Headache Remedies
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ChamomileA headache is a pain in the head. A headache can be caused by some other physical disorder, or it may be a disorder in and of itself.

There are three major types of headaches: tension (or stress), migraine, and cluster. A tension headache is caused by the tightening of muscles in the neck and head. A migraine headache occurs when blood vessels in the brain dilate (swell up). Cluster headaches are characterized by very severe pain.

Tension headaches are probably the most common form of the disorder. Nearly everyone has a tension headache from time to time. Migraine headaches are less common. About 18 percent of American women and 6 percent of American men experience migraine headaches on a relatively regular basis. Cluster headaches are fairly rare. Less than 0.5 percent of Americans experience cluster headaches. Men make up 80 percent of all cluster headache sufferers.

Approximately forty to forty-five million people in the United States suffer headaches on a regular basis over an extended period of time. Headaches have a major impact on society because of missed workdays.

Headaches can also be caused by other kinds of diseases, injuries, and disorders. Headaches of this kind are not discussed in this entry.

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Migraine headaches are intense throbbing headaches that occur on one or both sides of the head. The pain is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, and a high sensitivity to light, sound, and movement.

The usual tension headache is described as a tightening around the head and neck, accompanied by a steady ache that forms a tight band around the forehead. Tension headaches usually affect both sides of the head and usually appear at the front of the head, although they can appear at the top or back of the skull. Tension headaches often begin in the afternoon and can last for several hours. They can occur every day. When this happens it is called a chronic tension headache.

A cluster headache can cause excruciating pain. The headache is usually centered around one eye. It may also cause the eyes to tear and nasal (nose) congestion. A cluster headache usually lasts from fifteen minutes to four hours. It may occur several times in a day.

Cluster headaches are classified as either episodic or chronic. Approximately 80 percent of cluster headaches are episodic, that is, they occur during one to five month periods followed by six to twenty-four month attack-free period. There is no such reprieve for chronic cluster headache sufferers.

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Brain tissue itself does not feel pain, but other kinds of tissue in and around the brain can feel pain. For example, muscles in the scalp, face, or neck can contract and become painful, and blood vessels in the brain and face can swell, causing pain in the muscles and tissue on the skull.

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Home Remedies

Although Aspirin is not a home remedy it is important to know what role it has played for releiving headaches.

Asprin is one of the oldest drugs known to humans. Ancient people discovered long ago that pain and fever could be controlled by chewing on the bark of the willow tree or by rubbing oil of wintergreen on a sore part of the body. Willow trees and wintergreen both contain a chemical known as salicylic (pronounced SAL-ih-SILL-ik) acid.

Of course, in the old days they did not know the chemical composition of willows and wintergreen. It was not until the mid-1800s that chemists gained that knowledge. Then, they became excited about the possible uses of salicylic acid. They thought it might be able to cure many different kinds of diseases. They also believed that it could be used to preserve foods.

They were right about the second point, but wrong about the first. For a time, salicylic acid became popular as a food preservative. But it was soon replaced by other, more effective methods.

Although salicylic acid did not cure disease, it was effective in reducing fever and relieving pain. But it had one serious side effect: It usually upset the stomach. Eventually, researchers found a solution to this problem. They converted salicylic acid into another form, called sodium acetylsalicylate (pronounced uh-SEAT-el-suh-LIS-ih-late). Sodium acetylsalicylate also acts to reduce fever and relieve pain. But it is less harmful to the stomach.

In 1899, the German chemical company, Bayer AG, began making sodium acetylsalicylate commercially. They named the product aspirin. Today, aspirin is probably the most widely used drug in the world.

Massage: With lubricating oils: Have someone kneed across your shoulders and the back of the neck. Next, have them press on the base of your skull with their fingers, and slowly release.

The state of dehydration, however mild, can cause headaches. Drinking water is a very important part of preventing headaches, but it can also be used to treat them. If you suspect your headache might be caused by dehydration, then try drinking a glass or two of water and waiting.

If you have suggestions or know of a proven home remedy add it here in the comment area.

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Herbal Remedies

Dandelion root and red clover are blood purifiers, and they clear heat from the body and soothe the liver, which can help calm some headaches. Their influence is widespread in the system, and they are helpful to women undergoing menopausal symptoms because of their tonic effect on the liver.

Ginkgo biloba is one of the more popular and studied herbs, with a proven affect on circulation. By encouraging oxygen delivery, it is thought that ginkgo biloba helps to reduce head pain from various headache forms including migraines. Ginkgo biloba has also been shown to help with inflammation and may block the generation of platelet-activating factor, which has been indicated in migraines.

Feverfew is thought to both prevent and treat headaches and migraines. When taken at the first sign of a headache it can reduce the intensity and duration of the head pain. It inhibits inflammation and the constriction of blood vessels. It also influences serotonin, a brain substance that is believed to play a role in headache pain. The active ingredient, parthenolide, may help prevent migraines when ingested on a regular basis, although it can take several weeks before you notice a significant change in your headaches.

Valerian, skullcap and lemon balm are all herbs that tend to have anti-spasm effects in addition to sedating and relaxing properties. They can thus help head pain and promote a sense of tranquility at the same time. Their use aids in loosening up muscles around the back, neck and face and it is thought that these herbs influence arterial flow, helping reduce headache pain. Using these herbs at the initial signs of a headache can keep your headache from painfully progressing.

Chamomile, Rosemary and Mint can be helpful for easing headaches as well as associated symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety and stress. They tend to have a very calming effect and chamomile in particular is widely available in herbal tea formulations. It's convenient and helpful to enjoy a cup of herbal tea if a headache hits while you're at work and you require immediate relief.

If you have suggestions or know of a proven herbal remedy add it here in the comment area.

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Wellness Program

You can avoid some headaches by avoiding the factors that cause them. For example, one is less likely to develop tension headaches if one avoids stress in everyday life.

Headaches caused by food allergies can be prevented by not eating the foods that bring on the headaches.

Regular exercise and certain alternative treatments, such as relaxation exercises, may also help prevent some headaches.

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