Effective Natural Headache Remedies: Holistic Relief

| Modified on Dec 24, 2023

Headaches can disrupt your daily life, causing discomfort and reducing productivity. While over-the-counter medications are commonly used, many people seek natural headache remedies as a gentler approach to pain relief. This article explores various effective natural treatments for headaches.

Understanding Headaches

Before delving into remedies, it's important to understand what causes headaches. Stress, dehydration, poor posture, and lack of sleep are common triggers. Identifying the cause is crucial in selecting the right natural headache cure.

Natural Headache Relief Remedies

1. Apple Cider Vinegar

Another promising natural remedy for headaches is apple cider vinegar. On Earth Clinic, ACV is renowned for its health benefits, including headache relief. Its attributes stem from its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to balance the body's pH levels, which can be instrumental in alleviating headache pain.

How to Use:

  • ACV Drink: Mix two tablespoons of organic apple cider vinegar with a glass of water. You can add honey for taste. Drinking this mixture once a day can help prevent headaches.
  • Topical Application: Soak a cloth in a mixture of equal parts apple cider vinegar and water. Apply this as a compress on your forehead and temples for 15-20 minutes. This can offer immediate relief from tension headaches.
  • Steam Inhalation: Add a few tablespoons of ACV to a bowl of hot water. Inhale the steam for about 10 minutes. This method can be particularly effective for sinus headaches.

2. Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper, known for its spicy kick, is a culinary ingredient and a potent natural headache remedy. The key component in cayenne pepper, capsaicin, is known for its pain-relief properties. It affects the neurotransmitter Substance P, which is involved in pain perception, relieving headache symptoms.

How to Use Cayenne Pepper for Headaches:

  • Cayenne Pepper Salve: Mix a small amount of cayenne pepper with warm olive or coconut oil. Apply this mixture gently on the temples and forehead. Be cautious to avoid the eye area.
  • Oral Consumption: Adding a pinch of cayenne pepper to your meals or drinking it in a warm tea can help prevent headaches, especially if they're related to digestive issues.
  • Nasal Spray: For those suffering from cluster or sinus headaches, a homemade nasal spray with a diluted cayenne pepper solution can be effective. This should be used cautiously and in very dilute concentrations.

3. Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal, a fine black powder made from bone char, coconut shells, peat, petroleum coke, coal, olive pits, or sawdust, has gained attention for its potential to provide natural headache relief. Its toxin-absorbing properties are believed to help in cases where toxins or allergens cause headaches.

Using Activated Charcoal for Headaches:

  • Oral Intake: Activated charcoal capsules can be taken orally to help absorb and eliminate toxins that may contribute to headaches. It's important to follow the product label's dosage instructions and stay hydrated.
  • Detoxifying Drink: Mix a small amount of activated charcoal powder into a glass of water and drink it to help detoxify the system. Adding lemon and honey can enhance the flavor.
  • External Application: For some, applying a paste made of activated charcoal and water to the forehead can provide relief. This method should be used cautiously, and avoid getting the mixture into the eyes.


DMSO, a by-product of paper manufacturing, has gained interest in alternative medicine, including as a treatment for headaches. This compound, known for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, may help alleviate headache symptoms, especially when they are caused by inflammation.

How to Use DMSO for Headache Relief:

  • Topical Application: DMSO can be applied topically to the forehead and temples. It's known for its ability to penetrate the skin easily and reduce inflammation at the site of pain.
  • DMSO Compress: Soaking a small cloth or cotton pad in a DMSO solution and applying it to the forehead can provide direct pain relief. Ensure that the DMSO is diluted appropriately.
  • Combination with Other Remedies: DMSO can be mixed with other anti-inflammatory substances, like aloe vera or magnesium oil, to enhance its headache-relieving effects.


DMSO should be used with caution. It's important to use pharmaceutical-grade DMSO and to ensure that the skin is clean before application, as DMSO can carry substances through the skin into the body. Some people may experience skin irritation or allergic reactions. Always consult with a healthcare provider before using DMSO, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking other medications.

5. 5-HTP

5-HTP, a naturally occurring amino acid, is known for its role in increasing serotonin levels in the brain, which can be beneficial in managing headaches, especially migraines. Serotonin, a key neurotransmitter, is crucial in mood regulation and pain management.

  • Timed Consumption: An important tip when taking 5-HTP is to avoid consuming it with your daily vitamin. As shared by Caleb from Humboldt, CA, on Earth Clinic, taking 5-HTP with dinner rather than with vitamins can be more effective. This is because the simultaneous intake of vitamins may lead to 5-HTP metabolizing so that it enters the bloodstream instead of the brain where it's needed.
  • Serotonin Increase: By increasing serotonin levels, 5-HTP may help reduce headaches' frequency and severity, particularly migraines often linked to serotonin imbalances.


Consultation with Healthcare Provider: It's crucial to consult with a healthcare provider before starting 5-HTP, especially if you are on other medications, as it can interact with certain drugs, including antidepressants.

6. Hydration

One of the simplest yet most effective remedies is staying hydrated. Dehydration can lead to tension headaches, so drinking enough water is a preventive strategy and a natural way to alleviate headache pain.

7. Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil is a highly effective natural remedy for headaches, particularly known for its soothing and cooling properties. Its primary component, menthol, helps relax muscle tension and alleviate pain, making it an excellent choice for tension headaches and migraines.

How to Use Peppermint Oil for Headaches:

  • Topical Application: Dilute a few drops of peppermint oil with a carrier oil like coconut or almond oil. Gently massage this mixture onto your temples, forehead, or the back of your neck. The cooling sensation provides immediate relief.
  • Inhalation: Inhale the aroma of peppermint oil by adding a few drops to a diffuser or simply by smelling it directly from the bottle. This can help soothe headaches caused by stress or fatigue.
  • Peppermint Compress: Soak a washcloth in cold water mixed with a few drops of peppermint oil. Apply this as a compress on your forehead for an invigorating and pain-relieving effect.

8. Acupressure

Acupressure, a traditional Chinese medicine technique, involves applying pressure to specific points on the body to relieve pain. It's a widely recognized natural treatment for headaches, particularly effective for migraines.

An Earth Clinic reader shared a simple yet effective acupressure technique for headaches: Place one thumb above the nose at the forehead's start and the other at the base of the skull. Apply firm, even pressure with both thumbs for a count of ten, then slowly release over another count of ten. This method offers immediate relief and can be more comfortable using middle fingers instead of thumbs. This personal experience highlights the efficacy of acupressure in providing natural and quick relief from headaches.

9. Dietary Adjustments

Certain foods can trigger headaches. Identifying and avoiding these triggers is a crucial natural approach to headache prevention. Incorporating magnesium-rich foods like almonds and spinach can also be beneficial.


There are numerous natural ways to relieve headaches, each with unique benefits. Whether it’s hydration, essential oils, or dietary changes, these remedies offer a holistic approach to managing headache pain. If your headaches persist or worsen, consult a healthcare professional for advice.

Continue reading below to learn which natural remedies worked best for Earth Clinic readers, and please let our community know which one helped you!

Related Links:

Natural Remedies for Menstrual Headaches or Migraines
Natural Remedies for Migraines
Natural Treatments for Cluster Headaches


3 User Reviews
5 star (3) 

Posted by Blindedbyscience (Asheville, Nc) on 09/11/2011

I took 50mg twice so far when I had a headache with amazing fast relief. The first time it went away so easily that I thought it was a coincidence. I took another 50mg last night after taking 50mg earlier for the headache for sleep and and I didn't have any problem falling back to sleep when awakened during the night. Also I recently went vegan after being lactovegetarian for 31yrs and I think the 5 htp gave me a sense of relaxation kinda like dairy does.

Posted by Stefanie (Minden, Louisiana) on 07/17/2008

I found this remedy when I was looking for herbal remedies for my daily headaches. I found 5-HTP. According to the article,some of the things it helped with are insomnia, headaches, anxiety & depression. I thought could it be? I immediately went to my husband to show him what I had found because he had problems sleeping at night as well. We went a few days later to our local drug store and picked up a bottle of 50mg. 5-HTP. We had decided on the lowest dosage available in our area, upping the dosage as we went along if it was necessary. We have only been on it for a few days now but there is a very noticeable difference. We both have been sleeping through the night and feeling more refreshed when we wake. My anxiety attacks are gone as well as my headaches. We both are much less snappish than what we were before. We haven't noticed any side effects so far. We are taking them with a meal or a small snack and so far we have stayed at 50mg. Thanks for the very useful information that lead to this discovery!

Replied by Caleb
(Humboldt , Ca, Usa)

Just make sure you don't take your daily Vitamin with the 5HTP (take the 5HTP with dinner) because the 5HTP will metabolize with your vitamin and go into your blood stream, you want it to go to your brain. It increases the serotonin levels, hence the popularity between 5HTP and users of club drugs such as MDMA or Amphetamines. Thanks for your time, good luck with your headaches. ~ Caleb

Activated Charcoal

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Paracelsus (Orlando, FL) on 02/13/2021 47 posts

So many people suffer from headaches, yet not much is known about the real causes of such headaches.

I've recently noticed that I tend to get headaches after fasting for a prolonged period of time (24 water or juice fast). I have started taking activated charcoal pills in the morning or in the evening of such fasts. I'm taking 2 to 3 pills at the time. Each one contains 280 mg of activated charcoal made from coconut shell fiber.

I've noticed tremendous improvement in the frequency and intensity of such headaches. If the headache doesn't go away within a couple of hours, I simply take another 2 charcoal pills.

I started doing this even when I'm not fasting but when I just get a headache for whatever reason. This actually works 90% of the time.

This experience tells me that most of my headaches arise from toxins released during a fast or from toxins absorbed through food. Activated charcoal is the best detoxifier there is. AC works thorough "adsorption" rather than "absorption" (adsorption is more akin to a magnet, whereas absorption works like a sponge).

I also highly recommend taking activated charcoal when attempting to do any sort of detox regimen. Many times people are trying to detox too quickly and overload their liver and other organs of elimination with freed up toxic waste. This is very counter-productive, leading the toxins to be re-absorbed into the body, instead of being eliminated. Side effects such as Herxheimer reactions can be avoided if the detox is gradual and charcoal is consumed along with the detox regimen.

I believe activated charcoal is one of the most underrated heroes of medicine. Our environment and food is so toxic these days that regular detox with the help of charcoal is a must.

I hope this helps some people who have been suffering from headaches without finding a reliable cure.

Blessings to all!


10 User Reviews
5 star (10) 

Posted by Merrin (Perth, Western Australia) on 06/27/2012

Over the past ten years I have suffered weekly headaches from stress/work/computer usage and used paracetamol, aspirin or codeine regularly. Over the past six weeks I have stopped headaches using acupressure. Pinching the webbing between thumb and index finger works for me.

Posted by Kelly (San Francisco, Ca) on 11/02/2011

I've found that pressure helps, too, actually in conjunction with hot and cold packs.

Posted by Elaine (Edmond, Oklahoma) on 02/01/2010

My aunt taught me this form of accupressure for a headache. I works and feels really good once the pressure is off.
Take one your thumbs and place it just above the nose where it goes into the forhead. Not on the nose,but directly between the eyes of the sufferer. Next, take your other thumb and place at the base of their skull in the back. The soft spot just below where the skull ends at the top of the back of the neck. Apply firm and even pressure for the count of ten. When you reach ten SLOWLY release the pressure to the count of ten. Most people I have performed this on have been amazed at how "delicious" this feels. I use my middle fingers to apply the pressure as this is more comfortable to me.

Replied by Sarah
(Briarcliff Manor, Ny)

Not only does this work, but it's been enhanced with the use of a device known as the Cryotron, only some dr's have it so far, but it works great!

Posted by Ed (Boston, Massachusetts) on 12/15/2009

Massage cured my headaches

I began having headaches, often debilitating ones, and even a migraine, the day after a bout of vertigo. I went to several doctors and tried all sorts of remedies over several very trying weeks, to no avail. Finally I went to a neurologist who figured out that I was having "tension headaches" caused by tightness in my neck and shoulders. The tightness was likely a way to avoid the vertigo. Within minutes of massage and gentle head movements to relax the muscles, the headaches melted away. The immediacy of the result was stunning. I followed up with several professional massages.

Posted by Derek (Fort Worth, Tx) on 07/24/2008

Acupressure helped cure my severe headaches. I have been having severe headaches for about a week now and was tired of medicating myself with Tylenol, Alleve, etc. I remembered I saw an email passed around that listed natural cures for things. I searched the internet and found this website. Once there, I looked up headaches remedies and found the one that mentions having someone squeeze or put pressure in the space between your thumb and index finger for about 5 minutes. It was late at night so I just did it myself and was amazed that in 5 minutes I was completely pain free. I dont know how and I dont know why it worked, but I'm certainly not complaining! Give it a try. Good Luck!!

Replied by Nik
(Visalia, Ca)

this helps because it releases dopamines in your head that is a natural cure for headaches.

Posted by Susan (USA) on 02/03/2007

For headaches, my acupuncturist suggested massaging the bottom of the feet -- probe around til you find the most painful, tender spots, and rub them. I've stopped several headaches, including a migraine, as well as vertigo, using this method.

Posted by Jhon (Defo WI) on 10/19/2006

When i was little, i used to get a headache every single day, i hated it. my mom didn't want to give my tylenol every day cause it was bad for you, so she used this remedy: If you have a headache or have one coming on, find a person who will squeeze between your thumb and index finger. Do this for about 5 minutes. It is going to hurt but it makes the pain go away

Posted by Ginny (La Quinta, CA) on 11/26/2005

I look forward to trying apple cider vinegar for my acid reflux but would like to pass on some headache help. My mom and I have been chronic headache sufferers for several years combined. Four months ago I bought and read "The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook" and changed my life. I began using "trigger point" self massage and was able to get rid of my pain meds. Not even pain meds worked on my mom so when "trigger points" worked for me, I tried them on her. They worked wonders. I taught her how to self massage and she has all but eliminated over 30 years of chronic, debilitating headaches.

Posted by Katie (Chagrin Falls, OH)

I know for a fact a simple way to reduce the pain in headaches is to apply pressure to your temples and rub in a circular motion, it works every time.

Apple Cider Vinegar, Cayenne

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Lorik24 (Orange County NY) on 09/25/2019

After years of suffering with (what I thought were mild migraines) severe headaches, I discovered a ‘fix' for myself after looking on Earth Clinic for help with a sore throat. Apple cider vinegar in a cup with a teeny pinch of cayenne powder or chili powder (depending on what you may have in your cabinet). I was going to gargle with this mixture to help rid myself of an on coming sore throat. Once I got the cup close enough to put it in my mouth, I naturally took a small breath. THAT did the trick!!! Just inhaling that mixture cleared my sinuses so much that I didn't have any type of headaches for several years. Prior to this I was taking 6-10 extra strength Excedrin per day (which didn't actually get rid of my head aches, it just dulled them). I fully stand behind this method for both sinus headaches AND gargling to help alleviate sore throats. God Bless Earth Clinic!!!


2 User Reviews
5 star (2) 

Posted by Anne (CA) on 01/29/2023

My sister got headaches when she was pregnant, she ate an apple and the headaches would go away. She I did not want to take medication for her headaches since it gets into the unborn baby's body. It worked well several times.

Posted by Teresa (Fort Worth, TX) on 03/22/2008

Last week after using ALOT of an over-the-counter pain aid(this particular one never works for me but that's all we have at my job) I felt really drawn to eating a green granny smith apple I had brought with me. I ate it slowly over the course of 30-45 minutes and by the time I was through with it my headache was gone! The ONLY thing that had ever worked for me before was a different over-the-counter pain aid. I am extactic about my apple-cure discovery. Oh, let me add that the headache hasn't even tried to come back either. That headache had been coming and going for three days. Yeah!

Replied by Carmel
(London, England)

Maybe the reason the apple helped is because it is one of the main carriers of quercetin, which helps to stop inflammation and inflammation is often the cause of headaches. Other foods which help a lot with inflammation are onions - red are best - blackberries - brocolli, cranberry juice, spinach, cherry tomatoes (they are better because it is ther skins that help) lettuce. Red vein leaves, sweet potato, citrus fruits, grapes (black are best), oats, whole grains and seeds. Headaches can be caused by inflammation and it can be temporal arteritis adn many people mistake it for sinusitis. I kept taking steroids and anti biotics for headaches which I was told and assumed were caused by sinusitis yet whenever I stopped taking the steroids it was just as bad as before. I now have changed my diet and I also take herbs etc to help with the inflammation. Apart from the headaches it can cause confusion, bad memory (after all it is about blood flow around the brain) and if it gets really bad and is not treated it can cause a stroke.