Not Now, I Have a Headache

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

May 07, 2012

  • Get natural relief for both acute and chronic pain
  • Some simple cures for common complaints
  • The real alternative

Even if you are committed to a natural lifestyle to stay healthy, you may still reach first for the occasional Tylenol or Advil if you have a headache. After all, most of us grew up believing these over-the-counter pain relievers are harmless and effective.

But the truth is, they do have side effects. Tylenol can be downright toxic to the liver. Especially if taken along with alcohol. And drugs containing ibuprofen – such as Advil and Motrin – can be tough on the stomach, intestines and kidneys…especially when taken over long periods of time.

And in many cases, there are natural alternatives that will work just as well, and sometimes better, for both acute and chronic pain.

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Before deciding what remedy to take, you’ll want to consider what might be causing your discomfort. For example, most headaches are caused by muscle tension. Magnesium is highly effective in relaxing muscles and relieving tension. Try taking 300 mg of magnesium next time you get a tension headache.

Dehydration is another common cause of headaches. In addition to magnesium, try drinking unsweetened coconut water. It has a lot of electrolytes, especially potassium, which can help remedy the dehydration faster than plain water. This then relieves the headache.

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Another powerful pain remedy is the amino acid phenylalanine, or DLPA. Athletes and people with chronic pain often supplement with DLPA regularly since it builds up in the system and becomes more effective over time. Most people can begin with 300-500 mg. twice a day and see relief, while others may need to reach 2000-3000 mg. a day. The good news is that most people can use less DLPA over time, not more, the way you would with opiate-based pain relief.

Possible uses for DLPA include migraines, muscle cramps, and even depression as it releases endorphins. Be sure to take vitamin B6 and vitamin C along with DLPA, as they must be present in the blood for the DLPA to be absorbed.

If inflammation is what sends you running to the medicine chest most often, there are a number of natural remedies for you as well. Top on the list is curcumin, which is most popular as an ingredient in curry. Curcumin comes from turmeric, an herb native to Southeast Asia. It is also one of the most potent anti-inflammatories known to man.

Because inflammation is an underlying cause of so many autoimmune and other common diseases and conditions, I recommend taking between 500mg – 750mg a day (1-2 capsules). Be sure you check the label – it should say “mixed with bioperine” for better absorption.

There is also natural topical relief you can use in the event of muscle pain, joint pain or nerve pain. First is capsaisin, which puts the hot in hot peppers. Capsaisin works by hindering a neurotransmitter – named Substance P because its main function is to cause pain – from communicating. But don’t use in the case of broken or already irritated skin, as capsaisin is as much an irritant as it is a cure.

Other topical remedies include tiger balm and arnica. Arnica is from a plant related to sunflowers, and has been used for sprains, strains and bruises for centuries. Scientific verification of arnica’s effectiveness has been mixed, but to those who swear by it, especially athletes, there is no doubt it works.

Tiger balm is a blend of Chinese herbs that has a mentholated quality, and can be used in a number of ways. For headache, rub on the temples. For muscular pain, rub on the affected area. For coughing or breathing difficulty during a cold, rub on the chest. And for nasal congestion, place beneath the nostrils. You can also use on bug bites to relieve the itch (as long as the skin is not broken).

One of the problems I have with the word “alternative” medicine is that it is misleading. Many people don’t think to turn to supplements or traditional medicine – or even change their diet or start exercising – until conventional medicine has failed them.

I am recommending you reverse this line of thinking. When you have a headache, joint pain, or any other minor aches or complaints, turn to your natural medicine cabinet first, not last.

You’ll minimize the possibility of suffering side effects, since natural remedies tend to have less of them.

Using natural remedies also means you’ll be more likely to consider the source or cause of your pain first, rather than just masking the symptoms and pushing through them.

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