What’s Your Headache?

There are headaches and then there are headaches. Some are mild and disappear after a while; others only subside after a headache tablet or two. Then there are those splitting types of headache and more serious migraines, which keep coming back regardless of how many headache tablets one takes.

Some people experience more severe and recurring headaches and often have no choice but to seek the help of professional medical specialists. Some of the causes of headaches and migraines are emotional stress, fatigue, lack of sleep and even the food we eat. Without any further consideration, often we turn to the quick fix in the form of a pill, neatly wrapped, labelled and conveniently supplied by pharmaceutical companies. Yet for those who are not so eager to swallow bitter pills, healthier alternatives do exist. Nature has provided us with many miracle cures in the form of plants since the beginning of time. For thousands of years plants have served to feed, clothe, comfort and heal generations after generations all around the planet.

Marjoram and Oregano (Origanum species) are recommended for nervous headaches as well as insomnia, while Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), can be used in the form of tea to alleviate headaches. Violet or Sweet Violet (Viola odorata) — four flowers and about five leaves boiled using one cup of water — can be used to calm and soothe tension-related headaches.
Scullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) could be very useful especially when combined with Valerian (Valeriana officinalis). Both of these herbs are most effective in the soothing of tension related headaches.

Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) which happens to be one of the most common herbs in gardens and nurseries in our part of the world, is helpful in soothing stress related headaches as well as the calming of nerves. Lavender flowers should be infused and drunk three times a day. There are over fifty listed species of this herb. Ginger, tried and tested over centuries and known for its headache soothing properties, comes highly recommended by some herbal healers. Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), can be eaten fresh on sandwiches just like lettuce. Three to five Feverfew leaves daily could be helpful with migraines. However, beware! Feverfew can cause mouth ulcers in sensitive people.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita) and Spearmint (Mentha spicata) also a very common herb, in the form of tea, can be blended with other herbs such as Valerian and Marjoram. Peppermint or Spearmint leaves mashed in a tiny bit of oil and massaged into areas affected by migraines. An infusion of Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) can also soothe headaches. The dried flowers of Cowslip (Primula veris) and Primrose (Primula vulgaris), can be infused as a tea to soothe headaches. The root of Primrose can also be infused. Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) seed oil also available in capsule form can be useful not only for headaches but also for premenstrual tension and menopausal discomfort.
Most of these herbs and many others are available at health shops, pharmacies and in plant form at nurseries.

When approached, the manager of the Lantana Nursery located in Blackheath, said that one the most popular remedies for headaches is lavender. Many healing plants are not too difficult to grow at home, whether it is in a garden or in pot plants in your home on windowsills. To ensure good growth it is important to note the fact that various species of plants have different needs in terms of soil types, amounts of water needed and the exposure to sunlight.
There is nothing like having a little herbal pharmacy right at home. Often the cure is just a mere cup of tea away.

Besides the cures for both headaches and migraines in the form of tea infused from dry herbs, there is also the option of therapeutic massage, concentrating on pressure points optionally using herbal oils. Infused Thyme oil (Labiatae) is perfect when used for head massage.
Nevertheless, many people are convinced that the chemicals supplied by pharmacies are all they ever need to cure or prevent sickness. There are also people who would rather put their faith in natural remedies. Pharmaceutical headache remedies often contain potentially harmful chemicals. Some argue it is generally not as easy to find natural remedies, as it is to find their pharmaceutical counterparts. If one is in need of herbs such as Lavender or Feverfew, only select or specialist shops would stock these. Yet the quick fix headache tablets seem to be always easily available not only at pharmacies but also at just about every grocery store and petrol station. This makes it seem to be a more convenient, short-term solution. We live in a world where ‘convenient’ does not always mean healthy.

Yet herbalists and herbal remedies in general are greatly underestimated. This is possibly due to lack of knowledge as well as the convenience of modern living in world of passive consumerism. When approached on this subject, Mr. Fox the manager of a nursery in Randburg, had the following to say “As ironic as it is, as somebody involved with plants to the extent that I am, whenever I have a headache I tend to resort to headache tablets”. Yet Mr. Fox, just like other people who run nurseries, acknowledges the fact that many plants have medicinal properties. People who lead busy lifestyles, often tend to resort to what they think is the easy way out, often without consequence or concern for their health in the long run.

When using herbal remedies, as is the case with conventional medication, one should not ignore possible sensitivities that individuals may have for certain plants. When using herbs, as is the case with anything else that people consume, allergies and negative reactions may occur and require careful observation, according to each blood type and possible sensitivity. It is important to know your body and the remedies you use.

Herbal remedies should not be used excessively and have to be administered with utmost care because the body may eventually become immune to the healing effect of that remedy.
Furthermore, whoever you may be and whatever your headache, there is a cure for you somewhere in the herb garden. If all else fails, other therapies which may just be the solution in terms of desired relief and also prevention of migraines are aromatherapy, nutritional therapy, massage, yoga, meditation, acupuncture as well as osteopathy which is a system of diagnosis and treatment based on a theory of the association of ailments with the disorders of the musculoskeletal system.

There is always the option of brewing herbal tea and even starting your own herb garden, which could be a great hobby and a productive way of spending your spare time at the same time trying to preserve the ancient knowledge by learning more about the healing properties of plants.