Our Pages

- Herbal Medicine
- The Clinic
- Richard Whelan

- Alphabetically

- By Group
- Alphabetical

- Clinic Hours
Clinic Location

- Ancient wisdom in the modern world


Finding a good herbalist

Most of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program.
Some notes to suggest how you might go about finding such a person are found here

Headache or Migraine?

The best treatment approach for headaches can be very different to what will best help migraines and many people think they are suffering from bad headaches when they are really suffering from periodic migraines. You should consider it likely that you are getting migraine:

~ if the headache is more of a pulsing, throbbing, moving pain rather than a steady pain
~ If it is more one-sided, for example a pain behind one ear or eye, rather than generally all over
~ If it comes with sensitivity to light and/or or sound
~ If it comes with any kind of visual disturbance, such as seeing spots or flashing lights.
~ If it comes with feelings of wanting to be sick, or dizziness, or nausea.

Any of the above may mean you are getting migraines. A careful process of identifying and treating the cause or causes will be necessary but there is an excellent chance that they may be helped with a holistic approach. A detailed article on examining and treating the causes for migraines is found here


Headaches - treat the person

I've been in full time practice in Christchurch, New Zealand since 1989. Many people with chronic headaches have come in over those years. The brain is the most sensitive organ in the body and headaches are a kind of universal symptom for all kinds of internal imbalances. As much as we can treat the cause, herbal medicines and other natural methods have been seen to have a high success rate.

In many cases, the headaches are mentioned as a recurrent problem that occurs alongside other symptoms and, in seeking to address the person as a whole, there is a resolution of their headaches as the rest of their health improves. The hardest cases are those in which the main presenting symptom is the headache itself, and it is to the reader who is similarly afflicted that this article is primarily addressed.

Headaches, and their causes, are extremely diverse and, because of this, an article that sought to cover the ground would be so necessarily long as to run the risk of causing a headache itself! Nor do I want to use this space to suggest some natural headache remedies because, without treating the individual case there would be a poor success rate from such an approach and the person who thought they would try a natural alternative to pharmaceutical pain-killers would be discouraged from looking further into the kinds of help that really could make a lasting difference.

To make this page as practically helpful as possible, I am requiring you, the reader, to do some self-diagnosis. Firstly, to try to work out what kind of headache you are most likely suffering from, and this is broken down into 4 groups as described next.

Secondly, to work out your constitutional type, because different herbs, foods etc. will definitely suit some people better than others and knowing your own 'nature' is a key to success in health-care, as it is in many other parts of life. This is further introduced in the section on 'constitutional medicine' further below.


Four types of headache

Read each of the descriptions below and, hopefully, you will see that there is one area that stands out as the primary cause for the headaches. The linked articles at the end of each section then show the kind of 'work' that is likely to help.

Toxic headache

A toxic headache happens because of an excess of toxicity in the body. Anyone who has ever had a hangover knows exactly what a toxic headache feels like. Less commonly realised is that many prescription drugs cause low-grade chronic headaches because they cause toxicity to accumulate in the body. Excess refined or processed food is another major cause, so is pollution. Some people may just get a foggy, dull head, but a sensitive person can get easily get a headache from bad food or bad air.

There are some physical signs for excess toxicity, and learning how to read your own tongue can be a particularly valuable guide, especially if it gets a thicker or dirtier looking coating on the days you get a headache. Sometimes, people just instinctively know that excess toxicity is causing them to be less than well. To explore this subject further, including diagnosis and a detailed description of how to use herbs and diet to effectively go through a cleansing process, read the article on detoxification found here


Tension headache

Rightly or wrongly, excess 'tension' is commonly regarded as the most common cause of headaches. It certainly should at least be considered as a possibility and, fortunately, it is relatively simple to determine if it is the primary cause.

Keeping in mind that stress makes everything worse, and that setting an intention to relax generally makes everything better, can you categorically say that getting tense and stressed can bring on a headache and that relaxing and unwinding consistently causes the headache to improve or lessen? If the answer to those questions is a definite yes, the tension may well be the primary cause to the headaches.

What to do about that is going to vary greatly between different people. Something I have observed so often as to now think it is just a part of human nature is that, people who are in stress and tension stop doing the things that always used to relax them. There is some kind of hard-wiring that makes us think that we will only be able to relax once we have solved the sources of tension in our lives, something that often just never happens.

In other words, the best way for a person to relax is already known by them, they just aren't doing it. Further to that, a person who was holding excess anxiety in their mind or body, which itself is probably the number one source of general tension in people, can find a number of very practical strategies and herbal allies to help in the detailed article found here

For at least some people, it also may be of help to try something called progressive muscle relaxation. In effect, you very briefly increase the tension to better quickly let it go. There is a guided commentary on this near the top of the page here


Depletion headache

Many people have now realised that becoming dehydrated is a major source of headaches. That is a depletion headache. We need enough water to keep our blood nice and fluid or we get sticky blood with painful consequences in the most sensitive organ in the body.

Lack of oxygen or good quality air can rapidly cause a headache and many people breathe in a too shallow manner or even hyperventilate. As there is likely some excess anxiety behind this, you could say that the headache that came from it was a tension one but it's still a depletion of air that is the primary cause and working on belly-breathing will be the fastest way to a cure.

Depletion headaches are also very common in people who are simply not looking after their nutritional needs. Not eating enough protein, or fats, or sugars, or any of a number of the vitamins and minerals that are found in a healthy diet but can be lacking in a restricted or overly processed one. Signs that an underlying 'deficiency' can be the root of the symptoms of headache might seen in poorly growing hair or nails, skin that is more aged or damaged than it should be but again, people often just instinctively know that this is a problem in their lives. Anyone reading this who thinks this might be where they need to direct their attention will find some consistent and common-sense advice in the article on excellent nutrition found here


Tiredness headache

Tiredness headaches are usually seen as tension headaches. The person gets too tired and, as a consequence, they have to become too tense in order to keep up with their day's demands, and the tension on top of the tiredness eventually gives a painful headache.

Tiredness and tension are two sides of the same spectrum. The only practical difference here in separating them is that, instead of focusing on ways to unwind tension, the emphasis simply needs to be on getting deeper and longer rest, relaxation and sleep.

Let me highlight this in more practical terms. There is a big difference between active and passive relaxation. A person who was too tense might know that the things that work best for them are methods of active relaxation; e.g. doing exercise, or re-engaging with friends, hobbies or interests. However, a person who was primarily too tired could well exhaust themselves further by trying to relax through doing more exercise, making themselves go to social activities etc. They simply need passive relaxation, which is ultimately best achieved through sleep, but also by things like reading books, listening to music, watching engaging programs etc.

If a person is experiencing headaches for which the root is that they are simply too tired, the most effective way to make a significant and lasting change can be to improve the quality and depth of their sleep. The detailed article on this site on insomnia has a number of practical examples and suggestions on how to achieve that, it's here


Constitutional Medicine


I mentioned in the beginning that, in seeking to treat the causes of headaches, it can be of much help to work out which constitution you are. This ancient way of understanding our differences, according to how we are naturally either hotter or cooler, and at the same time dryer or damper, underpins much of the approach to what kinds of foods, herbs etc, will best help a person.

If you, or someone you care for, are getting chronic headaches, you can learn more about the general subject of the constitutions starting here, and then work out which constitution you or they are by going here

The Cycle of Healing

After getting a sense of whether a person is naturally cooler or hotter, dryer or damper, the next level of knowledge to take the kind of personal approach that can be essential to a great result is to look into the healing cycle.

This is a fascinating subject in itself and understanding it can give great insight into what needs to be done to treat the cause and help healing happen naturally. There are four stages in the cycle; cleansing, activation, nourishment and rest. To learn more about the cycle of healing read here

This chart can be seen in more detail in a PDF found here

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd