Headaches are a big problem for some people and there can be any number of underlying factors, some which are obvious, such as those which are diet related, and some which are not, such as environmental issues or heavy metal toxicity or high copper.
From a homeopathic perspective this is a huge topic and one that really needs exploring with the individual to find out the exact nature and contributing factors. Since recurrent headaches or head pain are what we would term a chronic condition, this is going to require constitutional treatment from your homeopath for best results.
However, if you’re reaching for the pharmacy drugs, think again and consider trying a homeopathic remedy first. They are low risk and there is certainly research showing that homeopathy is better than placebo and suggesting further investigation be undertaken. In the broader community there are definitely people out there who swear by the power of homeopathy for a headache!
Because there are so many remedies for headaches and so many types of headaches, I’ve broken the list down into different types of headaches, which really shows what a big topic it is.
Some kinds of acute headache can indicate a serious problem and should always be attended to at the GP or ED first if they are severe, recurrent, or continuous. However, we can all experience the occasional mild headache, which may be managed at home.
As always, if your home prescribing is not getting results, do make sure you see your registered homeopath and your GP.
Definition of a headache
A headache or cephalgia is defined as pain anywhere in the region of the head or neck and can be a symptom of a range of different conditions. The pain is caused by disturbance of the pain-sensitive structures around the brain. Several areas of the head and neck have these pain-sensitive structures, which are divided into two categories: within the cranium (blood vessels, meninges and the cranial nerves) and outside the cranium (the periosteum of the skull, muscles, nerves, arteries and veins, subcutaneous tissues, eyes, ears, sinuses and mucous membranes). (1)
The ICHD-2 (International Classification of Headache Disorders) classification defines migraines, tension-type headaches, cluster headaches and other trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias as the main types of primary headaches. (1)
Secondary headaches are classified based on their cause and not on their symptoms. The main types of secondary headaches include those that are due to head or neck trauma, such as whiplash injury, intracranial haematoma, post craniotomy or other head or neck injury. (1)
Headaches caused by cranial or cervical vascular disorders such as ischemic stroke and transient ischemic attack, non-traumatic intracranial haemorrhage, vascular malformations or arteritis are also defined as secondary headaches. (1)
Migraine headaches can be triggered by a variety of causes, including diet, stress, lights, strong smells and other environmental conditions (either external or internal). They may present in a wide range of ways and can be quite short lived, to being of extended duration and symptomatology. Again, this type of presentation should be treated by your homeopath and not at home, but remedies may help nip a headache in the bud if you are taken by surprise!
Limits of home care
Some headaches can indicate a more sinister or potentially serious situation, so it is really important to get medical care immediately:
- for any very severe headache, especially if it is unusual for you
- for a headache accompanied by stiff or painful neck and/or high fever
- for headache that occurs after a head injury
- for headache preceded or accompanied by visual disturbances, weakness of one side or part of the body, speech disorders or dizziness. If you have had these symptoms previously but their pattern has changed significantly, call or see your general practitioner.
Seek professional advice soon:
- for a headache lasting more than three or four days, even if mild
- for recurrent headaches in a child
- if a headache begins while you’re taking medication, including the oral contraceptive pill.
I’ve written from time to time about high copper and heavy metal toxicity and these can be factors in headaches or migraines which do not resolve. There are quite a number of other factors which may contribute to headaches and it’s important to try and track down your own triggers.
- Environmental factors, which is a huge and broad topic in itself
- Allergies and food intolerances
- Side effects of medication
- Stress, anxiety, anger – emotions generally
- Menstrual cycle
- Menopause – peri or post
- High blood pressure
- Low blood sugar
- Thyroid issues
- Posture including from carrying heavy shoulder bags, poor sitting position, etc
- Incorrect sleep position or pillow
- Off gassing of new furniture, carpets, glues, etc
- EMFs from mobile devices and computers
- Geopathic stress
- Perfumes or other synthetic odours
- Household products
- Nearby industrial activity
- Low grade sinus infection
- Eye issues
- Sick building syndrome
Food intolerances & allergies
The common foods include the list below, but there may be many others and sometimes an elimination diet may be required to identify the trigger.
My comment with regard to allergies and intolerances is always that this is a symptom of the underlying imbalance, not the cause of the headaches. By bringing the system into balance with a well-selected remedy, these allergic symptoms will generally settle down either quickly or over time. Allergies and intolerances can be the first sign that all is not well in our system.
- Aged, fermented and marinated foods
- Spices, additives, nitrates
- Red wine
- Processed meats
- Canned fish
- Hard cheeses
- Citrus fruits
- Red plums
- Fried foods
Homeopathic Remedies for Headaches
Natrum mur: Roger Morrison, in his Desktop Companion, calls Natrum mur the most important headache remedy! Interestingly when I was at college, we were always told not to use Natrum mur for a migraine headache as it might aggravate, but to use Bryonia. However, Natrum Mur does fit a lot of the symptoms of migraines and headaches and with all its issues around grief, disappointment, lack of confidence, held in emotions and perfectionist tendencies, is it any wonder!
The quality of the pain may be described as bursting or as the sensation of a hammer in one spot, vice like. It is often right sided and there may be visual disturbance, vomiting or history of anaemia. It is often said to be for “serious and tense schoolgirls”, but really it could be for anyone with that type of personality!
Worse: morning on waking, 10am or 10am to 3pm, from the sun, for reading.
Better: cold applications, closing the eyes, lying in a dark room.
General Headache Remedies
Arnica: First remedy for a headache resulting from an injury or a blow to the head, or where the patient describes the head as feeling sore and bruised and they don’t want to be touched. Often they will say they are fine, when they obviously are not! Remember to always check in with your GP or ED for a blow to the head, as a concussion may be very serious and arise from a seemingly minor accident.
Calc Phos: Headaches, and often tummy aches as well, in school aged children. Aching in the cervical region (low back of the head) which makes thinking and head feel dull. These children do tend to be a bit whingy and high maintenance.
Worse: at the end of the day/after school.
Calc Carb: Since Calc carb patients can be chronic stressers, these are your classis stress headaches in people that fit the rest of the Calc carb picture – maybe a little overweight, perhaps with an underlying thyroid issue, fearful and don’t do well with change.
Worse: cold and cold/damp. Mental exertion, around the period, exertion, lifting heavy weights, stooping, shaking the head.
Better: Pressure or binding up the head or wearing a hat a tight hat.
China: This remedy is particularly indicated for migraine headaches, neuralgia and periodic headaches which are debilitating and come with weakness. This type of headache may be worse after blood loss, fluid loss (dehydration, diarrhea) and associated with anaemia. They may appear anywhere on the head and may extend into the teeth. There may be a sensation that the brain bumps painfully against the inside of the skull.
Worse: Open air or draft, walking, lying down, noise, touch.
Better: Hard pressure with the hand, being in a warm room or for heat, moving the head up and down.
Cocculus: The classic picture of cocculus is “ailments from night-watching!” This means care, worry, grief, loss of sleep over a family member and usually will be accompanied with dizziness or faintness.
Worse: In the car, alcohol, motion, eating, reading, lying on the back (pressure on the base of the skull), talking/laughing, noise, light.
Better: Sleep, lying on the side, passing urine.
Gelsemium: These headaches are often severe and exhausting. The pain begins at back of head and extends to rest of head or just the forehead. It may feel like a band or hood is bound tightly around the head and can be described as hammering or maddening. It may be preceded by dim vision or other visual disturbances, pain may be localized on the right side of the head and is not usually affected much by temperature change. The person feels (and looks) dull, tired, heavy, apathetic and may tremble. The eyelids droop and the person looks exhausted, not particularly irritable, but wants to be left alone.
Worse: 10am, 2 or 3am, wine, lying flat, motion of the head, exertion
Better: napping, urinating, vomiting, lying or reclining with the head elevated.
Lac Defloratum: This is a small remedy and worth a mention for headaches with severe, deathly nausea and vomiting. With migraines, there may be visual disturbances, icy coldness and severe constipation with profuse, pale urine. This is definitely a case for your homeopath.
Worse: noise, light, motion, sitting up, menses
Better: At sunset, lying down, cold applications
Nux vomica: Migraines, tension headaches, toxic headaches brought on by overeating, use of alcohol, coffee or other drugs or missed sleep. There may be an overall sick feeling and digestive upset; sour or bitter taste in mouth, queasiness, nausea and/or vomiting, “dry heaves” and/or gas. The patient is generally very irritable and oversensitive to everything
Worse: anger, mental over-exertion, stress and overwork, alcohol, cold air/wind, morning, odors.
Better: wrapping up head, warm room, nap if allowed to finish it; very irritable.
Phosphorus: Migraine headaches with burning or pulsing pains. They may be quite frequent, eg every second day. These are over-excitable, passionate people who may suffer after too much stimulation, excitement or stress.
Worse: fasting, menses, light, before a storm.
Better: sleep, eating, rubbing, cold air/cold applications, cold hand on the forehead.
Silica: Chronic headaches and migraines, starting in the occiput and extending to the forehead but can occur anywhere and may be accompanied by clammy sweat on the forehead. May also be pain above the root of the nose from chronic sinusitis. They may present as continuous, daily headaches.
Worse: cold or drafts, fasting, exertion, after sex, mental exertion.
Better: Wrapping up or covering the head, warm applications, pressure to the head, after urinating.
Staphysagria: Headaches which come on after a dispute or conflict, something Staphysagria patients can’t deal with and try to avoid. Sensation of a block of wood in the head or as if the head is being squeezed.
Worse: grief, suppressed anger, indignation, after a nap.
Better: yawning, pressure.
Right-Sided Headache Remedies
Belladonna: Good for both acute and chronic headaches and migraines. The headache is described as throbbing, exploding, maddening. There can be extreme sensitivity to light, noise, touch, strong or unusual smells or being jarred. The pains come and go suddenly and can often begin at the back of the head to the right, extending to the right forehead or eye. The face may be flushed and hot, and the hands and feet cold, sometimes the pupils are dilated. The patient may vomit. Belladonna is often used for headaches associated with high fever.
Worse: 3pm, night, shaking the head, being jarred, heat, after getting chilled, stooping, around the period, during menopause.
Iris versicolor: pain felt on one side of forehead, especially the right side; pain preceded or accompanied by dim vision or other eyesight changes; nausea and vomiting, with headache worse after vomiting; pain better by walking in open air; periodically recurring migraines (e.g. every weekend).
Lycopodium: Headache over right of forehead or right side of head. This is a liver remedy, so toxicity may be a factor. May be irritable and may have digestive complaints, particularly wind, and could come on where confidence is being tested, such as before giving a talk or going for an interview.
Worse: 4 to 8pm, being overheated, for hunger/fasting.
Better: cold or open air, eating, walking, lying.
Natrum Mur: See above.
Sanguinaria: especially noted for pain beginning at the back of the head and extending to and settling over the right eye or right side of the head; pain is sharp, splitting, knife-like and sometimes throbbing, nausea and vomiting at height of pain, pain better after vomiting.
Worse: motion, better sleep and firm pressure; headaches may recur in a consistent pattern.
Better: Lying in a dark, quiet room, for cold applications, hard external pressure, bending the head backwards.
Left-Sided Headache Remedies
Bryonia: The pain is described as a steady ache. There is usually great sensitivity to motion (even slight motion of the head or eyes). The pain is often in the forehead and extends to the back of the head, or it may be centered over the left eye. The head feels full or heavy and is often worse in the morning. Headaches may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting and constipation and the patient is often very irritable and wants to be left alone. Often described like a bear with a sore head!
Worse: for light touch, in the morning.
Better: from firm pressure
Lachesis: congestive headaches with pulsation, fullness and pressing outward. May begin on the left and move to the right. May be described as a bursting sensation, as if the brain would burst or the eyes pop out! This is your classic high blood pressure headache, which is why it’s important to see your GP for recurrent or bad headaches. These types of headaches may also accompany the period or come on during menopause.
Worse: morning on waking, tight collars, menopause, alcohol.
Better: once the period starts, during any kind of discharge, for cold air and cold applications.
Sepia: These headaches may be accompanied with nausea and can be described as “sick headaches”. The pain may come in waves or in sudden shocks, with an empty sensation in the stomach. They are your typical hormonal headaches, but the remedy may be required by anyone if the picture fits. These patients are often exhausted, overwhelmed, irritable and withdrawn.
Worse: before or during the period, pregnancy, menopause, stuffy room, for fasting and with motion sickness.
Better: for open air, for vomiting, eating and for vigorous exertion.
Spigelia: stitching, burning and pulsating pain, usually frontal and often left side. Head pain may be made worse from warmth and temporarily better from cold, eg washing with cold water may feel good, but pain usually worse after. Headaches with stiff neck and shoulders which make motion very painful. May have severe pain in and around the eyes, extending deep into sockets.
Worse: stooping, motion, noise and cold stormy weather.
Better: lying with head propped up.
Congestive Headache Remedies
Belladonna: see above.
Glonoine: This is an intense pounding headache as if the head would burst. The face may be flushed, the pulse bounds in the carotids and there may be faintness. The pain is said to increase and decrease with the rise and fall of the sun.
Worse: sun and heat (it’s a heat stroke remedy!), alcohol, menopause or before the period.
Better: pressure, cold washing, getting into the shade, wearing a hat.
Lachesis: see above
Pulsatilla: Very changeable headaches, sometimes with vomiting. They are described as pulsing, congestive, bursting and there is often a fullness in the head. There may be vomiting with the headache. The patient is likely to be weepy, clingy, needy and want company!
Worse: head, sun, warm or stuffy room, fat or rich food, ice cream, at the end of the period.
Better: open air, cold applications.
Desktop Companion to Physical Pathology; Morrison R, Hahnemann Clinic Publishing, 1998
Murphy R; Lotus Materia Medica 2003