How to Treat Headaches Naturally

A while back, I was loading a cargo van with everything I owned, to move it to a new state. I looked up into the van - then the back of my neck seized up and I couldn't move my head. This was at a time in my life when I was getting ready to graduate, move to a new place, and basically change my entire life. Needless to say, there was some stress involved.

Within a few days, my neck and the back of my head had cramped up so badly it was sending shooting pains through my head and into my eyes. A pretty serious headache that wasn't about to go away on it's own. Read on to find out how I treated and got rid of it once and for all.

In acupuncture and Chinese medicine, most headaches are caused by heat and energy rising to the head. It's more likely to happen in the Summer months, since that's when it's hottest, but it can happen any time there is heat, including emotional heat. Our basic recipe for these types of headaches, then, is to cool and calm the body. 

Of course, you want something you can do right when you start to feel the headache coming on, so I've listed a few short term solutions for you. But to beat the pain for good, it takes a bit of planning. The second section below lists your more long term course of action, which you will want to follow if you headaches keep coming back. 

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Short Term Solutions:

Try one (or all) of these solutions when you start to feel the headache coming on. The earlier the better!

1. Essential Oils - My favorite oils for dissipating a headache is a combination of lavender and peppermint. Keep a small vial in your bag for emergencies. Direct inhalation is a great method since your nose is so close to your brain. You can also dilute the oils into a carrier oil like almond or jojoba and massage right into the achy spot.

2. Herbs - For immediate headache relief, try feverfew. You can purchase it in capsule or tincture form, either works great for this. Take a ¼ tsp of tincture in a small amount of liquid at the first sign on a headache, and repeat in an hour if it has not yet responded.

3. Acupressure - The point LI4 (large intestine 4) is one of the most powerful acupuncture points in all of Chinese Medicine. Massage one side with the opposite thumb, then switch sides when your thumb gets tired.

acupuncture for headaches

Long term Solutions

To keep your headaches from coming back, try the suggestions below. You will have to keep at it for at least a few months, so don't give up if they don't work right away.

1. Reduce inflammation - There are specific herbs and supplements that you can take to reduce inflammation systemically in your body. My favorites are fish oil and turmeric. Dosage depends on the brand, so read the label. Just be sure to take them every day.

2. Stress management - Perhaps the most important (and hardest) piece of the puzzle. There are so many different ways to manage stress, I can't list them all in detail here. But for some ideas, you could try mindfulness meditation, yoga or tai chi, art or music, or a long walk in nature. Schedule it into your day, every day, and make it a priority. This is especially important for headaches with a stress component.

3. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine - If your headache is recurring often, despite trying all the other suggestions on this list, it is time to enlist the help of an expert. Your acupuncturist should know that there are many different types of headaches, and how to treat each kind. She will also take your entire constellation of symptoms into account to address underlying root causes of your pain.

Have you tried any of these to get rid of headaches? How did it work for you? Do you have anything to add to the list? Please leave a comment below.


Elizabeth Williams is an acupuncturist and herbalist in Greenville, South Carolina, specializing in pain management, women’s health, and psycho-emotional issues. She’s passionate about helping people feel their best and sharing her wealth of knowledge with the community. Elizabeth is the owner of Dragonfly Acupuncture & Massage, on Wade Hampton Boulevard. Appointments can be made by calling 864-451-4313, or scheduled online here.