Herbs & Natural Remedies:Tension headaches: willow bark and peppermint. Migraine headaches: feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium).
Willow bark: powdered bark. Peppermint: essential oil or Tiger Balm preparation. Feverfew: freeze-dried leaf.
How it Works:
Willow bark is herbal aspirin. Peppermint oil, massaged into the temples, relieves the muscle tension that causes tension headaches. Feverfew minimizes blood vessel constriction and dilation that causes migraines, and reduces the production of the compounds involved in pain (prostaglandins). Israeli researchers gave migraine sufferers a placebo or feverfew. The feverfew group reported significantly fewer headaches.
Dose:Willow bark: 2 teaspoons of powdered bark per cup of water; simmer at a low boil for 10 minutes. Drink up to 3 cups daily. Peppermint oil: a few drops of essential oil, or a dab of Tiger Balm, as needed. Feverfew: 82 mg per day.
Cautions:Willow bark, like aspirin, may cause stomach distress. Peppermint oil may be irritating to the skin.
Biofeedback has been shown to help control both tension headaches and migraines. It reduces the muscle tension that causes tension headaches and the blood vessel contractions and dilations that trigger migraines. Migraines may be triggered by food intolerances. An elimination diet may help.
San Francisco health writer Michael Castleman is the author of 11 consumer health books. Visitwww.mcastleman.com.