15 Herbs for Headaches: Natural Solutions for Pain Relief

Amid the pursuit of natural remedies for common ailments, certain herbal solutions stand out for their potential to address the discomfort of headaches. These herbs, steeped in historical applications and traditional practices, have emerged as contenders in the quest for pain relief. Their significance lies not only in their historical use but also in their speculated potential to address the discomfort and intensity associated with headaches.

Medicinal herbs, often celebrated for their diverse properties, encompass a spectrum of compounds that might aid in mitigating headache symptoms. From herbs reputed for their anti-inflammatory effects to those known for their calming and analgesic properties, this diverse array of botanical allies holds promise in providing relief.

The exploration of these herbal remedies delves into their potential mechanisms, aiming to uncover how they might interact with the body to offer respite from headaches. Whether through the reduction of inflammation, modulation of pain signals, or calming effects on the nervous system, these herbs present an intriguing alternative for those seeking relief outside conventional avenues.

However, while these herbs hold promise, it’s crucial to approach their use judiciously and with guidance. Every individual’s physiology differs, and consulting healthcare professionals before integrating herbal remedies for headache relief is imperative. Understanding potential interactions with existing medications, addressing underlying health conditions, and ensuring a personalized approach are pivotal for the safe and effective usage of these natural remedies.

Here are some herbs that have been historically used for headaches:

1. Feverfew

Feverfew Flower

Feverfew, a herb in the daisy family, has been historically used for its potential to alleviate headaches, particularly migraines. Here’s how Feverfew might help relieve headaches:

  • Reduction of Inflammation: Feverfew contains compounds, notably parthenolide, which are believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is often associated with migraines, and Feverfew may help reduce this inflammation, potentially lessening the severity of headaches.
  • Blood Vessel Relaxation: It’s suggested that Feverfew may help in relaxing constricted blood vessels, particularly in the head. Migraines often involve blood vessel constriction followed by dilation, and Feverfew might aid in regulating this process, reducing headache symptoms.
  • Potential Serotonin Regulation: Some studies propose that Feverfew might help regulate serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter involved in regulating mood and pain sensation, and imbalances in serotonin levels are associated with migraines. Feverfew might help maintain more stable levels, potentially reducing migraine frequency.
  • Antioxidant Properties: Feverfew contains antioxidants that might help in neutralizing free radicals, reducing oxidative stress, and subsequently, alleviating migraine symptoms.
  • Preventative Effects: Some individuals use Feverfew as a preventive measure against migraines. Regular use over time is believed to potentially reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks.

Scientific evidence supporting Feverfew’s effectiveness in treating headaches, particularly migraines, is mixed. Some individuals report significant relief, while others might not experience noticeable benefits. 

2. Butterbur

Butterbur Leaves

Butterbur, scientifically known as Petasites hybridus, has been recognized for its potential to relieve headaches, especially migraines. Here’s how Butterbur might help alleviate headaches:

  • Reducing Inflammation: Butterbur contains compounds, such as petasin and isopetasin, that possess anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is thought to play a role in triggering migraines, and Butterbur’s anti-inflammatory effects might help reduce the inflammation associated with migraine attacks.
  • Relaxing Blood Vessels: Studies suggest that Butterbur may have vasodilatory effects, meaning it can widen blood vessels. For migraine sufferers, constricted blood vessels can contribute to headache pain, and Butterbur’s ability to relax blood vessels might alleviate this symptom.
  • Preventing Spasms: Butterbur has been suggested to inhibit spasms in smooth muscle tissue. This may help prevent the spasms in blood vessels believed to contribute to migraine attacks.
  • Reducing Frequency and Severity: Research has shown that regular use of Butterbur extract might lead to a reduction in the frequency and severity of migraines, although the exact mechanism behind this effect is not entirely clear.

It’s important to note that while Butterbur shows promise in migraine relief, the raw plant contains substances called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) that can be toxic to the liver and potentially harmful. To mitigate this risk, commercial Butterbur products are processed to remove these PAs. Always choose Butterbur supplements labeled “PA-free” and consult with a healthcare professional before using Butterbur or any herbal supplement, especially if you have liver conditions or are pregnant or nursing.

3. Peppermint

Peppermint Leaves

Peppermint is renowned for its potential to alleviate headaches, offering relief through several mechanisms:

  • Muscle Relaxation: Peppermint contains menthol, which exhibits muscle relaxant properties. When applied topically or inhaled, it can help relax tense muscles in the head and neck, particularly useful for tension headaches.
  • Pain Relief: Menthol has a cooling effect that can soothe the skin and potentially distract from headache pain. It might also interfere with certain pain receptors, providing a mild analgesic effect.
  • Vasodilation: Peppermint might promote vasodilation, the widening of blood vessels. This could help improve blood flow, which might be beneficial in alleviating headaches, especially migraines that involve blood vessel constriction.
  • Anti-inflammatory Effects: Peppermint contains compounds that exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. This could potentially help reduce inflammation associated with headaches, especially tension headaches.
  • Calming Effects: Peppermint has a calming and refreshing aroma. Inhaling peppermint oil might have a relaxing effect on the mind and body, potentially reducing stress-related headaches.

Applying diluted peppermint oil topically to the temples or forehead or inhaling its aroma through steam inhalation might provide relief from headaches. Additionally, consuming peppermint tea or incorporating peppermint oil into a massage oil could also offer some relief. However, individual responses can vary, and it’s advisable to test a small amount on the skin first and consult with a healthcare professional before using peppermint for headache relief, especially for those with sensitive skin or allergies.

4. Ginger

Ginger Root

Ginger is renowned for its various health benefits, including its potential to alleviate headaches. Here’s how ginger may help in relieving headaches:

  • Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Ginger contains bioactive compounds like gingerol, which possess potent anti-inflammatory effects. Headaches, particularly migraines, often involve inflammation of blood vessels in the brain. Ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties may help reduce this inflammation and alleviate headache symptoms.
  • Pain Relief: Ginger has mild analgesic (pain-relieving) properties. It might help in reducing the perception of pain, including headache pain, by interacting with pain pathways in the body.
  • Anti-Nausea Effects: Some headaches, especially migraines, are accompanied by nausea. Ginger has been shown to alleviate nausea and digestive discomfort, which can be beneficial for those experiencing headaches accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms.
  • Improves Blood Circulation: Ginger may help improve blood circulation. Better circulation might assist in relieving tension headaches by relaxing constricted blood vessels and reducing muscle tension.
  • Stress Reduction: Stress and tension are common triggers for headaches. Ginger’s calming effects might help reduce stress and tension, potentially contributing to headache relief.

Ginger can be consumed in various forms, including fresh ginger, ginger tea, capsules, or as an ingredient in recipes. Some people find relief from headaches by drinking ginger tea or consuming ginger supplements. However, individual responses to ginger can vary, and it might not work for everyone.

5. Lavender

Lavender Flower

Lavender, known for its calming and aromatic properties, may offer relief from headaches due to several reasons:

  • Relaxation: Inhaling the scent of lavender essential oil or using it in aromatherapy may help reduce stress and promote relaxation. Tension headaches, often associated with stress, might find relief through the calming effects of lavender.
  • Anti-inflammatory properties: Lavender contains compounds that exhibit anti-inflammatory effects. Headaches, particularly migraines, are often accompanied by inflammation, and lavender might help mitigate this inflammation, reducing headache severity.
  • Analgesic effects: Some studies suggest that lavender might have mild analgesic (pain-relieving) properties. Applying diluted lavender oil to the temples or gently massaging it onto the forehead might provide relief from headaches.
  • Stress reduction: Lavender is recognized for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety, both of which can trigger or exacerbate headaches. By calming the nervous system, lavender may indirectly alleviate headache symptoms.
  • Improves sleep quality: Adequate sleep is crucial for headache prevention. Lavender’s calming effects might aid in improving sleep quality, which in turn can reduce the frequency or severity of headaches.

Inhaling lavender oil, using it in a diffuser, applying diluted oil to the skin, or using lavender-infused products might provide some relief for headaches. If headaches are severe, chronic, or persistent, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment recommendations.

6. Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo Biloba Leaves

Ginkgo biloba, a popular herb derived from the maidenhair tree, has been attributed to various health benefits, including potential relief for headaches. Here’s how Ginkgo biloba might help alleviate headaches:

  • Improves Blood Circulation: Ginkgo biloba is known for its ability to enhance blood flow, particularly to the brain. By promoting improved circulation, it might alleviate certain types of headaches caused by restricted blood flow or poor circulation in the head.
  • Anti-inflammatory Effects: The herb contains compounds with anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation can contribute to headaches, and Ginkgo biloba’s anti-inflammatory effects might help in reducing headache severity.
  • Antioxidant Properties: Ginkgo biloba is rich in antioxidants that can neutralize free radicals in the body. Free radicals can contribute to headaches by causing oxidative stress, and the antioxidant properties of Ginkgo biloba might help counteract this effect.
  • Migraine Prevention: Some research suggests that Ginkgo biloba might help prevent migraines by reducing the frequency and severity of episodes. This could be due to its effects on blood flow regulation and its anti-inflammatory actions.
  • Nervous System Regulation: Ginkgo biloba might exert a calming effect on the nervous system, potentially reducing stress-induced headaches or tension headaches.

While Ginkgo biloba shows promise in alleviating certain types of headaches, especially those related to circulation or inflammation, individual responses can vary. 

7. Valerian Root

Valerian Root

Valerian root, known for its calming and sedative properties, might contribute to headache relief through several potential mechanisms:

  • Muscle Relaxation: Valerian root is believed to have muscle-relaxing effects, potentially easing tension in the body, including the neck and head muscles. Tension in these areas often contributes to tension headaches, and relaxation can alleviate associated pain.
  • Anxiety and Stress Reduction: Stress and anxiety can trigger or exacerbate headaches. Valerian root has mild anxiolytic effects, which might help reduce stress and anxiety levels, potentially lowering the frequency or severity of stress-related headaches.
  • Improved Sleep Quality: Poor sleep patterns can be linked to headaches. Valerian root is used for its potential to improve sleep quality and duration. By promoting better sleep, it might indirectly reduce the likelihood of headaches caused by poor sleep habits.
  • Mild Pain Relief: Some studies suggest that valerian root might possess mild analgesic properties. While not specifically targeting headaches, this mild pain-relieving effect might contribute to alleviating headache discomfort.
  • Vasodilation: Valerian root has been speculated to have a vasodilatory effect, potentially dilating blood vessels. Since changes in blood vessel size can contribute to migraines or other headaches, this effect might offer some relief.

It’s important to note that scientific evidence regarding valerian root specifically for headache relief is limited. Responses to herbal remedies can vary among individuals, and valerian root might not work the same way for everyone. 

8. Chamomile

Chamomile Flower

Chamomile, a popular herb known for its calming and anti-inflammatory properties, may offer relief for headaches in several ways:

  • Muscle Relaxation: Chamomile contains compounds that possess mild sedative effects, which might help relax tense muscles in the head and neck that contribute to tension headaches.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Its anti-inflammatory properties may aid in reducing inflammation that could be linked to certain types of headaches, potentially easing discomfort.
  • Stress Reduction: Chamomile has calming effects that can help alleviate stress and anxiety, which are common triggers for tension headaches and migraines.
  • Improved Sleep Quality: It’s known to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality. Adequate sleep can reduce the likelihood of headaches, especially those related to sleep disturbances.
  • Antioxidant Effects: Chamomile contains antioxidants that might help neutralize free radicals, potentially reducing oxidative stress, which could be associated with headaches.

Chamomile can be consumed as a tea, used in aromatherapy, or applied topically as a compress. While it shows promise in alleviating headaches, individual responses may vary. It’s important to note that scientific evidence supporting chamomile’s effectiveness specifically for headaches might be limited, and it might not be suitable for everyone.

9. Skullcap

Skullcap Flower

Skullcap, a herb from the mint family, has been traditionally used for various health purposes, including alleviating headaches, particularly tension headaches. Here’s how it might contribute to headache relief:

  • Muscle Relaxation: Skullcap contains compounds that may have mild sedative and muscle-relaxing effects. These properties might help ease tension in the muscles, which is often associated with tension headaches.
  • Anti-inflammatory Effects: Some studies suggest that skullcap contains anti-inflammatory compounds. Inflammation can play a role in headaches, and reducing inflammation might contribute to headache relief.
  • Stress and Anxiety Reduction: Skullcap is known for its potential calming and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects. Stress and anxiety are common triggers for tension headaches, and skullcap’s calming properties might help alleviate these triggers.
  • Nervous System Modulation: Some research suggests that skullcap may have a regulatory effect on the nervous system. By potentially modulating certain neurotransmitters or nervous system responses, skullcap might help in reducing headache intensity.
  • Antioxidant Properties: Skullcap contains antioxidants that might help neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress, which could play a role in headaches for some individuals.

Skullcap’s exact mechanisms and effectiveness in relieving headaches might vary among individuals, and scientific evidence supporting its use specifically for headaches is still limited.

10. Passionflower

Passionflower Flower

Passionflower, known for its calming and sedative properties, might contribute to headache relief through several potential mechanisms:

  • Muscle Relaxation: Passionflower contains compounds that may help relax muscles, including those in the head, neck, and shoulders. Tension in these areas can contribute to tension headaches, and the muscle-relaxing effects might alleviate the discomfort.
  • Anxiety and Stress Reduction: Stress and anxiety are common triggers for headaches. Passionflower is believed to have anxiolytic effects, promoting relaxation and potentially reducing the likelihood of stress-induced headaches.
  • Improved Sleep Quality: Poor sleep is often linked to headaches. Passionflower’s calming properties might promote better sleep quality, and improved sleep can help reduce the frequency and severity of headaches.
  • Mild Sedative Effects: The sedative properties of passionflower might help in calming the nervous system, potentially offering relief from headaches associated with tension or overstimulation.
  • Vasodilation: Some research suggests that passionflower may have mild vasodilatory effects, meaning it might widen blood vessels. This could potentially help alleviate headaches related to constricted blood vessels.

Passionflower shows promise in providing headache relief, but there is very little scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness. 

11. White Willow Bark

White Willow Bark

White willow bark has been historically used for pain relief, including alleviating headaches, due to its active compound, salicin. Here’s how it might help with headaches:

  • Anti-inflammatory Properties: White willow bark contains salicin, a compound that is similar to aspirin. Salicin has anti-inflammatory properties that might help reduce inflammation in blood vessels in the head, potentially easing the pain associated with headaches.
  • Analgesic Effects: Salicin in white willow bark may also act as an analgesic, helping to block pain signals and reducing the perception of pain. This action might contribute to relieving headache discomfort.
  • Vasodilation: Salicin might also promote blood vessel dilation, enhancing blood flow. For certain types of headaches, particularly tension headaches or those caused by restricted blood vessels, this dilation might provide relief.
  • Milder on the Stomach: Some people find that white willow bark is gentler on the stomach compared to traditional aspirin, which might be beneficial for individuals who experience stomach irritation with other pain relievers.

It’s important to note that while white willow bark has shown promise in relieving headaches, scientific evidence supporting its efficacy specifically for headaches may vary, and individual responses can differ. Also, individuals who are allergic to aspirin or are on certain medications (like blood thinners) should avoid using white willow bark without consulting a healthcare professional.

12. Rosemary

Rosemary Leaves

Rosemary, known for its culinary use and aromatic properties, has been associated with potential headache relief due to several reasons:

  • Anti-inflammatory Properties: Rosemary contains compounds like rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid, known for their anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammation often contributes to headaches, and these properties may help alleviate inflammation, potentially reducing headache pain.
  • Analgesic Effects: Some studies suggest that compounds in rosemary may possess analgesic properties. They might help in blocking pain signals and reducing sensations of discomfort associated with headaches.
  • Improves Circulation: Rosemary is believed to improve blood flow and circulation, potentially aiding in headache relief. Better circulation might help alleviate tension and reduce the intensity of headaches.
  • Muscle Relaxation: The aromatic compounds in rosemary oil, when inhaled or used in massage, might promote muscle relaxation. This relaxation can be beneficial for tension headaches by easing muscle tension in the head and neck.
  • Stress Reduction: Rosemary has been linked to reducing stress and anxiety, which are common triggers for tension headaches. Its calming effects might indirectly help alleviate headaches caused by stress.
  • Aromatherapy: Inhaling rosemary essential oil through aromatherapy or massage might provide relaxation and a sense of relief from headaches, especially tension-type headaches.

While rosemary shows the potential to provide relief from headaches, individual responses can vary. It’s essential to use rosemary in appropriate forms and concentrations and consult with a healthcare professional, especially if headaches are severe, frequent, or persistent. Integrating rosemary into your lifestyle, such as in cooking, aromatherapy, or herbal preparations, might offer some benefits for headache relief.

13. Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm Leaves

Lemon balm, a member of the mint family, is often used for its calming and soothing properties, which may contribute to headache relief in several ways:

  • Relaxation: Lemon balm is known for its mild sedative effects. It can help relax the nervous system and ease tension, potentially alleviating stress-related headaches.
  • Anti-inflammatory properties: Compounds found in lemon balm, such as rosmarinic acid, have demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects. Reducing inflammation might contribute to easing headaches, particularly those related to inflammation.
  • Stress reduction: Lemon balm has been traditionally used to reduce stress and anxiety. Since stress is a common trigger for headaches, its calming effects might indirectly help prevent or relieve tension headaches.
  • Muscle relaxation: Lemon balm might assist in relaxing tense muscles, which can contribute to tension headache relief.
  • Mood enhancement: By promoting a more positive mood and reducing feelings of anxiety, lemon balm might indirectly help reduce headache severity or frequency.

Lemon balm is often consumed as a tea, used in aromatherapy, or applied topically as an essential oil. While it shows promise in alleviating headaches, scientific evidence supporting its specific effectiveness for headaches may not be enough.

14. Motherwort

Motherwort Plant

Motherwort, scientifically known as Leonurus cardiaca, is a herb that has been traditionally used for various medicinal purposes, and while it’s not primarily known for headache relief, it does possess properties that might contribute to alleviating headaches indirectly:

  • Calming Effects: Motherwort is often utilized for its calming and soothing effects on the nervous system. Headaches, especially tension headaches, can be triggered or exacerbated by stress and tension. Motherwort’s calming properties might help relax the body and ease tension, potentially providing some relief from stress-induced headaches.
  • Muscle Relaxation: The herb is known for its potential to relax muscles. Headaches, particularly tension headaches, often involve muscle tension in the neck, shoulders, and scalp. Motherwort’s muscle-relaxing properties might help alleviate this tension and reduce headache discomfort.
  • Circulatory Support: Some herbalists suggest that motherwort might have a mild effect on improving circulation. Better blood flow can sometimes contribute to headache relief, especially in cases where poor circulation contributes to the headache’s cause.

While anecdotal evidence and traditional use support the idea that motherwort might help with headaches, there is little scientific research specifically focusing on its efficacy for headaches. 

15. Kava Kava

Kava Kava fruit

Kava Kava, also known simply as kava, is traditionally used in some cultures for its potential calming and relaxing effects. While it’s not primarily known for treating headaches, some of its properties might indirectly contribute to headache relief:

  • Muscle Relaxation: Kava Kava has muscle-relaxing properties and is often used for reducing stress and anxiety. Headaches, especially tension headaches, can be exacerbated by muscle tension. The muscle-relaxing effects of kava might help alleviate tension that contributes to headaches.
  • Anxiolytic Effects: Stress and anxiety can trigger or exacerbate headaches for some individuals. Kava Kava’s calming effects might indirectly help reduce stress-induced headaches.
  • Mild Sedative Properties: Kava is known for its potential to induce relaxation and a mild sedative effect. If headaches are related to difficulty relaxing or sleeping, kava’s calming properties might assist in providing relief.
  • Antioxidant Properties: Some research suggests that kava has antioxidant properties, which could potentially help mitigate inflammation. Inflammation is often associated with headaches, and antioxidants might play a role in reducing headache severity.

It’s important to note that while some people use kava for its calming effects, scientific evidence supporting its efficacy in treating headaches directly is limited. Additionally, kava has been associated with liver toxicity in some cases, so its use should be approached cautiously and under the guidance of a healthcare professional. If you’re considering using kava for headaches or any other purpose, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare provider to weigh the potential benefits against the risks and ensure its safety, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications.


In the pursuit of natural relief from headaches, exploring the potential of herbal remedies unveils a captivating narrative. The historical significance of these herbs, intertwined with anecdotal evidence and emerging studies, paints a picture of promising alternatives for pain management. Their speculated mechanisms, from anti-inflammatory actions to potential modulation of pain pathways, offer a glimpse into how nature’s elements might contribute to alleviating the burden of headaches.

Yet, amidst their potential, a cautious approach remains paramount. The diversity of individual responses to herbal remedies necessitates a judicious integration, always under the guidance of healthcare professionals. Understanding the nuanced interplay between these herbs, individual health conditions, and existing treatments underscores the importance of informed decisions in seeking relief.

Let’s recap the medicinal herbs that have the potential to fight infections: 

  • Feverfew: Feverfew is well-known for its use in preventing migraines. It contains compounds that may help reduce inflammation and prevent blood vessel constriction, both associated with migraines.
  • Butterbur: Another herb used for migraine prevention, butterbur, has shown promise in reducing the frequency and severity of migraines. It might work by reducing inflammation and relaxing blood vessels in the head.
  • Peppermint: When applied topically or inhaled, Peppermint oil might help relieve tension headaches due to its cooling and calming properties. It can also improve blood circulation.
  • Ginger: Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, ginger might help alleviate headaches, particularly migraines, by reducing inflammation and targeting nausea that often accompanies migraines.
  • Lavender: Lavender oil has calming effects and may help relieve stress-related headaches. Inhaling lavender oil or using it in a massage oil might provide some relief.
  • Ginkgo Biloba: Some studies suggest that ginkgo biloba might help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines due to its potential effects on improving blood flow.
  • Valerian Root: Valerian root has calming effects and might help relieve tension headaches by promoting relaxation. It’s often used for stress-related headaches.
  • Chamomile: Chamomile tea or oil may help ease headaches, particularly tension headaches, due to its calming and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Skullcap: Skullcap has been used traditionally for headaches and nervous tension. It’s believed to have mild sedative effects that could aid in headache relief.
  • Passionflower: Similar to valerian, passionflower is known for its calming effects. It might help reduce stress-related headaches and promote relaxation.
  • White Willow Bark: Like aspirin, white willow bark contains salicin, which may help alleviate headaches. It’s been used historically for pain relief.
  • Rosemary: Rosemary contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, which might offer relief from headaches.
  • Lemon Balm: Lemon balm is known for its calming effects and might help reduce stress-related headaches.
  • Motherwort: Motherwort has been used traditionally to ease headaches, especially those related to stress and tension.
  • Kava Kava: Known for its calming effects, kava kava might assist in relaxing muscles and reducing stress-induced headaches.

As this exploration draws to a close, the significance of personalized care and informed choices stands tall. While these herbs present a compelling avenue for those seeking natural pain relief, their utilization requires a measured understanding of their effects and interactions. May this insight into herbal solutions serve as a starting point, guiding individuals toward holistic approaches that prioritize well-being and thoughtful consideration in the pursuit of headache relief.