6 Simple Foods Can Ease Headache Pain

Headaches are a malady suffered by many—from low-grade tension to migraine—headaches are just no fun.

Headaches have many causes—stress, changes in sleep patterns or insomnia, travel and interrupted routines, and colds and other seasonal illnesses. Some headaches, such as migraines, can even be hereditary.

Headaches can also be triggered by certain foods. However, some foods may help relieve and reduce the occurrence of headaches.


A study published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2019 found that over 70 percent of patients experienced headache relief after using nasal drops of oil with a concentration of 1.5 percent peppermint.

A total of 42 percent of the patients felt a significant reduction in headaches. Nearly half of the participants said their headaches subsided within five minutes of using the peppermint nasal drops.

Another study, published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice in 2010, found that applying a 10 percent menthol solution to the forehead and temples could effectively relieve pain and nausea. The study showed that the menthol solution was an effective and safe treatment option for migraine.


Ginger has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for 2,000 years. In addition, ginger is also a common medicinal ingredient in Indian and Arabic medicine.

A study by the International Headache Society published by Sage Journals in 2018, found that adding ginger extract to routine treatment of acute migraine can significantly reduce pain more effectively than conventional therapy alone.

A 2014 study published in Phytotherapy Research revealed that the benefits of ginger powder are comparable to the common migraine drug sumatriptan but with fewer side effects.

Pumpkin Seeds and Magnesium-rich Food

Multiple journals show relationships between magnesium deficiency and mild to moderate tension headaches and migraines.

Double-blind random placebo control trials found that magnesium can effectively relieve headaches, and in many countries, medical guidelines recommend oral magnesium when treating headaches.

Magnesium also plays a role in neuromuscular function and neurotransmission, preventing neurons from overreacting. So balancing neurons may be a solution to migraine prevention.

In addition to pumpkin seeds, green leafy vegetables are also rich in magnesium, particularly spinach. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 100g of cooked spinach contains 87 mg of magnesium.

Plain Yogurt

Plain yogurt contains high levels of riboflavin, which reduces the number of migraine attacks in patients. Riboflavin, or vitamin B2, is an essential nutrient that assists mitochondria in human cells to generate energy.

In a randomized controlled trial, participants taking 400 mg of riboflavin, 600 mg of magnesium, 150 mg of coenzyme Q10, and multivitamins for three months improved migraine symptoms.


Caffeine is considered to be a valuable and safe supplement for the relief of headaches. A study published in The Journal of Headache and Pain in 2012 found that a mix of 1,000 mg of paracetamol and 130 mg of caffeine was as effective and as safe as 50 mg of oral sumatriptan when treating headaches.

A study published in the journal Nature in July 2020 discovered that caffeine is safe and effective when treating acute migraine and pairing it with painkillers. However, overusing caffeine may lead to chronic migraine, while sudden withdrawal of caffeine may cause migraine attacks. Patients with migraines should watch their caffeine intake and avoid exceeding 200 mg a day.


Research on the association of diet and headache found that increasing daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids benefits headaches and may prevent migraines.

Seafood is a traditional dietary source that provides omega-3 fatty acids, while flaxseed can be a vegetarian-friendly alternative. Flaxseed is one of the richest plant sources of omega-3 fatty acid α-linolenic acid. If you are often bothered by headaches, you can try flaxseed to improve the symptoms.

However, flaxseed is not for everyone. Since flaxseed has anticoagulant properties, pregnant, lactating women, and patients who suffer surgical and intestinal inflammation should avoid any consumption of flaxseed.

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David Chu is a London-based journalist who has been working in the financial sector for almost 30 years in major cities in China and abroad, including South Korea, Thailand, and other Southeast Asian countries. He was born in a family specializing in Traditional Chinese Medicine and has a background in ancient Chinese literature.
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