13 February 2009

Homeopathic remedies for headaches

Homeopathic products are often overlooked when you've got a blinding migraine or throbbing headache, but if you know how to use them you might never need a painkiller again.


Anyone who suffers from regular headaches or migraines and knows the agony will attest to the fact they will take anything if it promises relief. But before you decide to pop yet another handful of headache pills you know probably won't work, why not try some homeopathic remedies first?

According to Eugenie Rowson, author of There’s a remedy for that, the “one size-fits-all” medication doesn’t take into account the fact that there are many different types of headaches and migraines – whereas homeopathy does.

Rowson is a British-registered natural health practitioner and a Fellow of the British Institute of Homeopathy with a full-time practice in Hyde Park, Johannesburg. She advises that, when choosing a remedy, one consider the location, sensation and modality of the ailment, and suggests asking the following questions:

  • Location: where is the pain? (Frontal, on the top of the head, at the back of the head, and so forth)
  • Sensation: how does it feel? (Bursting, splitting, pounding, and so forth)
  • Modality: what makes it better or worse? (Light or darkness, warmth or cold, movement or rest, and so forth)

"Some headaches have a known cause, such as emotional and physical stress, eye strain, dehydration, toxicity, alcohol, lack of sleep or tiredness. However, others seem unrelated to any particular circumstance or trigger. Regardless of whether the origin of the headache is known or not, homeopathy has a remedy to match every imaginable head pain," she said.

Identifying the headache

"The body communicates its disorder and dis-ease through the symptoms that we see and feel, just like how an artist expresses his ideas on the canvas. If we don’t like the expression of the artist, should we cover up the painting, as with suppressive medicine, and leave the artist to produce another one exactly like it, or should we correct the artist?

"Each headache description relates to an underlying disorder, yet we don’t necessarily need to know what causes it in order to fix it. For example, a headache that feels like a 'tight cap' usually relates to kidney toxicity, and indicates that the remedy Berberis Vulgaris is needed. However, you don’t need to know this - you simply need to find the remedy that matches the description of your headache … and both your headache and your kidneys will be treated," she explained.

How homeopathy helps
According to Rowson, homeopathy works by stimulating the body’s healing mechanisms.

"It is safe and free of side effects, and therefore an excellent self-help option. Above all, it really works," she said.

However, she added that it's always advisable to choose a remedy that most closely matches the description of your headache or head pain, and associated symptoms and possible related causes if known.

Here are a few headache remedies Rowson recommended:

  • Belladonna 200C –an excellent remedy for the classic throbbing headache that comes on suddenly, either in the forehead, or at the back of the head/neck or temples; feels worse when lying down flat and better when sitting or raised on lots of pillows. You feel hot but not very thirsty, and have an aversion to noise and light.
  • Bryonia 200C – when the headache begins in the back of the neck and moves to the front of the head, remaining over the forehead and eyes. Head feels like it is bursting or splitting, is very sore to move, and eyes feel painful and worse for the slightest movement. May feel dizzy and even nauseous, with a great thirst for long drinks.
  • Gelsemium 200C – for a headache which makes you feel dizzy, weak and heavy-headed; or it feels like a band around the head; a dull, heavy ache with heaviness of the eyelids; pain in the head extends from the temples to the ears or chin. Neck and shoulder muscles may also be sore.
  • Glonoinum 200C – a very effective remedy for a pulsating, throbbing headache accompanied by extreme irritability. Accompanied by throbbing in the ears. Cannot tolerate anything hot near the head – a cool, damp face cloth might help. Excellent for a headache after sitting in the sun too long.
  • Nat Mur 200C – for the typical migraine-type headache; can be severe and varied and may be throbbing, beating, pressing or hammering in nature; it is either frontal or one-sided. May be accompanied by nausea and vomiting with a need to lie quietly in the dark and sleep.

    Headache may begin with tingling in the tongue, lips or nose. May have been caused by emotional upset, delayed eating, eye strain, dehydration, or too much heat or sun. Might also feel giddy and off balance. Eyes feel very sore to move, and you may see fiery zigzags in front of the eyes.

  • Nux Vom 200C – great option for headaches that result from modern-life excesses; the typical hangover-type or over-indulgence headache. Headache is frontal, seated over the eyes, or at the back of the head and neck. Brain feels like it is swirling. May be worse in the morning (especially if over-indulgence is the cause). Accompanied by hypersensitivity and irritability, impatience, light sensitivity of the eyes and an intolerance of noise or odours.
  • Silica 200C – pain begins at the back of the neck and spreads forward over the whole head, affecting the eyes. Feels as if the head might burst. May have sharp pains moving through the eyes, causing blurred vision, sensitivity to light, dizziness (especially when looking up). Cannot tolerate alcohol. Person feels anxious and nervous and cannot stand noise or cold air. Might want to tie something tight around the head for relief. (N.B. Silica should not be taken by anyone with breast, dental or other implants.

How to take them
"Since we heal from the inside out, homeopathic medicines are usually taken orally for maximum effect," said Rowson. She advised the following as the best way for taking tablets:

  • The tablet or pillules should be taken by tipping one dose into the cap or lid of the container and then tipping this into the mouth, either onto or under the tongue.
  • This can either be sucked or crushed with the teeth and allowed to dissolve in the mouth. If the remedy is swallowed by mistake, a second dose should be taken but, this time, allowed to dissolve in the mouth.
  • Mouth sprays can be sprayed directly into the mouth.
  • For infants and small children the tablets or pillules can be crushed between two plastic spoons (never use metal spoons) and sprinkled onto the tongue, a little at a time, or the teat of a bottle or dummy can be dipped into the powder and placed in baby’s mouth to suck on.
  • To maximise the effect of the remedy and absorption in the mouth, try not to drink or brush your teeth 10 minutes before or after taking a remedy.
  • Creams, ointments and lotions are for topical application (on the skin) and should be applied as directed.

Homeopathic meds vs painkillers
According to Rowson, homeopathic medicine can be used at any stage of illness, but the sooner the better.

"They can be used together with conventional headache/migraine medicines, such as aspirin, codeine or paracetamol, but because these types of medicines function by suppressing the symptoms, the immune system is most likely to have been compromised. In this instance, it may take a little longer to excite the immune system to heal those particular symptoms, as well as any side effects or toxicity that may possibly have been caused by the conventional medicine," she said.

Although, she strongly advises against discontinuing any medicines prescribed by your doctor. Only stop a prescribed medication under your doctor’s supervision.

Homeopathic remedies and herbal remedies: the same?
Despite the fact that homeopathic remedies are derived from plants, Rowson is quick to point out that they are very different from herbal medicine and should not be confused.

"Although both systems of medicine do use many of the same herbs and plants, the strength of the medicines is different. Homeopathic medicines have been diluted numerous times to produce an energetic solution from the original substance," she said.

She explained that herbal remedies differ from homeopathic remedies. Herbal remedies are made directly from the basic plant and prepared in different forms such as teas, tinctures, compresses, and suppositories, or dried and pressed into tablet form or capsules. Homeopathic remedies, on the other hand, are made from many different naturally occurring substances such as plants, minerals and metals.

How long one should take homeopathic medicines for
"If the symptoms suddenly worsen at the beginning, this is called initial reaction and is a brief flare-up or aggravation of existing symptoms shortly after taking a homeopathic remedy. The remedy excites and acts as a catalyst to the immune system which strengthens and focuses the body’s healing mechanisms on the symptoms. This is an indication that the right remedy is at work," explained Rowson.

She went on to add that as the remedy continues to work, the symptoms or condition will improve, so initially one should feel an improvement in general well-being, followed by an improvement of physical symptoms.

"As a general rule, acute (sudden and severe) ailments respond more quickly; while minor, less acute or chronic (long-term) complaints take longer to improve. Always try a remedy for at least 24 hours. Only if it does not seem to be helping, or the symptoms have changed, should you select a new one," she said, and added, "Always seek the advice of a homeopath, homeopathic pharmacist, doctor or healthcare provider if there is any question, doubt or concern as to an individual’s progress while using homeopathic medicine."

Prevention better than cure
One of the major advantages of using homeopathic remedies is that they can be used as a prophylactic as they work by triggering the body's healing mechanisms and stepping up the immune system. This could help to prevent the onset of a headache or migraine thus negating the need to use painkillers at all.

In this instance, Rowson advises that for acute ailments, homeopathic medicine is best taken orally in a 6c, 12c, 30c or 200c strength or potency.

"Although there is no hard and fast rule, a remedy could be taken hourly for the first day, thereafter four to six times a day until symptoms improve or change. For the more acute or severe headache or migraine, a remedy could even be taken every 15 minutes and in all cases, the remedy should be taken less often as symptoms improve, and should be stopped when symptoms have disappeared."

Source: Eugenie Rowson and her book, There’s a remedy for that!, visit www.theresaremedyforthat.com or www.genierowson.com, or phone 076-130-8058.

(Amy Henderson, Health24, February 2009)

Read more:
Headache? Or migraine misery?
How not to treat a migraine


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Headache expert

Dr Elliot Shevel is a South African migraine surgery pioneer and the founder and medical director of The Headache Clinic in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, South Africa. The Headache Clinic is a multidisciplinary practice dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of Primary Headaches and Migraines. Dr Shevel is also the main author of all scientific publications generated by his team. He recently won a high level science debate in which he was able to prove that the current migraine diagnosis and classification is not based on data. Tertiary Education - Dr Shevel holds both Dental and Medical degrees, and practises as a specialist Maxillo-facial and Oral Surgeon. Follow the Headache Clinic on Twitter@HeadacheClinic.

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