cup of tea

Recurrent headaches are extremely common. When people have too many headaches one right after the other, the temptation to rely heavily on headache medicine is strong. But it can be a big mistake, leading to medication overuse headaches (also known as rebound headaches) that are very difficult to overcome. Could the L-theanine in a cup of tea help prevent repeat headaches?

Watching Out for Caffeine as a Cause of Headaches:

Q. I’ve suffered from headaches most of my life. After menopause, they became brutal nighttime or early morning headaches. I was beside myself and was taking far too much Excedrin.

I’ve always limited myself to one cup of coffee in the morning, with no other caffeine during the day. One day two months ago I had had a dreadful headache since early morning and just suffered through the day with it. I went to visit a friend that afternoon, wishing I could get home quickly and take something for my aching head. We had a cup of tea together.

When I got home later, I realized my headache was gone. Even more surprising, I had no headache the next morning.

Ever since then I have had a cup of black tea every afternoon and I have been headache free for two months. My life has improved immeasurably. You can’t imagine the difference it has made to wake up with a clear head and not have to take Excedrin all the time. Who knew tea would keep headaches from developing?

How Tea Might Help Ease a Headache:

A. You may have been getting much more caffeine than you realized, even though you weren’t drinking much coffee. Each dose of Excedrin Migraine contains 65 mg of caffeine, about as much as two-thirds of a cup of coffee and more than a cup of black tea.  There is evidence that ingredients in tea, including L-theanine and caffeine, affect the brain (Haskell et al, Biological Psychology, Feb. 2008). Whether anyone else would benefit as you have is unclear. A double-blind study found that L-theanine counteracts many of the effects of caffeine on the brain (Dodd et al, Psychopharmacology, July 2015).

We offer a number of non-drug approaches for preventing or easing headache pain in our Guide to Headaches and Migraines. 

Preventing Medication Overuse Headaches:

When it is possible to pre-empt a headache without drug treatment, we are usually in favor. Joel Saper, MD, FACP, FAAN, one of the country’s leading experts on headaches, has told us that relying too heavily on pain medicine for recurrent headaches can sometimes lead to rebound headaches that are very difficult to treat. To listen to our conversation with Dr. Saper, you may wish to order the hour-long CD or MP3.

Revised 5/7/2017

It's almost Black Friday at The People's Pharmacy!

Black Friday at People's Pharmacy 2017
View Specials Now

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. Sharon

    I began to exhibit Cluster headaches after menopause, for which I took aspirin every day. The aspirin caused cataracts, so I had to stop. I did the research and began drinking Earl Grey every day. The headaches stopped. I got rid of the aspirin.

  2. RJ T.

    I found this fascinating since on any given day I can wake up with a headache that I describe as burning. And even though I take acetaminophen and a fish oil capsule as soon as possible, it’s just too late! The headache will last into the day even days!! Especially if rain is called for days later.
    So, I started with a cup of black tea daily since I saw this published and though it’s only been a week, I see excellent results! To wake up with a very clear head is a miracle!! To not have a headache start (I call those twinges) during the day is bonus.
    This is the only thing that is helping me right now, and I can’t thank you enough for this tip. I read your column weekly and pick up many helpful remedies.

  3. RH

    How about headaches in the back of the neck and head? Mine are in the neck muscles. For two days now….they come and go. Perhaps I don’t have the right pillow. What to do?

  4. Manoj

    Years ago I took Peppermint Tea and it did wonders for my headaches! I did not have a serious problem with headaches but the tea did help greatly.

  5. BC

    I get occasional severe headaches from sulfites which can wake me during the night and be so bad I can’t lay down. The first thing I take is 5 grams of Vitamin C and green tea. Green tea makes a huge difference in pain relief even if I have to take ibuprofen and vicodin.

  6. NHW

    Very interesting. Usually, or in my case, morning headaches can be relieved almost immediately by having a cup of coffee or tea with caffeine. I have had headaches for over 60 years, and morning headaches are the norm and hardest to control, but the morning caffeine is an easy fix. Good luck.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.