6 Surprising Ways to Relieve a Headache

Everybody knows what it’s like to have a headache. Whether it’s a low-key, dull pain that makes the day feel longer and more difficult than it needs to be or an intense migraine that leads to missed work and misery, headaches are a universal woe…

And we most commonly turn to painkillers as a way of relieving headache symptoms. Aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen are all sold over the counter. Migraine sufferers may turn to prescription medications as a way of alleviating their symptoms.

How to get rid of headaches naturally

There’s nothing wrong with those remedies, but many people prefer to seek out natural remedies instead of turning to pills when they have a headache. It might surprise you to learn that there are some very good, natural ways to relieve a headache when you have one. Here are 6 that we think are worth trying.

#1: Drink More Water

Most of us don’t drink enough water. In fact, a lot of people are holding onto the idea that staying well-hydrated requires drinking eight, eight-ounce glasses of water per day. However, the truth is that most of us need more than that.

The latest guidelines from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine suggest that we need quite a bit more than 64 ounces of water per day, as follows:

  • Men need 15.5 cups per day or 124 ounces
  • Women need 11.5 cups per day or 92 ounces

benefits of drinking water

Not every headache is caused by dehydration. If yours is, you’re likely to experience symptoms of dehydration along with headache pain. For example, you may have:

  • A dry, sticky mouth
  • Reduced urination
  • Dark urine
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

If your headache is accompanied by any of these symptoms, you should drink water immediately. Your best bet is going to be room temperature or cool water. Drinking too much iced water quickly can upset your stomach.

You may be at risk of dehydration if you’ve had a stomach virus since both diarrhea and vomiting can cause dehydration. Exposure to heat or excessive perspiration can also cause dehydration. If you’re working outside in the sun, exercising, or it’s just a very hot day, make sure to drink water regularly to avoid dehydration.

#2: Moderate Your Sugar Intake

Considering its prevalence in our food, sugar is a surprisingly common culprit when it comes to headaches – and inconveniently, having too much or too little can be a problem.

Here’s why. Your body needs a lot of water to break down sugar and use it for energy. People who eat a diet that’s very high in sugar – whether the sugars are simple or refined – often need far more water than people who eat a diet that’s low in sugar. If you eat a lot of sugar or otherwise have a tendency toward hyperglycemia, you may find that you experienced headaches frequently.

Likewise, people who eat very little sugar or who take medications – like insulin – to help control their blood sugar, may have hypoglycemia. In that case, a lack of sugar may make them feel dizzy or give them a painful headache.

The solution is to moderate your sugar intake with help from your doctor. If you currently eat a lot of sugar, you should consider slowing reducing your intake. Making a rapid change may cause discomfort and flu-like symptoms. Instead, track your intake and decrease it slowly until it’s at a healthy level.

If you’re experiencing headaches and taking insulin, you may need to talk to your doctor about reducing your dosage. Blood sugar that’s too low can be dangerous, and you should be monitoring your glucose levels if you take insulin. You may need to adjust your medication, but you should never do so without the advice and approval of your doctor.

#3: Take a Magnesium Supplement

Magnesium is a necessary mineral that performs several important jobs in the body. It’s responsible for regulating your blood pressure, insulin response, and nerve transmission, among other things. In fact, magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in our bodies.

A 2012 study found that half of all migraine patients were deficient in magnesium. That finding suggests a strong correlation between magnesium levels and headaches, particularly migraines – and it points in the direction of a potentially simple way to relieve your headache symptoms.

You have two options to increase your magnesium intake. The first is to add foods rich in magnesium to your diet. Some good choices include:

  • Avocados
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Legumes
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Leafy Greens
  • Tofu
  • Whole Grains
  • Bananas

Foods rich in Magnesium

The second option is to add a magnesium supplement to your daily health regimen. One study found that taking a daily 600 mg supplement of magnesium reduced symptoms and headache frequency in migraine sufferers.

#4: Stick to a Sleep Schedule

The best headache remedy is prevention – and one of the best forms of prevention is also something that happens to be an issue for millions of people around the world: sleep.

If you suffer from chronic or occasional insomnia, you may be at a higher risk of having regular headaches. Approximately 50% of all people who experience migraines also reported sleep disturbances and insomnia. That’s a huge percentage and one that bears further examination.

Not all headaches are migraines, and there’s also evidence that sleep disturbances can cause tension headaches and cluster headaches. Headaches may be correlated with a lack of sleep as well as with sleep disturbances caused by sleep apnea or anxiety.

If you’re thinking that the remedy is “get more sleep,” you’re both correct and incorrect. Sometimes, too much sleep can lead to headaches as well, so the trick is to get just enough – and to make sure that it’s restful sleep.


According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the ideal amount of sleep for adults is between 7 and 9 hours per night. Less than 7 hours leaves you at risk for headaches, brain fog, and other issues. Getting more than 9 hours is associated with headaches and other health issues.

If you suffer from insomnia and headaches, here are some things that may help:

  • Create and stick to a sleep schedule where you go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning.
  • Try limiting your screen time, especially in the two hours before you go to bed.
  • Meditation can help relax you and minimize anxiety if that’s an issue for you.

You may not get 7 hours every night but sticking to a schedule may help you get more sleep than you’re getting now and, at the same time, reduce your risk of getting headaches.

#5: Peppermint and Lavender Oil

One of the simplest remedies to reduce headache pain is the application and inhalation of essential oils. Two oils that are particularly effective at relieving headache pain are lavender and peppermint.

A German study found that inhaling peppermint oil was a good remedy for tension headaches. You can use peppermint oil by applying it to your pulse points. Wrists, temples, and neck are all good spots and will ensure that the scent of peppermint reaches your nose.

Peppermint and Lavender Oil

Lavender is an ingredient in many linen sprays and aromatherapy oils thanks to its well-documented ability to relax people and soothe their anxiety.

A 2013 study looked at numerous benefits of lavender on the human nervous system. They include:

  • Reduced tension and anxiety
  • Better sleep
  • Reduced pain
  • Reduced depression

You can try putting lavender oil into a diffuser or applying it to your pulse points. If you have an issue with insomnia, it may be worth investing in some lavender linen spray to put on your pillow before you go to bed.

#6: Try an Elimination Diet

It might seem extreme to alter your diet to get rid of a headache, many foods, including alcohol, chocolate, aged cheese, and citrus fruits acting as triggers. A study from 2014 found that approximately half of the participants experienced a decrease in their headache symptoms after following an elimination diet.

Headache Relief

Another study from 2011 found that after four weeks, people who followed an elimination diet experienced fewer migraines and headaches than they did before the study. They noted that more study is necessary, but it may be worth eliminating certain high-risk foods from your diet for a short time to see how your body reacts.

Final Thoughts

Headaches are common, and it’s always a good idea to seek out natural remedies before turning to medications with potentially dangerous side effects. One of the biggest challenges of treating a headache is knowing what caused it – and it may take several tries for you to find the remedy that works for you.

If you’re looking for somewhere to start, focusing on water intake is the way to go. It’s one of the most common culprits, and one of the easiest things to fix. If that doesn’t work, you can try some of the other remedies we’ve listed here.