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What are some alternatives to using pain medicine for headaches?

Question: “What are some alternative methods to deal with a headache instead of using aspirin or other pain pills?”

John – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Ask A Doctor

Answer by Dr. Ryan Wyssmann:

Everyone deals with a headache at one time or another (some of us more often). It’s easily the most common form of pain.

Health.com lists five types of common headaches:

  • Tension Headaches are the garden variety type that can be caused by stress or changes in brain chemicals
  • Cluster Headaches occur in groups or cycles and may have a genetic component
  • Sinus Headaches are caused by the flu or allergies
  • Rebound Headaches are a response to using too many over-the-counter pain medications… and exactly the sort of thing we’re going to try to avoid with the suggestions below
  • Migraine Headaches are often severe and debilitating and may run in the family

Most people use over-the-counter medication to fight a headache and there’s nothing wrong with that, but if it’s something that is frequent, or severe, there are side-effects to using even the most basic pain medication. Maybe you’d like to try something else for a while.

Before we go on, it’s important to note that recurring headaches can be a sign of something else that’s going on. Also, a very severe headache might be a very severe problem. Listen to what your body is telling you, and see a doctor to rule out anything serious first.

If you’re just dealing with regular headaches, and want to skip the over-the-counter medication, these things may be what you’re looking for.


Essential Oils

Olba’s Oil is a combination of peppermint, eucalyptus, cajeput, wintergreen, juniper berry and clove essential oils. The National Cancer Institute says that various essential oils can have energizing, calming, immune-boosting and antibacterial effects. Olba’s Oil, may provide relief from headaches for you.

Essential oils are concentrated so very little goes a long way. You can massage a few drops to your head, or other tense, tired spots on your body. Always be careful to keep essential oils away from you eyes.

A cold or hot compress can be created by putting 10 to 20 drops in a bowl of water and soaking a cloth in the mixture. Wring out the excess liquid and apply where you need it most, except the eyes… again, keep essential oils away from you eyes.

25 to 50 drops of Olba’s Oil in a dishpan could be used for a footbath that will allow you to absorb the ingredients. Add some Epsom Salt to create a relaxing combination that could help your headache and relieve stress as well.


With over 200 substances in its oils, ginger has a number of uses besides fighting headaches. Ginger may block prostiglandins, which are responsible for muscle contractions, control of inflammation, and impact some hormones, all of which would help against headaches.

Ginger is, of course, available in its natural form, but it’s also available in a number of other ways including tablets, capsules, topical formulations, teas, oil, syrup, drinks, and even chewing gum.


Research shows that people with migraines often have low levels of magnesium. Your body uses magnesium to maintain muscle and nerve function. It helps to maintain a steady heart rhythm and keep your bones strong. Magnesium helps to maintain your blood pressure. It may prevent diabetes and manage cardiovascular disease.

The best way to get more magnesium in your diet is to eat food high in magnesium. Some examples of foods with magnesium are beans, whole grains, vegetables (like broccoli, squash, and spinach), seeds, dairy products, meats… and even chocolate and coffee.

Again, a footbath with Epsom salt can be helpful to combat magnesium deficiency without supplementation, and it’s going to help relieve stress, which also could help your headaches.

Magnesium is available in supplements, but suggested doses are highly variable, depending on who you ask, your age, your gender, and other factors. Magnesium is generally safe to take but it can cause diarrhea at higher doses.


Known mostly by the name, Vitamin B2, Riboflavin has been shown to help people with headaches, particularly when they are deficient. Riboflavin is often used in conjunction with other headache treatments (like ginger and magnesium).

A study in 1998 found that 400 mg a day of Riboflavin was effective in cutting the number and severity of headaches in half!

SPM Active

We recently posted an article about Metagenics OmegaGenics SPM Active formula. While the supplement is targeted to help with your immune system and the healing process, the same factors also help with inflammation.

SPM Active works in conjunction with Omega-3 fatty acids and addresses swelling, redness, irritation, and helps with the clearance of microbes and cellular debris. The action of SPMs can assist overall health and may provide relief from headaches.

I’m a big proponent of OmegaGenics SPM Active, and I’d be glad to discuss the benefits with you further. We carry SPM Active at Cornwell Pharmacy.

Final Thoughts

I suffer from headaches from time-to-time and I’ve tried these alternative methods. Some things will work for you, and others won’t, but the good thing about these methods is that they are cheap and natural alternatives, and the side effects are minimal, or nonexistent.

If you find relief using some or all of these methods then they are much better for you than habitual use of pain medication.

This advice is not a replacement for a visit to a doctor and everyone is different. Please feel free to contact me at (405) 282-7800 or come by Cornwell Pharmacy at 102 West Noble Avenue to discuss how these tips can apply to you specifically.


Got a question for Dr. Ryan Wyssmann? Please visit our handy online form to submit a question.









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