This section is from the book "Smith's Family Physician", by William Henry Smith. See also: Natural Physician's Healing Therapies: Proven Remedies that Medical Doctors Don't Know.
Headache is of different kinds; as the sick headache, nervous headache, bilious headache, etc. Sometimes it is confined to one spot, and a patient will complain of its feeling like a sharp point driven into the brain; at others, as if something were driven through from one temple to the other. Sometimes it is fixed, at other times changeable in its position. Sometimes the pain may appear near the surface, and at other times as if in the depths of the brain. Sometimes it is a dull, heavy pain, .and frequently there is a feeling of soreness over the head.
Symptomatic headache is exceedingly common; it is a general attendant on cerebral inflammation, and is frequently the first sign by which other organic affections of the brain, such as tumours, hydatids, or morbid growths, or formations of all kinds show themselves. It is one of the common symptoms of fevers, and is a frequent precursor of Apoplexy and Epilepsy. In the nervous form it is very often symptomatic of disease of the stomach, then called sick headache: when the liver is out of order, causing bilious headache. It is also symptomatic of worms, constipation, and other disorders of the bowels, of kidney and uterine affections, and of spinal irritation. It is sometimes dependent on decayed teeth, even when these do not ache, and cases which resist every remedy are frequently cured when the decayed teeth are extracted. Diseases of the heart are frequently attended with headache, and so also to a less extent are those of the lungs.
Nervous headache is also very common. It is very irregular in its mode of attack and duration, as well as in the character of the pain. It sometimes comes on suddenly when the patient is apparently in good health, prostrating at once his mental and physical energies, and, after a longer or shorter time, leaves him as suddenly as it came. In other cases it comes on slowly, being preceded by depression of spirits or loss of temper, and gradually increases, for hours perhaps, or days, before it attains its height and begins to improve. In one patient an attack is experienced at long intervals; in another the pain returns frequently, and at short intervals; and with a third it is scarcely ever absent. Sometimes it interrupts and prevents sleep, but more frequently the patient, though troubled during the day, will be able to get his usual sleep undisturbed, and feel relieved in the morning. In most cases the pain is in the front of the head, over one or both eyes; but it is sometimes felt at the back of the head, and not unfrequently over the whole head. Sometimes it is dull, heavy, or throbbing, at others sharp or stabbing. After continuing for a certain length of time it not unfrequently provokes vomiting; but differs from sick headache in the circumstance that the matter discharged from the stomach may be quite destitute of acid, bile, or any acrid property. An attack seldom continues long; but the patient is liable to frequent returns of it, in some instances for months or years, and occasionally even for life.
The headache itself never proves fatal; but it may, in the end, so far wear out the strength as to render the system less able to support the assaults of other diseases, and may thus assist in shortening life. Sedentary habits, combined with much mental exertion and loss of sleep, sometimes give rise to it, independent of any primary disease of the stomach. Occasionally it may be traced to affections of the kidney or the liver, or to a disordered state of the digestive organs.
In treating headache we must endeavour, as far as possible, to trace out the cause. If it arise from the digestive organs being out of order, our attention must be directed to restoring them to a healthy condition; particular attention must be paid to the diet; the patient should live as much as possible on such kinds of foods as are nourishing, and at the same time easy of digestion. Boiled mutton, fowls, oatmeal porridge, rice and bread puddings, suet puddings, tender roast or boiled beef, brown bread, etc, and carefully avoid hard, tough and dry beef-steaks, or pork swimming in grease, and also avoid hot slops. Tea and coffee, if taken at all, should be good, and the coffee should be strong.
Two tablepoonfuls of the following mixture may be taken three times a day, between meals:-
Gentian Root, sliced......................One Ounce.
Cascarilla Bark, bruised..................Half an Ounce.
Bitter Orange Peel........:...............Half an Ounce.
Pour upon them one pint of boiling water; let it stand by the fire for four hours; then strain, and add:-
Aromatic Spirit of Ammonia...........Half an Ounce.
Two of the following Pills may be taken every day, just before dinner:-
Socotrine Aloes.............................One Dram.
Cayenne Pepper...........................Twenty-Four Grains.
Castile Soap.................................Half a Dram.
Oil of Carraway...........................Twelve Drops. Mix, and divide into twenty-four Pills.
If the headache appears to be of a nervous character, which may be known by the manner of its attacks, the patient should be equally attentive to his diet; but will derive benefit from a moderate supply of such stimulants as he may have been accustomed to-beer, wine, or spirits. Flannels should be worn next the skin, and putting the feet in hot water for ten or fifteen minutes, every night and morning, will be of service. The mixture prescribed above may be taken, with the addition of bruised Peruvian bark, one ounce, and four ounces of good brandy. The following pills may be taken at bedtime:-Extract of Henbane, five grains; or Extract of Henbane and Extract of Poppies, of each three grains. The patient should have plenty of fresh air and exercise. Many people get headache very readily on getting the feet wet or cold; when this is the case, the feet should always be kept dry and warm. Persons liable to cold feet will find that wearing cotton stockings next the feet, and woollen socks over them, is abetter protection from cold than wearing woollen next the feet. If the remedies prescribed above are not found sufficient to completely cure the headache (nervous), the patient may try the Citrate of Iron and Quinine, in five grain doses, three times a day, and may also take ten grains of Bromide of Potash every night at bedtime.