Holistic Pain Management: A Natural Approach to Fevers and Headaches WITHOUT Popping a Pill

A huge health issue for which people often seek pharmaceutical help is pain. Whether for an occasional headache or more debilitating migraine illness, fever, toothache, inflammation, or injury – the general go-to is popping a Tylenol or Advil. It’s no wonder oral analgesics are the number 2 top-selling OTC medications in the US.[1]

While it’s fine to reach for this convenience once in a while, it becomes a problem when regular use masks the root cause, potentially prolonging or compounding the issue. Also, these seemingly commonplace OTC drugs are the culprits of hospitalization due to toxicity (APAP – hepatic, ASA/NSAIDS – ulcers), and overdosing with these agents is among the leading causes of fatalities reported to poison centers, especially when taken in the form of combination APAP products and aspirin. [2][3]

So what can we do to decrease our reliance on these not-so-benign medications?

The holistic/herbal approach would be to firstly evaluate the contributing factors to the presenting symptoms, and then supporting the expression of the natural feedback cycles and balancing the physiology. For example, the herbal approach to the fever mechanism would be to “open the periphery” to allow the pores of the skin to dilate and support perspiration, which leads to cooling and resetting the internal thermostat. 

This not only lessens the need for antipyretics, reducing hepatic and metabolic burden on infants and children who often present with fever when the immune response is triggered, but also allows for the completion of the body’s innate thermoregulatory process rather than suppressing natural responses. Historically, diaphoretic herbs like yarrow, elderflower and peppermint have been utilized to enhance sweating, while the supreme bitter boneset herb (Eupatorium perfoliatum) has the extra benefit of being an antiviral immune-stimulating herb aptly named for its use for ‘bone-breaking’ fevers.[4]

In the case of headaches and migraines, the focus would shift to eliminating triggers and utilizing plants and minerals to prevent acute events. Lifestyle management such as prioritizing sleep and stress management, shifting the nervous system into the parasympathetic mode (mind-body work, pranayama, Vagal tone), as well as daily physical movement/exercise would be first and foremost. 

From a dietary/supplement standpoint, consider ensuring adequate electrolyte-rich hydration, magnesium intake, adaptogenic herbs to help with stress and sleep, nervines to support peace of mind, circulatory stimulants to move and oxygenate the blood, and anti-inflammatory herbs. Specific plants studied for efficacy for migraine and cluster headache prevention include feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) and Indian frankincense (Boswellia). [5][6]

In November 2020, the American Academy of Neurology updated its Headache Quality Measurement Set to reflect these findings, with a directive that providers should now counsel migraine patients on behavior modification at each visit. Lifestyle changes are a valuable complement to medical approaches to managing migraine. Research has shown that a multi-modal approach further enhances the benefits. [7]

Holistic pain management addresses chronic pain with a holistic approach through healing resources and pain management strategies. This includes individualized recommendations around nutrition, sleep, nervous system regulation techniques, emotional and mental health, and your environment. This is often called “integrative pain management,” since we are integrating a person’s lifestyle, choices, and healing resources into the management of their health.[8]

In summary, the holistic approach to managing fever and headache involves evaluating contributing factors, supporting natural feedback cycles, and utilizing plants and minerals to prevent acute events. 

Lifestyle modifications, such as regular physical activity, sufficient hydration, and a healthy diet, are essential in reducing the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. Holistic pain management addresses chronic pain by integrating a person’s lifestyle, choices, and healing resources into the management of their health.

Stay tuned for more informative and educational content on holistic health and wellness. Until next time, take care of yourselves and each other.



  1. OTC Sales Statistics | Consumer Healthcare Products Association
  2. Fatalities involving acetaminophen combination products reported to United States poison centers
  3. Aspirin Overdose | 2011-01-17 | AHC Media: Continuing…
  4. Eupatorium perfoliatum L.: Phytochemistry, traditional use and current applications – ScienceDirect
  5. The efficacy and safety of feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium L.): an update of a systematic review
  6. Long-term efficacy of Boswellia serrata in four patients with chronic cluster headache
  7. Lifestyle Change for Migraine Management: Practical Tips for the Neurologist and PCP, Part 1
  8. Holistic Pain Management – Hennepin Healthcare

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