Headaches are the worst. Unpredictable and persistent, the furious throbbing of headache pain can make it difficult to concentrate and nearly impossible to function. Small tasks seem mountainous when all you want to do is retreat into a nest of blankets with the lights off and a pack of ice held up to your eyeballs. It is estimated that more than forty five million Americans suffer from chronic headaches, including 20% of children and adolescents. Yet, often the only options doctors give for relief are harsh medications that come with their own list of not-so-pleasant effects. This DIY herbal salve is a gentle, holistic alternative for headache soothing. Combining the calming aromatherapeutics of peppermint and citrus with a splash of tension-relieving magnesium, this easy salve can help to resolve a pesky headache without unwanted chemicals.
If you browse through the lofty literature, the efficacy of natural or herbal remedies for headache relief is debatable. Small studies and many personal stories indicate that essential oils and herbal blends are infinitely helpful, where as larger-scale projects backed by big corporations would describe them otherwise. Traditional wisdom holds that essential oils can have powerful healing effects on a booming head, whereas medical doctors mostly scoff at these antiquated theories.
When it gets right down to it, the story with headaches goes something like this: many people suffer from many different types of headaches that stem from many potential causes. That's just a lot of variables! Lost in this symptomatic ambiguity, it can be very difficult to decide on an evidence-based treatment with any solid consensus. What works well for one person, may not work for another. The true way to dissapate headaches is to work on discovering the underlying cause.
Possible Headache Causes
The following are common underlying factors that contribute to headaches. It is oftentimes a combination of these attributes that culminate in headache symptoms. Migraines fall into their own category and while they share many of the same triggers, are discussed more in depth in this post
- Hormone Imbalances
- Poor Digestion
- Low Blood Sugar
- Drugs (including caffeine and alcohol)
- Poor Posture
- Eye Strain
- Nutritional Deficiencies
Herbal Headache Remedies
As much as I am a dedicated integrative health enthusiast, I think it is important to mention that the herbal salve I describe here is not intended as a magical fix-all lotion that will instantly stop all types of headaches forever. It won't solve the root problems causing your headaches, however this soothing balm can be a very helpful adjunctive treatment for managing the pain and misery that result from one. Because sometimes, no matter how vigilant we are with food choices, supplements and hydration, stubborn headaches simply get the best of us.
Herbal salves aren't difficult to make, although they do sound impressively crafty. Generally, the process involves blending herb-infused oils with beeswax and allowing the two to set together in a tin. This particular cooling salve contains a blend of powerful natural oils that work in a synergistic way to relax headache tension when applied to the forehead, temples and back of the neck. Each has been included for a specific purpose, but would work well on its own in the event that you don't have time to blend up a salve:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: a gentle and nourishing carrier oil, filled with vitamin e for the skin
Castor Oil: traditional anti-inflammatory, easily absorbed into the skin
Magnesium Oil: relaxes the muscles and blood vessels, eases spasms
Peppermint Oil: topical analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic qualities
Lavender Oil: promotes balance and calm, associated with stress and pain relief
Citrus Oil: stimulating and refreshing, known for energizing and uplifting qualities.
Headache Soothing SalveBy Kayla- Radiant Life
1/2 oz beeswax
4 Tbsps extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsps magnesium oil
20 drops peppermint essential oil
10 drops lavender essential oil
1. Measure out extra virgin olive oil and set aside.
2. Weigh out about 1/2 oz of beeswax. If you prefer a softer salve in general, use a bit less. If your beeswax is in a bar and not pastilles, shred or shave so that it will melt easier.
3. Place beeswax and carrier olive oil in a double boiler and melt. Use low heat to preserve integrity of the oil. If you do not have a double boiler or don't feel like scraping the beeswax out of it later, simply place ingredients in a mason jar and hold over a pan filled with water as shown below.
4. Remove from heat and add magnesium, castor and essential oils. Whip quickly with a fork and pour directly into a small glass jar or tin. Experiment with different size jars so that you have some for your home, and some smaller ones to slip in your pocket for on-the-go.
5. Place the jar in the refrigerator or freezer to set. Remove when hardened (likely no more than 30 minutes). Apply to forehead, temples, neck, shoulders or wherever may need some cooling tension relief.