by Brenda Kearns for iVillage.com
Massaging pressure points and using oils, herbs and supplements found in health food stores are just a few home remedies that can bring you relief.
At least 45 million Americans are regularly hit with headaches, say researchers at the National Headache Foundation. Blame cortisol, the “stress hormone” than hampers your body’s production of painkilling hormones called endorphins. On top of that, cortisol makes scalp muscles more likely to become inflamed and tight.
Rx: Chamomile essential oil. Massaging this aromatic oil into your temples and neck can shut down a tension headache in as little as 10 minutes, says James F. Balch, M.D., co-author of Prescription for Natural Cures. “Chamomile is rich in salicylic acid, azulene and chlorogenic acid — plant compounds that soothe overactive nerves, dampen pain and relax tight muscles.”
DIY: Mix 12 drops of chamomile essential oil into one ounce of olive oil and massage gently but firmly into your temples and neck until the pain eases. Or make a soothing hair rinse by mixing 10 drops of this essential oil into 16 ounces of water and massaging it into your temples, scalp and neck during your shower.
According to researchers at Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic, as many as 36 million women are struggling with an achy back right now — and 90 percent of Americans will be slammed with bad back pain at some point in their life.
Rx: Devil’s claw. At least 12 studies have shown that this herb — which got its odd name from the hook-like points on its fruit — relieves back pain as effectively as prescription pain relievers, but without the tummy upset or other side effects. In fact, just 2 to 4 grams daily soothes even severe back pain for 75 percent of people within one month — and it makes chronic pain disappear for at least one in three sufferers. “Credit goes to devil’s claw’s active ingredient — harpagoside — a proven pain reliever and muscle relaxant, plus a surprisingly powerful anti-inflammatory,” explains Luke Mortensen, Ph.D., herbal researcher and professor of pharmacology at Des Moines University in Iowa.
Cravings sabotage up to 95 percent of dieters. Even people at their ideal weight find it hard to fend off cravings, say researchers at Yale University. “Food cravings are frustrating, because they can drive you to eat even when your tummy is comfortably full — or when you’re already feeling stuffed and bloated!” says Alan Hirsch, M.D., neurological director of Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago.
Rx: Vanilla essential oil. Research from The Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation show that smelling vanilla targets the brain’s satiety center, shutting down hunger pangs and cravings within two minutes, helping women effortlessly shed up to five pounds monthly. Vanilla works equally well whether it’s sniffed from the bottle or massaged into skin and inhaled slowly from there, says Dr. Hirsch.
As many as eight in 10 women experience period cramps, according to Yale University. And for some they are so severe that painkillers don’t relieve the misery.
Rx: Acupressure. Whether you do it yourself — or visit a trained massage therapist or chiropractor — acupressure can cut out 50 percent or more of your cramps within five minutes, according to researchers at the University of Alabama Hospitals in Birmingham.
DIY: Sit on the floor with the soles of your feet together and your legs relaxed so your knees droop to the ground. Place your thumbs on your arches, wrapping your hands around your feet. Gently press and rub the tender spots on your arches for five minutes. These pressure points stimulate your brain to produce pain-killing endorphins while dilating pelvic blood vessels to improve blood flow and flush out inflammation-triggering hormones, say researchers at University of Miami. The same pressure on your belly would cause more pain, since those tissues are already tender and inflamed.
Harsh weather, hair colors, perms, relaxers and other chemicals can lead to dry, brittle hair. And yeast overgrowths on the scalp can make itchy, flaky dandruff flare. Surveys suggest dry hair and dandruff plague up to 50 million women, but pricey shampoos rarely make a dent in the problem.
Rx: Coconut oil. It’s nature’s number one source of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), a unique group of fats that soak quickly into the scalp and hair follicles. “They give hair body and shine, dampen itchy scalp inflammation and kill off dandruff-causing yeast,” says Mary Enig, Ph.D., author of Eat Fat, Lose Fat.
Repeated surges of stress — the sort of thing you feel when your best-laid plans go awry or your to-do list becomes way too long — can quickly escalate into chronic tension and troubling bouts of anxiety. That’s because nonstop stress depletes your brain of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that helps you stay calm in the midst of chaos, say Stanford University researchers.
Rx: Marjoram essential oil. Inhaling the rich, herbal aroma of marjoram essential oil reduces chronic stress and anxiety within 20 minutes. The reason: Marjoram’s aroma soothes the amygdala — the brain region that triggers fearful thoughts and anxieties — plus it allows the brain to rebuild its stockpile of GABA by keeping anxiety-triggering stress hormone levels low, say Stanford researchers.
DIY: Keep a vial of essential oil of marjoram handy (it’s sometimes called sweet marjoram), and whenever you feel yourself getting anxious, irritable or edgy, take five slow, deep sniffs.