over various parts of the head is called a headache. It is one of humanities most common afflictions. In the United States alone, up to 50 million people seek medical help for headaches every year, and about half a billion dollars is spent on headache remedies annually.

Most headaches are caused by fatigue, emotional disorders, or allergies, with only about 2% of all headaches resulting from organic disorders. These include:

  • diseases of the eye, ear, nose, throat, and sinuses
  • brain tumors
  • hypertension
  • aneurysm
Brain tissue itself is insensitive to pain, as is the bony covering of the cranium. Headache pain results from the stimulation of such pain-sensitive structures as the membranous linings of the brain (the meninges) and the nerves of the cranium and upper neck. This stimulation can be produced by inflammation, by the dilation of normal or abnormal blood vessels of the head, or by muscle spasms in the neck and head.

Headaches brought on by muscle spasms are classified as tension headaches; those caused by the dilation of blood vessels are called vascular headaches. Amore specialized classification, by the International Headache Society, further divides headaches into 14 categories for research purposes! A system that helps the phytotherapist select the appropriate remedy, would sub-divide headaches under these groupings:

  • environmental - caused by pollutants, body posture, lighting and sound etc.
  • stress - whether it be physical, emotional or mental
  • dietary - possible allergy to certain foods or additives, e.g. xanthine containing foods
  • organic - disease such as hypertension etc.

Specific Remedies:
There is an abundance of plants that might be considered specific "headache" herbs. Unfortunately they don't always work for all people!

Balm
Rosemary
Cayenne
Rue
Chamomile
Skullcap
Elder Flower
Thyme
Jamaican Dogwood
Valerian
Lavender
Wood Betony
Marjoram
Wormwood
Peppermint

If a clear cut underlying pathology exists, that should be the focus of treatment. If none has been found, herbs should be selected that will ensure good elimination, support liver function and address any specific health needs the patient might have.

Essential oils:
There are many essential oils which can be used to relieve headaches. Particularly effective oils are Lavender, Rosemary and Peppermint, either separately or in combination. Lavender can be rubbed on the temples, or made into a cold compress and applied to the temples, forehead or the back of the neck. Equal parts of Lavender and Peppermint may be even more effective, for Lavender has the ability to enhance the action of other oils when it is used in blends. It is also worth noting that whilst Lavender is a sedative, Peppermint is a stimulant, and that many commercial headache remedies combine a stimulant (usually caffeine) with one or more analgesics. This is because many of the pain killing drugs have a slightly sedative and sometimes even a depressant effect, and the caffeine is included to counteract this. By using Lavender and Peppermint a similar effect is produced without the dangers inherent in synthetic drugs.

If the headache is caused by catarrh or sinus infection, inhalations with Lavender, Peppermint, Rosemary or Eucalyptus will usually be very effective in both relieving the headache and clearing the congestion that is causing it. All these oils are antiseptic, and will combat the nasal infection as well as giving immediate relief of symptoms.

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 About The Author
David Hoffmann BSc (Hons), MNIMHWhilst working in conservation and lecturing in ecology and the eco-crisis for the University of Wales, David Hoffman became convinced that to heal the world, to embrace planetary wholeness and responsibility for it......more
 
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