9 Foods That Help Alleviate Headaches From Cancer Treatments (+ Recipe)

In a hurry? Click here to read the Article Summary…

Headaches are a nasty side effect of conventional cancer treatment. Many cancer patients even report the dreaded migraine headache which can feel unbearable. So, is there anything that can be done to alleviate headaches caused by cancer treatments?

In this article you’ll discover the pain relieving benefits of some readily available foods that can help ease painful headaches. Not only will these foods relieve the headache − they’ll also improve your overall health. But first, let’s look at headaches as they relate to cancer treatment.

Why Do Headaches Happen After Cancer Treatment?

The body doesn’t make mistakes. Even though headaches are a nuisance, and sometimes a complete disruption, they serve a purpose. A headache is the body’s signal that something is wrong. Many times when you are dehydrated you can get a headache. If that’s not the case, then it could be that you are nutritionally depleted.

Another cause of headache can be tumors, or even the chemo drugs themselves due to the depletion of potassium and magnesium. However, if you are experiencing chronic headaches you should consult with your physician.

Thankfully there are many foods that when consumed will help counteract nutrient depletion and dehydration during or after therapy.

9 Food Remedies for Headache

#1. Wild Salmon

Salmon is on the list for its high quantity of healthy fatty acids. Being especially known for its omega-3 fatty acid content, salmon can reduce inflammation, protect the nervous system, and regulate brain health. Yes, our brain needs healthy fatty acids such as omega-3s, in order to function properly. Studies have shown that the majority of Americans are not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in their diet.

If opting for plant based diet, brain-healthy alternatives, you can try: chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, or marine phytoplankton.

#2. Ginger

Research has shown the properties in ginger to be powerful enough to stop a migraine headache. If consumed in the right dosage, it can even relieve the pain from fibromyalgia. This is due to ginger’s potent anti-inflammatory effect on the body.

What makes ginger so special when it comes to headaches is that its particular spiciness burns straight to the brain. This effect is kind of like turning the light on in the brain. Meaning that when we consume a sufficient amount of raw ginger it opens the brain, drains any excess mucus, and gives us energy all at the same time. This is definitely a key ingredient for the anti-headache smoothie!

#3. Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin which increases circulation while relieving tension headaches. This releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Furthermore, if you are experiencing blocked sinuses, chili peppers will drain the blockage and stop the headache.

#4. Sesame seeds

Although small in size, these seeds are very high in nutrients. Especially vitamin E, calcium, and magnesium. They also improve circulation. Calcium-rich foods help the brain to function properly. So when you feel a pounding headache coming on, drinking whole sesame seed milk can do wonders.

#5. Dark Leafy Greens

These include spinach, kale, collards, and Swiss chard. These greens are high in iron which helps bind oxygen to deliver it where needed. Dark leafy greens are also high in antioxidants that heal damaged tissue. A spinach salad can help to decrease blood pressure and help you relax, thus relieving the headache.

#6. Hydrating Foods

These include cucumber, melons, celery, zucchini, tomato, juicy fruits, berries, and more. Hydrating foods will restore the electrolyte balance while making it possible for the body to distribute much needed nutrition.

If you drink water and still feel a headache, then it is usually because you are not retaining the liquid you just drank. Adding a pinch of mineral-rich salt to that glass of water will help to hydrate you more effectively.

#7. Herbs

The most effective herbs for easing headaches are mint, basil, oregano, sage, and rosemary. For a little aromatherapy, breathing in dried lavender leaves and eucalyptus (or their essential oils) has been proven to be helpful.

St. John’s Wort oil is also helpful. Making a mixed herb pesto while basking in therapeutic aromas might be a simple and delicious solution.

#8. Dark Chocolate

Why is chocolate on this list? Well, when chocolate is in its raw, untoasted state, it is astonishingly high in nutrients. These include headache-relieving magnesium. Chocolate is also high in phytonutrients, zinc, phosphorous, protein, fiber, and more. Raw chocolate naturally contains opiates which replace our pain with a very pleasant feeling.

In truth, chocolate does make you happy. Just be sure to hydrate while indulging in some brain-healthy raw chocolate (and that sugary chocolate bar from the vending machine doesn’t count!)

#9. Whole Grains

The slow processing quality of whole grains help our bodies to stay energized longer. If following a gluten-free diet, you can still get the benefits from seeds such as millet, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, and gluten-free oats. These options simultaneously reduce inflammation and are good for overall brain health.

Other Tips for Relieving Headaches

Cancer therapy can cause headaches, but enjoying a warm bath with some essential oils and relaxing music can be very helpful. Keeping your thoughts optimistic will help on the emotional level by relieving unnecessary stress.

Also, enjoying the foods listed above will correct the nutritional imbalances caused by treatment. Below is a recipe that uses these headache-busting principles to create a refreshing drink that will help combat headaches.

Recipe to Alleviate Headache: Honeydew Basil Punch

Honeydew Basil Punch

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Author: Deborah Oke

Yield: 2 servings

Serving Size: 16 ounces

Honeydew Basil Punch

This recipe contains ingredients that help alleviate headaches caused by cancer treatments. It can also be enjoyed as a healthy, refreshing beverage.


  • 1½ cups of honeydew or watermelon, including seeds
  • 1 handful of fresh basil OR mint leaves
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of raw honey (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon of nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 1 pinch of cayenne pepper
  • ½ cup fresh coconut milk
  • 1½ cups of spring OR filtered water


  1. Cut the honeydew melon open and remove the seeds and skin. Cut into large cubes.
  2. Put melon cubes in a high speed blender along with the remaining ingredients.
  3. Blend until smooth.
  4. Pour into glasses and garnish with a sprig of basil or mint. Enjoy!


Article Summary

  • Many cancer patients report headaches and even migraine headaches as a side effect of their treatments or even from the disease.
  • There are some readily available foods that can help ease painful headaches and are healthy for the body.
  • A headache is the body’s signal that something is wrong. Many times when you are dehydrated you can get a headache. In other cases it could be that you are nutritionally depleted.
  • Another cause of headache can be tumors, or even the chemo drugs themselves due to the depletion of potassium and magnesium. If you are experiencing chronic headaches you should consult with your physician.
  • Here are 9 foods that are helpful for naturally relieving headaches:
    1. Wild salmon
    2. Ginger
    3. Cayenne pepper
    4. Sesame seeds
    5. Dark leafy greens
    6. Hydrating foods including cucumber, melons, celery, zucchini, tomato, juicy fruits, berries
    7. Herbs including mint, basil, oregano, sage, and rosemary
    8. Dark chocolate
    9. Whole grains