Tension headaches are the most common form of headache in adults, according to Mayo Clinic. Heat therapy, stress management and improved posture may help to resolve the majority of headaches. When these techniques fail, however, several treatment options — including medicinal herbs — can help to temporarily eliminate headache pain. Like pharmaceutical drugs, medicinal herbs may cause unanticipated side effects or drug interactions. Consult a qualified practitioner before using any medicinal herb if you take medication or suffer from a chronic medical condition.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), the medicinal herb feverfew has been used for centuries as an herbal treatment for headaches. Ongoing studies suggest that dried feverfew capsules can reduce the frequency of headaches in people who suffer from chronic migraines. The University of Maryland Medical Center also notes that early clinical trials have also used feverfew in combination with vitamin B2, magnesium or white willow. Feverfew has muscle relaxing and weak anti-inflammatory properties; these contribute to its efficacy as an herbal headache treatment.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) state that “good scientific evidence” supports the use of devil’s claw as an herbal treatment for back pain and osteoarthritis. In theory, its pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory mechanisms may also help to eliminate recurrent headaches. Devil’s claw is generally well-tolerated and associated with few side effects; however, NIH notes that more studies are needed to fully confirm its overall safety and efficacy.
White Willow Bark
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the common pharmaceutical drug aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) was originally derived from the bark of the white willow tree. White willow contains natural anti-inflammatory compounds and helps to ease headaches, backaches and other forms of spasmodic or inflammatory pain. UMMC notes that willow bark may cause fewer gastrointestinal side effects than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs; however, more studies are needed to confirm this.
Commonly consumed in the form of a tea, meadowsweet also contains salicylates similar to aspirin. According to the medical information website Drugs.com, the word “aspirin” is derived from Spiraea, meadowsweet’s scientific name. Meadowsweet tea is a gentle, effective herbal treatment for headaches and upper back pain. Drugs.com notes that meadowsweet is also traditionally used as a treatment for colds and digestive disorders.
Mayo Clinic: Tension Headache
NIH: Devil’s Claw
UMMC: Willow Bark