September 3 2014

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Natural Solutions for Headaches That Won’t Go Away


headache-modelThis column features weekly tips and advice from a revolving cast of industry leaders on hand to discuss your beauty dilemmas, from blemishes to Botox.

There’s not a week that goes by when I don’t have a killer headache. Can herbs help prevent and ease the symptoms?

There are many different types of headaches and each is treated in myriad ways. But I’ll focus on the most common:

TO ALLEVIATE STRESS: A stress or tension headache is marked by a dull, aching sensation across the forehead, the sides of the head, or the nape, which can go on for days. I recommend taking a nervine herb like American skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), a relaxant herb that’s been shown in trials to be effective. Try thirty to forty drops in a tincture three times a day, or take two 425-milligram capsules three times a day. If you prefer tea, drink 2 grams as an infusion.

TO MITIGATE A MIGRAINE: A migraine is a neurovascular disorder, which leads to periodic headaches that often come with a range of symptoms, such as nausea or visual disturbances. Prevention is the best advice. Taking the anti-inflammatory herb feverfew leaf (Tanacetum parthenium) daily reduces the number of migraine attacks, possibly by preventing the cramping and subsequent dilation of blood vessels that cause these painful head-throbbers. I have used this herb successfully with many clients. The dose is the equivalent to two leaves a day, so even keeping a plant and nibbling on a leaf is a good bet! If taking a pill or tincture, go with a quality brand like MediHerb or Gaia. Lavender oil has been shown to be effective for reducing the severity of migraines. Use throughout the day on the pressure points and in the bath at night.

TO REIN IN HORMONES: Hormonal headaches are the type you get before your period. Taking magnesium and vitamin B6 every day can have a preventive effect. It also helps with PMS and period pains, which is an added bonus. The addition of the hormone-balancing herb Agnus castus can also be very helpful and has been shown in clinical trials to significantly reduce all PMS symptoms, including headaches. You take this herb daily in the morning, without skipping a dose, for a minimum of two months.

If you are also dizzy, pale, and tired, the headaches may be related to anemia rather than hormonal imbalances. With these, the pain tends to be on the top of the head. Taking a blood tonic, like Floradix tablets or liquid, throughout the month can help these go away. Of course, for more specific advice, I would recommend scheduling a visit with an herbalist so you can stay headache-free for the long term.

A leader in herbal medicine, Daniela Turley is a board member of The American School of Natural Health, a member of The American Herbalists Guild, and The College of Practitioners of Phytotherapy. Born and raised in England, Turley received her bachelor of science in herbal medicine, and held an honorary position at the Hale Clinic, the renowned complementary health center in London. In 2011, Turley moved to the New York City where she joined the practice of Shellie Goldstein Acupuncture.

Photo: Magnus Unnar

The Doctor Is In