Headaches are a curious ailment, they can stem from nearly any kind of imbalance or disorder, and their symptoms can vary hugely in consistency, symptoms, length and other factors. I’ve talked about headache differentials previously, and will probably expand even more on them in the future. For now though, I’d like to briefly discuss a rather unusual member of the materia medica for this particular ailment and yes, you guessed it, it’s Alder!
I’ve used it over and over, all different way and it’s been remarkably consistent in its usefulness. It doesn’t work in every case, but what does? I’ve used it in toothache caused headaches, tension headaches, hormonal headaches and blood deficiency headaches. Most recently, I had a five day long headache with stabbing pains in both temples and an ache stretching from behind my eyes all the way to my neck and shoulders. Ugh. It was certainly tension related, and probably somewhat hormonal and it was stubborn as all hell. It would let up during a good neck rub, it would even fade for a few hours thanks to my lovely friends, Lavender and Sage, and I could sleep if I took enough Blisswort(Skullcap). I eventually resorted to NSAIDS (that would be Ibuprofen and related pills), which did very little. I was starting to get grouchy, and a little desperate. It’s hard to write books and emails while your head is splitting open, and even harder to explain the function of the American government to my seven year old (wait, that’s still hard, even without a headache).
Eventually, it occurred to me to try the Alder tincture. 1/3 of a dropper and wow, in ten minutes the headache was gone gone gone. In forty five minutes is was back, I took another 1/3 of a dropper and it left for the night. Not only that but the tension and inflammation in my neck let up, and my neck made the most horrifying sound as I turned my head late yesterday evening, all kinds of crunching and slipping around in there. I felt MUCH better afterwards. And today my head is still happy, though my neck is a bit sore. Alder oil topically seems to be helping.
How does that work, you ask…. I dunno, says the sheepish herbalist. Alder is related to Birch, so there’s probably some salicylates involved, but it works better than Cottonwood or Willow in my experience. Alder is also great at moving energy and cooling inflammation in general (by whatever mechanism). I especially love it because it’s not overly relaxing, and helps my digestion as well (did I already say that it’s very effective for liver headaches, especially combined with Mugwort?). Good stuff, those Alders.
P.S. It’s not a good idea to suppress pain generally. Your pain is usually trying to tell you something, like “take a nap”, or “stop eating that weird rancid canola oil” or “loosen the hell up”. Functioning with suppressed pain can lead to further injury, not a good idea. So be careful, and ask why the pain is happening, before you attempt to get rid of it.