8 natural alternatives to headache pills
Headaches, fever and other symptoms of the common cold are particularly annoying when we have to go to work, school or college. When we can't crawl back into bed and wait until we feel better, all too often we reach for the painkillers — ibuprofen, tylenol or aspirin for example.
Usually, these alleviate our symptoms pretty quickly, so our daily routine suffers minimal disruption. However, most people don't ever think about the side effects these artificial, manufactured substances can have on our bodies. In fact, our kidneys, our digestive system and cardiovascular system can all be damaged by taking these over-the-counter medications.
But don't panic. If you only reach for the tablets in emergencies and don't have any pre-existing conditions, you generally don't need to worry. However, we don't always need to resort to tablets when we want to help our bodies — Mother Nature also provides healthy remedies. To give you a quick overview, here are eight natural pain remedies that can be used as an alternative to aspirin and its ilk. These methods aren't suitable for severe pain, but headaches, muscle ache and the like can be effectively treated, helping to improve your well-being.
The hot root of the ginger plant has long been in use as a seasoning for food. Whether grated onto fish, meat and sweet dishes or used as a refreshing drink, ginger enjoys a great deal of popularity. In recent years, the root has become more and more popular as a natural remedy. The essential oil contained in ginger doesn't only help to strengthen the immune system but it also works as an anti-inflammatory. Ginger oil targets the same enzyme in the body as mass-produced aspirin, which is why it can ease your headache.
You can treat muscle pain and headaches by pouring some boiling water over a piece of ginger, leaving it for five minutes, and then soaking a cloth in the water. Lay the cloth on the affected area and the pain will soon be gone.
A close relative of the ginger plant is another spice popular in Indian cooking: turmeric has been revered as a healing remedy for around 5,000 years. The Ayurvedic cooking tradition in particular puts its healing effect to good use. The curcumin present in turmeric is an anti-inflammatory and painkiller. In addition, it acts against bone loss.
As a spice in powder form, you can introduce turmeric into your diet as a preventative measure. If you're suffering acute pain, during a cold for example, you can also take this orange miracle remedy in capsule form.
Many people know arnica as an ingredient for various ointments. The active ingredients in the plant help with muscle pain and arthritis in particular, since its essential oils have an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory effect. In 2001, the plant was even designated Medicinal Plant of the Year.
Unlike its predecessors in this list, arnica is for external application only. You can either buy a pre-prepared salve that contains arnica, or you can pour hot water over arnica flowers and rub the painful areas with the infusion.
4. Licorice root
Licorice root is more commonly known as the basic ingredient in licorice. As well as its sweet taste, this Mediterranean plant can be beneficial to your health. The glycyrrhizinic acid that it contains is antibacterial and dissolves mucus, making it the perfect remedy for a cold. A licorice tea helps soothe your throat when it starts to hurt and itch.
Important: It is imperative that you speak to your doctor before using licorice as a remedy. The ingredients raise blood pressure, increase cortisol levels and make the placenta more permeable. During a pregnancy, for example, licorice is an absolute no-no.
5. Willow bark
People have been using willow bark to remedy a whole range of complaints for many thousands of years. In the meantime, the effectiveness of the bark has also been medically proven, so you should try it at least once as a natural cure for headaches and back pain. The bark of the white willow should be the most effective one to use.
In order to relieve your headache, you can make an extract of willow bark using cold water. Pour two cups of cold water over roughly 1½ tsp of willow bark. Let the mixture steep overnight for about eight hours and then filter out the willow bark. Drink the "bark water" twice a day to get rid of headaches and fever.
6. Cayenne pepper
And now for another beloved spice from the kitchen that can help with your pain: cayenne pepper — which isn't actually a pepper, but is made of finely ground cayenne chilis — works as an anti-inflammatory. It can be applied externally as a salve, essential oil, or cream, while you can drink the powder when it's dissolved in water.
Important: Not everyone can tolerate the sharpness of cayenne pepper. Ideally, use a small amount at first to test whether this strong spice is suitable for you.
It's long been said that valerian has a calming effect. However, this plant can do a lot more: such as boosting your concentration as well as treating headaches, and even migraines. To feel the benefit of the plant's painkilling properties, stir ½ tsp of valerian extract into a glass of water and drink the whole thing slowly, one sip at a time.
Important: You shouldn't ingest more than 3 tsp of valerian extract per day.
The oil extracted from mint is used in traditional Chinese medicine as a cure for headaches. Studies have established that this oil is just effective against tension headaches as other painkillers. For pregnant women, this cooling oil is regarded as a great alternative medicine, because it can be applied without worrying about the dosage or side effects. To benefit from its pain-relieving properties, apply 1-2 drops of the oil to your temples and use circular motions to massage it into your skin.
Important: Take care that the oil doesn't get in your eyes, because it will irritate your mucous membranes.
Good isn't it? The things that Mother Nature can do... Next time, give one of these remedies a try before reaching for the tablets. Of course, when you're in a lot of pain and have other symptoms, these remedies are no substitute for going to the doctor. But in everyday life, they're definitely a healthier alternative.