The most popular painkiller:What to take instead

Instead of a potentially toxic drug for you and your children, try:

* Traumeel, a homoeopathic combination product, available as oral drops, tablets and gel (see

* Oils. Aromatherapy preparations such as lavender, chamomile and peppermint have analgesic properties (Complement Nurs Ther, 1997; 3: 16-20). Peppermint oil applied to the forehead and temples can work as well as paracetamol for pain relief (Cephalalgia, 1997; 17: 446). Other menthol oils can also increase blood flow, which may reduce inflammation (Am J Phys Med Rehabil, 1991; 70: 29-33; Nippon Yakurigaku Zasshi, 1984; 83: 219-26)

* Tiger Balm (SSL International, tel: 08701 222 689), the Chinese version of Deep Heat. In one study, Tiger Balm worked as well as paracetamol for severe tension headache, but has to be reapplied after three hours (Aust Fam Physician, 1996; 25: 216-20).

* Herbs. Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) and Ginkgo biloba have some evidence of easing migraines.

* Fish oils. Anti-inflammatory fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have an effect on prostaglandins, the hormone-like substances involved in pain and inflammation. Take 1 g/4.5 kg (10 lb) of body weight (Am J Clin Nutr, 1985; 41: 874; Am J Clin Nutr, 1986; 43: 710).

* Avoid food allergies, which have been implicated in headaches. This includes amines, found in fermented, pickled or marinated foods as well as in avocados, bananas, caffeinated drinks, chicken liver, monosodium glutamate (MSG), chocolate, citrus fruits, nuts, processed meats, raisins, red wine, ripened cheese, onions and lentils (Lancet, 1983; ii: 865-9; Ann Allergy, 1985; 55: 28-32).

* Avoid excitotoxins such as aspartame and MSG, which can trigger headaches (Headache, 1988; 28: 10-3; N Engl J Med, 1988; 318: 1200-1).

Readers: What else has helped your headaches? Write in to WDDTY at

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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