How to get rid of a headache fast - 18 home cures and natural remedies

Experts share their natural remedies for how to get rid of a headache fast

how to get rid of a headache fast illustrated by a woman holding her head and looking in pain
(Image credit: Getty)

Wondering how to get rid of a headache fast at home? Natural headache remedies, like acupressure and herbs, have been used for hundreds of years to ease headaches.

If you suffer with frequent headaches, you're probably more likely to just pop a paracetamol to get rid of them fast. However, just as there are lots of natural sore throat remedies, natural cough remedies and natural cold remedies, there are some alternative, natural headache remedies, which can not only help you cure your headache at home but also get rid of it fast. 

“Taking medicine such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve this pain is not the only option though and there are several natural remedies that people can try at home as a replacement to this,” says CEO and founder of wellness brand Eden’s Gate, Tyler Woodard.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that at least once in the last year, three in four of us have suffered with a headache. But as common as headaches are — and as easy as it is to get rid of a headache fast — it's not always clear exactly why we have them. As well as common headache causes like having a cold, Tyler says there can be many reasons why headaches occur.

“Headaches can be caused by many different things, some of these include stress, dehydration, lack of sleep and hunger,” he explains. Too much screen time and even overuse of painkillers can also be the cause of your headache. With that in mind, not every natural headache remedy will work for you, but there’s no harm in trying one of these 19 ways to get rid of your headache…

How to get rid of a headache fast with natural remedies

1. Drink some water

One of the best hangover cures, drinking water is also one of the easiest natural headache remedies has to be water! Dr Qian Xu, an emergency medic and Medical Director at REDjuvenate Medical, says dehydration can cause headaches, as well as a general feeling of lethargy. Thankfully, it’s easy to rectify by ensuring you drink enough.

“Sip water regularly throughout the day to make sure that you don’t get the feeling of thirst,” she says. “If you are well-hydrated, you should feel the need to empty your bladder regularly throughout the day, and your urine should be a pale yellow colour.”

You can be dehydrated even in the colder winter months. On average a person needs around 2 litres of water per day, but if you drink more caffeine, are extra sporty or take certain medications, you may need more.

If your headache is down to water deprivation, it should go away within an hour or two after drinking a couple of glasses of water.

2. Reach for the menthol

Menthol is naturally found in peppermint and other mint plants, but is also manufactured and has been scientifically proven to be of help with headaches, specifically migraines. 

A randomised trial showed that menthol can be a "safe and tolerable" treatment for migraines and was particularly good at helping with pain relief and nausea, caused by the headache. 

While you can inhale menthol - either via a steam inhaler or a menthol stick - you can also apply it direct to the forehead or drink peppermint tea.

4head Stick - £4.79 | Boots

4head Stick - £4.79 | Boots

A specially designed treatment for headaches, which is applied directly to the forehead for fast, effective headache relief without pills.

3. Do some yoga

how to get rid of a headache fast illustrated by a Woman doing the eagle pose

(Image credit: Getty)

There are many benefits from practising yoga including increased flexibility, more energy and a boost to your cardio health. It can also help reduce headache pain.

"On a basic level yoga can help to release stress and tension in the body which can be a contributory factor in headaches," explains yoga teacher, Emma Turner from Samadhi Yoga. 

"Postures that ease out the neck, head and shoulders where many people hold stress and tension would be areas to look at initially, as would deep breathing to induce a calmer, more relaxed state."

While a general yoga practice can help with headaches, Emma says there are some specific positions that can work when you're looking at how to get rid of a headache fast. These are:

  • Alternate nostril breathing
  • Seated neck stretches, and then half circles with the head
  • Seated with eagle arms
  • Seated side bends
  • Cat/cow
  • Calming child's pose

4. Try a cool mist spray

Ice cold mists sprayed up the nose work by blocking receptors in nerves, which prevents pain messages getting to the brain. The cold spray also makes blood vessels in the head constrict, which means they release less pain-producing chemicals. 

But do they work? Dr Chris Etheridge, medical herbalist and advisor to Pure Essential says that there is limited evidence to prove it works. 

"From a trial in 28 patients it was shown that a cold intranasal spray may help a headache through a vasoconstrictor effect in the nose that reduce inflammatory mediators or through an impact on TRP receptors (as for menthol). However, larger clinical trials are needed."

A cooling compress, which also makes for good cold sore treatments, can have a similar effect. As with many natural headache remedies, it can be trial and error, but if you've tried everything else, it's worth a go.

5. Use some heat

If you don't fancy a cold mist, go the other way and heat it up. Heat is a great way to get rid of a headache fast, especially if it's a tension headache.

Dr Etheridge adds: "Headaches can be brought on by tense muscles in the head and neck. A warm compress held against the forehead or back of the neck can ease tense muscles."

However, he says that heat is not as effective for most headaches as the cold, but it's worth a try to see if it relaxes your muscles and relieves the pain. 

6. Acupressure

how to get rid of a headache fast illustrated by a person doing acupressure on their hand

(Image credit: Getty)

If you're looking for how to get rid of a headache fast at home with ease, acupressure could be just what you need. Massaging certain pressure points on your body can really help with easing headache pain and is super easy to do. 

"I find acupressure points very helpful for headaches," says Emma. 

"There is a particular point on the back of the hand called LI-4, which is amazing for helping with headaches."

To work your pressure points, press each spot using either a knuckle or your thumb/index finger. Press gently, then slowly increase pressure. It shouldn't hurt.

According to pharmacist Sultan Dajani from Dragonfly CBD, there are some other main pressure points that may help when attempting to get rid of a headache. The following should offer help:

  • Between the web of the thumb and the index finger.
  • The indentations on either side of the spot where the bridge of your nose meets the ridge of your eyebrows.
  • The base of the skull in the parallel hollow areas between the two vertical neck muscles.
  • Between your two eyebrows where the bridge of your nose meets your forehead (the third eye).
  • At the edge of your shoulder, halfway between your shoulder point and the base of your neck.

7. A foot bath

A hot foot bath will draw blood to your feet and relieve the pressure in your head. It will also help you relax, and if you're suffering from a tension headache, relaxing can help get rid of a headache fast.

In fact, Dr Etheridge explains that any method of relaxation may help headache relief, so if you don't fancy some yoga, do something that relaxes you. Have a hot bath or read a book. 

Alternatively try meditation, such as this guided one created specifically to relieve headache pain. 

8. A head massage

how to get rid of a headache fast illustrated with a photo of a skull showing where to do a head massage

(Image credit: Getty)

It's not entirely surprising that if you're looking for how to get rid of a headache fast, this option is one of the best - and you can do it yourself!

"I trained in Indian head massage and circular massage under the occipital bone is really amazing for releasing headache tension," advises Emma. "I always get my thumbs in there when I have a headache!"

Not sure where the occipital bone is? It's in the middle of the back of your skull, just above the back of your neck. It might even feel like a little bump.

Alternatively, you can always roll up a towel or get a sports roller and place this under your head and neck as you lie down on your back. The pressure from that will give you a very gentle massage.

If you're helping someone else out, watch this video to learn more about how to give a head massage.

9. Have sex

While a study showed that women are more likely to go off sex when they're in pain, a good old roll in the hay can not only work as a stress reliever, but can also help relieve migraine or cluster headaches. 

"A survey of 1000 people found that of the 34% who had sex during a migraine attack, 60% reported improvement and 30% worsening," explains Sultan. 

"Of the 31% who had sex during cluster headache, 37% experienced improvement, 50% worsening."

10. Get a daith piercing

how to get rid of a headache fastillustrated with an image of a woman with a daith piercing

(Image credit: Getty)

Who knew getting your ears pierced could actually have health benefits? A daith piercing is a piercing of the fold of cartilage that's just above the entrance to your ear canal. Some people believe this can help ease headaches. 

Sultan explains: "The link between daith piercing and headache/migraine relief is acupuncture/acupressure and the idea is that a daith piercing activates a pressure point. Case studies have indicated a benefit but the technique needs properly testing."

11. Use a mouthguard

Tension in your jaw and grinding your teeth are often one of the main headache causes. 

Dr Tim Bond, a natural health expert and chemist from the Tea Advisory Panel, says a mouthguard can help with this headache pain as it will stop you grinding your teeth.

"It's a small plastic splint which fits over your upper or lower teeth," he says. 

"If you think you grind your teeth and this causes your headaches it might be worth chatting to your dentist who will need to measure and fit the splint."

Alternatively, you can purchase a mouthguard, which moulds to you teeth and mouth after submerging in hot water.

Mouth Guard For Teeth Grinding - £19.95 | The Sleep Guard

Mouth Guard For Teeth Grinding - £19.95 | The Sleep Guard

Designed for teeth grinding and clenching, and to help relieve headaches and tooth pain, this mouth guard is easily moulded to teeth for the perfect fit. 

How to get rid of a headache fast: Foods that help give pain relief

12. Ginger

Dr Bond says that ginger is best known for aiding indigestion and nausea. However, it has anti-inflammatory effects, due to the presence of a naturally occurring oil, which can help relieve headache pain as well as being of the best natural cough remedies

"In a clinical trial, ginger extract combined with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory prescription drug reduced pain in migraine," he explains.

Want to give it a go? Crush up about an inch of fresh ginger. Next, pour boiling water over it and drink it as a tea once it's cooled a bit. Or try one of the many ginger teas available right now.

Blue Tea Ginger Tea - £5.99 | Amazon

Blue Tea Ginger Tea - £5.99 | Amazon

The blend of ginger and ashwagandha creates a tasty herbal tea that can be a great addition to your daily superfood diet.

13. Feverfew

Feverfew, which looks like a daisy, has a long tradition of use for pain relief and is often known as the 'medieval aspirin'.  Back then they would have boiled the leaves to make a tonic, but thankfully it can now be bought as a supplement. Try taking 250mg every morning to keep headaches at bay.

Dr Sultan says that Feverfew seems to be one of the more effective natural headache remedies. "A clinical review suggested feverfew may be useful not only for classical migraine and cluster headaches, but also for premenstrual, menstrual, and other headaches," he says.

"Feverfew contains parthenolide which may help migraine by reducing inflammation and antagonising serotonin (a substance that dilates blood vessels which may be linked with migraine) It can be bought as a supplement."

14. Rosemary

It doesn't just make your Sunday roast taste great, but an infusion of rosemary (just a spoonful in a cup of hot water) is believed to stop a headache getting worse.

"Rosemary has anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects and has been used traditionally for thousands of years as a pain reliever," explains Dr Bond. "It contains an essential oil and bioactives such as carnosic acid, carnosol, ursolic acid and betulinic acid, as well as rosmarinic acid, rosmanol and oleanolic acid which have pain killing activity."

15. Coffee

If you're a regular coffee drinker, caffeine withdrawal can cause horrible headaches, however, coffee can actually stop the pain as well. It works by reducing swelling in the blood vessels that flow around the brain and nerves surrounding it. 

And if you want to get rid of a headache fast, drink a coffee with your normal pain relievers.One study showed that the caffeine had a significant effect, adding an additional 5-10% to the level of pain relief. 

16. Cinnamon

There have been various studies that show cinnamon can help relieve headache pain. 

"Cinnamon has been used traditionally to treat headache," says Dr Bond. "Cinnamon contains cinnamic aldehydes which have an anti-inflammatory effect."

He continues: "Complementary practitioners recommend that you can make a paste with cinnamon powder and water and apply it to the temples (when the pain has started) or try cinnamon infusion (when the pain begins).  If you don't fancy smearing your face with cinnamon, you can buy cinnamon tea, which makes a tasty alternative to regular tea. Or try sprinkling cinnamon over oats or cereal.

17. Marjoram

An infusion of marjoram leaves, drunk as a tea is one of the commonly used natural headache remedies. The leaves have a slightly minty, lemony taste.

Sultan says: "Marjoram has been used traditionally for pain and headaches but evidence is insufficient to recommend its use for headache."

It all comes down to the type of headache you've got. If your headaches are linked to stress and tension, marjoram is an excellent choice. It's believed to help relax muscles thanks to the flavonoids find in the herb, which have sedation qualities.  Apply marjoram oil directly to the neck and shoulders should help relieve a headache like this as it will relax the area and hopefully get rid of a headache fast.

Marjoram Sweet Oil - £14.50 | Neal's Yard Remedies

Marjoram Sweet Oil - £14.50 | Neal's Yard Remedies

This warming marjoram essential oil has a beautiful herby fragrance and is steam distilled from the leaves. It’s great at relieving aching muscles and is helpful for easing daily stresses and strains during tense times.

18. Frozen peas

Are frozen foods healthy? Well, when it comes to this odd cure for headaches, it seems they are! 

Dr Bond reveals that lots of people swear by placing a bag of frozen peas at the base of the skull whilst submerging their hands and feel in a hot or warm water.

He explains: 'It is based on hydrotherapy treatment ,which aims to draw blood away from the head to the limbs.' Drawing blood away from the head and into the limbs consequently relieves congestion, throbbing and pain and is one solution when you're looking at how to get rid of a headache fast at home.

The efficiency of the treatment increases the higher the contrast is between hot and cold, so keep the water as hot as you can stand, and the frozen peas (or other cold alternative) as cold as possible.

Foods that can trigger a headache

How to get rid of a headache fast illustrated by a bunch of bananas on a blue background as they are just one of the many foods that can trigger headaches so should be avoided as natural headache remedies

(Image credit: Getty)

While there are foods and herbs that make the perfect natural headache remedies, there are also some that make it worse. Dr Bond says: "Most of the food triggers associated with headaches and migraines come from people self-reporting not clinical trials."

Those trigger foods include: 

  • Bananas
  • Beans (brad and fava)
  • Chocolate
  • Citrus fruits
  • Cultured dairy (yogurt and kefir)
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Strawberries
  • Cheese high in tyramine (Blue cheese, Brie, Cheddar, Feta, Mozzarella, Parmesan, Swiss)
  • MSG (in soya sauce and used as a meat tenderiser)
  • Aspartame (a sweetener)
  • Nitrates and nitrites (found in cured and processed meats)
  • Alcohol (wine, beer and spirits)

Can chewing gum cause a headache? 

As weird as it sounds, chewing, whether that's gum or food, can actually give you a headache! 

"A natural way to help with a headache is to reduce chewing as much as possible," says Tyler. "Of course, eating meals is necessary as this can also help reduce any headaches as the nutrients within foods contribute to energy and lower headache triggers, however reducing the chewing motion can help lower the strain within your head and reduce any motion that could cause irritation and discomfort."

So ditch the gum, and try sipping on a smoothie or eating foods such as raspberries or blueberries that don't require much chewing.

What drink helps relieve a headache?

If you're looking for how to cure a headache fast at home, putting on the kettle may be your saviour. Caffeine has been shown to improve headaches by narrowing the blood vessels that swell with the onset of a headache. This is why it's often included in pain medicines as alongside paracetamol, it increases the absorption and strength of the medication to provider quicker pain relief.  

Tyler says that it's probably better though to ditch the caffeine, and instead reach for herbal tea. "Herbal teas, especially those containing ginger, include elements that are found in medicine which can cure any achy feeling," he explains.

Dr Bond also recommends Rooibos tea as a good caffeine replacement.

"Some people choose to avoid caffeine if they suffer from headaches. Rooibos tea is naturally caffeine free and a pleasant refreshing alternative."

Rooibos Loose Leaf Tea -  £7.99 | East London Tea Co

Rooibos Loose Leaf Tea - £7.99 | East London Tea Co

A delicious caffeine alternative to tea, Rooibos comes from the 'Red Bush' plant in South Africa. Hand packed in London, this sustainably-sourced tea is bursting full of antioxidants.

Can periods cause headaches?

It’s estimated that around five million women experience headaches related to their hormones. Headaches, especially migraines, have been linked to oestrogen, the female hormone. It controls chemicals in the brain that affect your pain tolerance and a drop in these levels can trigger a headache. The most common hormone-related headache is a pre-period one, more than likely due to a drop in oestrogen levels before your period starts.

If you think your headache is hormonal, it's quite useful to keep a diary. The Migraine Trust has a headache diary you can download from their site. This can then help your GP get to the bottom of what's triggering your headache. 

When to contact your GP

Headaches can last from 30 minutes to several hours and will usually respond to paracetamol or one a natural remedy. The NHS also recommends avoid alcohol  and reduce screen time while you have a headache. (You might want to try one of the best non-alcoholic wines instead).

You should see your GP about your headache if:

  • Your headache keeps returning
  • Painkillers do not help and your headache gets worse
  • You have a bad throbbing pain at the front or side of your head – it could be a migraine or a cluster headache
  • You feel sick, vomit and find light or noise painful

In an emergency, always dial 999.

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