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Herbs for Headache Relief ~ All headaches are not equal!

Aug 31, 2022 06:45AM ● By Kathleen Gould and Madalyn Johnson
An older woman holding her head like she has a headache.


Pain is our body’s way of letting us know that something in our body, mind or spirit is out of balance and is in need of our attention.
So many things can bring on a headache. Sinus inflammation or infection, allergies, a toothache, an earache, stress and overworked muscles are some of the many possibilities. Although aspirin may be useful in stopping the pain initially, herbal pain relievers work at a deeper level to help relax and soothe the body while you look for the underlying reason for the pain.
As an example, if your headache is brought on by stress, then calming nervine herbs, like chamomile (also anti-inflammatory), passion flower or catnip, may be appropriate. Also, adaptogenic herbs, like ashwagandha or schisandra berry, could be very helpful. If, however, your headache is due to sinus inflammation, you will be better served using such herbs as eyebright, elderflower, mullein and Echinacea.
The beautiful thing about using high-quality whole herbs is that you can blend them together and create the perfect combination of pain relief that your unique physiology requires to help bring you back into radiant health.
Let’s discuss a few ways to use herbs for all types of headaches. A simple idea would be to make a single herb tea with either ginger, chamomile, peppermint or white willow bark. Ginger, an anti-inflammatory, has been used for centuries to treat headaches and mild migraines that are caused by inflammation. Everyone has had experience with chamomile at some point. It is used as a relaxant, so if your headache stems from tension, this might be the right herb for you. Peppermint leaf tea is delicious and uplifting when you are feeling down. Quite commonly, peppermint essential oil is used topically to relieve many types of headaches. Be sure to always use a good-quality oil. White willow bark, which contains a natural ingredient called salicin—the same active ingredient in aspirin—has long been used in capsule form for headaches, actually pain of all kinds. Give each of these herbs a try and see which could work for you.
Many times herbs work better when they are together (much like humans!). Try blending a few together for a delicious and effective tea. Here are a few ideas:
Ease Your Headache (great for kiddos)
1 part lemon balm
1 part meadowsweet
½ part chamomile
¼ part lavender or ginger, whichever taste you prefer
Minty Pain Relief
1 part feverfew
1 part peppermint
½ part ginger
Relief at Last
1 part feverfew
1 part passion flower
1 part lemon balm
½ part cinnamon
Always remember that any of these teas can be customized to your liking. Add rosebuds, rosehips, turmeric for its anti-inflammatory properties, lavender, honey, valerian or kava kava (if you dare) and experience their benefits.
Additionally, there are ways to calm a headache that are easy and readily available. Make sure you are hydrated (the tea will help with this), reduce your exposure to bright light, take a bath (with herbs!), listen to your favorite calming music, take a walk outside and breathe, or call a friend and laugh.
Essential oils are commonly used when trying to ease headache pain. They are very effective and easily applied. We commonly use peppermint—or any mint, for that matter—lavender and ginger. But a few others that you might find helpful are geranium, used for premenstrual syndrome headaches; frankincense, used for relieving the pain caused by cluster headaches because of its anti-inflammatory properties; and marjoram, used for headaches caused by stress and tension. Another great pain-relieving option is copaiba oil, an anti-inflammatory that has been used as a remedy for headaches since the 16th century and has recently gained popularity. Try mixing lavender with copaiba, or a popular blend is marjoram, copaiba and lavender. Mix with some coconut oil in a roller ball container and carry with you for instant relief wherever you are.
Herbs and essential oils are readily available, quite affordable and very effective. Head off those headaches quickly and go enjoy your day!

Madalyn Johnson (left) and Kathleen Gould (right)


Kathleen Gould, registered herbalist, and Madalyn Johnson are proprietors of SW HerbShop and Gathering Place. Gould has been an herbalist for 30-plus years and has extensive experience in herbal medicine. For more information, call 480-694-9931, or visit or