What Drinks Help Headaches? Beverages that Work (And Ones to Avoid)
Healthy eating, regular exercise, stress reduction, and plenty of sleep are all lifestyle strategies that can reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks and headaches. But did you know beverages can also help with headache prevention and treatment?
Dehydration is a common trigger for migraines and headaches, and some drinks can even help prevent attacks or manage symptoms. Read on to learn what drinks help headaches, which beverages to avoid if you get migraines, and a few migraine drinks to try.
See what drinks help headaches and migraines: 6 great options
We’ve rounded up some of the top drinks that alleviate headaches or even prevent their onset. Because everyone has different responses to headache treatments and management strategies, you’ll need to use trial and error to see which drinks work best for you. Be sure to keep track of your results in a headache diary.
1. Water helps headaches
Whether you get headaches once in a while or regularly, drinking more water can help reduce their frequency and intensity. In a 2012 study of 102 people with recurring headaches, all participants received information about stress reduction and sleep. But 52 participants were also instructed to increase their daily water intake by 1.5 liters (about 6 cups), while 50 participants received no guidance about water intake.
The group that drank more water scored higher on a quality of life assessment. A larger percentage of the water-drinking group (47 percent) also reported experiencing “much improvement” in their headaches compared to the control group (25 percent).
The study concluded that headache sufferers should increase their water intake to see if they experience similar improvements. As a bonus, it’s a non-invasive, non-medicinal intervention.
To stay hydrated, drink water throughout the day rather than just a few times a day. Don’t substitute sugary soda or juice for water because this can throw off your blood sugar levels and trigger a headache.
Here are a few ways to keep water handy to help combat headaches:
- Get a dedicated travel water bottle. It helps to have one you love in a style you prefer, whether that’s with a wide mouth opening, or a spout or straw top. Insulated models keep your water cold.
- Make space for a water bottle by your bed. Then you’ll always have it when you need it.
- Set reminders. Use your phone’s alarm or a health app to alert you when it’s time to take a few sips.
- Switch it up. Sparkling water is just as hydrating as still water, so add some variety to your water routine with some bubbles.
- Add flavor. Citrus, berries, melon, and herbs infuse your water with flavor, or you can just add a splash of your favorite juice. If you like your water ice cold, mix fruit, herbs, or cucumbers with water in an ice cube tray. The flavor will increase as the ice melts.
2. Ginger tea can help with headaches
A study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research in 2014 found ginger is an effective treatment for many migraineurs. For the study, 100 acute migraine patients drank either half a teaspoon of powdered ginger in warm water or took sumatriptan (a common prescription migraine medication) when they had an attack. Both treatments were equally effective, according to patient feedback, and participants were equally willing to continue the use of their assigned treatment.
To drink ginger, add a half teaspoon of ground ginger to warm water or simply enjoy a cup of brewed ginger tea.
Here are a few ginger tea options:
- Ginger tea bags: The simplest way to enjoy ginger tea. Choose a brand known for high-quality herbal teas and brew yourself a cuppa.
- Fresh ginger root tea: You simply boil peeled and sliced fresh ginger in water for about five minutes. Go a few extra minutes for more spice. Add honey or maple syrup to taste (optional).
- Black tea with ginger: Brew tea to your liking and add fresh ginger grated with a microplane.
- Iced ginger tea: Brew black or herbal tea and add sliced fresh ginger. Let cool and transfer to a glass pitcher for storage in the refrigerator.
3. Almond milk and cashew milk can help with migraines
Almonds and cashews are high in magnesium, a nutrient that can protect against migraines. According to the American Migraine Foundation, magnesium can reduce the brain signaling that produces migraine auras and reduce or block the chemicals that transmit pain in the brain. Boost your intake of magnesium by drinking almond milk or cashew milk straight or adding one or both of them to your favorite smoothie recipes.
Here are a few ways to incorporate almond and cashew milk into your regimen:
- Use almond or cashew milk in your morning bowl of cereal.
- Make almond or cashew chocolate milk or hot cocoa.
- Use it as the liquid element in any smoothie, from mixed berries and banana to spinach and peach.
4. Green juice and green smoothies can help with migraine headaches
Green, leafy vegetables are also high in magnesium. Easy ways to get more leafy greens into your diet are by juicing or adding them to your smoothies. Greens highest in magnesium include:
- Collard greens
- Swiss chard
Add even more magnesium with these other common smoothie ingredients: banana, avocado, and silken tofu.
Here are a few green smoothie recipes:
- Spinach and pineapple green smoothie: Blend 1 cup of frozen pineapple, two handfuls of baby spinach, 1 small or medium banana, and 1 to 1 ½ cups of almond milk or plain yogurt.
- Kale and mango smoothie: Blend 1 ½ cups frozen mango chunks, 1 cup washed and chopped kale (ribs removed), 1 small or medium banana, and 1 to 1 ½ cups cashew milk.
5. Coffee and black tea can help with migraine
These brewed beverages contain caffeine, which constricts blood vessels. “This is useful in relieving headache pain, since blood vessels tend to enlarge before the beginning of some headache pain, including pain associated with migraine,” according to the National Headache Foundation’s overview of caffeine and headaches. Caffeine is also a common ingredient in headache pain relievers that contain aspirin or acetaminophen because it improves their effectiveness.
Too much caffeine, however, can cause or worsen headaches. A study published in 2019 in the American Journal of Medicine found that one or two caffeinated drinks per day did not increase the risk of a same-day migraine for participants. Three or more caffeinated drinks per day, however, increased the chances participants would experience a same-day migraine.
So, enjoy your coffee or tea each day — but keep it to one or two. Avoid adding too much sugar, and refrain from indulging in those sweet drinks from your favorite coffee shop. Excessive sugar can cause headaches and is detrimental to your overall health.
If you drink moderate amounts of caffeine regularly, be careful of skipping a day as this can trigger a headache from caffeine withdrawal. Finally, the above study found that even one or two cups could trigger headaches in people who rarely drink caffeinated beverages.
6. Melons, cucumbers, and berries can help with headaches
While not technically drinks, many fruits and vegetables contain so much water that they’re borderline beverages. These types of fruits can help keep you hydrated when you want a break from water. Or, you can add chunks of melon, slices of cucumber, and a variety of berries to smoothies (and don’t forget to use almond or cashew milk!).
Enjoy a migraine drink recipe
Mix and match a few of the ingredients above and you may have a powerful migraine drink recipe that works for you. Here’s one possibility:
Spinach, cucumber, ginger, and raspberry smoothie
Combine in a blender:
- 1 cup packed baby spinach
- ½ cup chopped and peeled Persian cucumber
- 1 tsp to 1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
- ½ banana (fresh or frozen)
- 1 cup frozen raspberries
- 1 cup almond milk
Blend on high until fully combined. Add more or less almond milk to control the thickness of your smoothie. Feel free to substitute any frozen berries or frozen chopped fruit you have in your freezer. And don’t forget to note how you respond to the smoothie in your migraine diary!
How do migraine and alcohol interact?
Researchers are still learning more every day about why migraines happen. The link between migraine and alcohol consumption is complex, and researchers haven’t determined how alcohol acts as a trigger. However, many migraineurs and headache sufferers report a link. A 2018 study in the European Journal of Neurology found that a significant percentage of migraine patients consider alcohol a trigger. Of the 2,197 study participants, 35.6 percent said alcohol triggered their migraines and 25 percent said they abstained from alcohol because it was a trigger.
Patients in the study reported these alcoholic beverages as their top triggers (in descending order):
- Red wine
- White wine
Vodka was the least reported trigger.
If alcohol is one of your triggers and you rarely partake, abstain completely. If you enjoy the occasional wine, beer, or cocktail, record your responses to alcohol in your migraine diary. This will help you determine whether all alcohol triggers your attacks or only specific alcoholic drinks.
When socializing, skip the alcohol or opt for beverages that don’t trigger your headaches and drink moderately — defined by the US Department of Health and Human Services dietary guidelines as no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
What gets rid of a headache fast?
When you get a headache, you want relief as fast as possible. Here are treatments and strategies that can work quickly:
- Drink a large glass of water
- Take the medication (prescription or over-the-counter) recommended by your doctor
- Drink one cup of caffeinated coffee or tea
- Drink a beverage while using green light therapy
- Add ginger extract to your water or tea
- Meditate or do yoga
- Sip on a green veggie-packed beverage (juice or smoothie)
Find out more about how to manage migraines, and strategies for relief at work and at home.
Everything else you need to know about what drinks help headaches:
Does Sprite help with headaches?
The idea that the lemon-lime soda helps with headaches stems from a 2013 study of possible hangover cures. In the study, Sprite was found to break down the toxins that cause hangover symptoms — including headache. Because of Sprite’s high sugar content, however, it’s best to choose healthier drinks. High and low blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia) and rapid changes in blood sugar can cause headaches.
Does Coke or Pepsi help with headaches?
Coke contains caffeine, which can reduce headache pain. But Coke is also high in sugar, which has negative health impacts. If you use caffeine to reduce headache pain, opt for a beverage with little or no sugar, such as coffee or tea. Be aware that small amounts of caffeine can help some headache sufferers and migraineurs, but too much caffeine is a possible migraine trigger.
Now you know what drinks help headaches
The best headache management strategies differ for everyone and typically include a mix of treatment options and lifestyle decisions. Water is the clear winner among drinks to help prevent and alleviate headaches. But give the other recommended beverages a try; you may discover one or two that bring fast headache relief or lower your number of headaches overall. Next up, learn how green light therapy helps with headaches.