These nondrug approaches cure headache, insomnia, restless legs and more…

Here’s a quick fact that may give you pause: Americans use more medication than people living anywhere else in the world. Put another way, Americans make up about 5% of the world’s population but consume more than 50% of prescription drugs.

A sad irony: People in parts of the world (including the US) with the highest expenditures on conventional medicine—a treatment category dominated by prescription drugs—actually live shorter, less healthy lives than those in other cultures. How could that be?

Drug reactions and side effects are just part of the problem. The bigger issue is that drugs suppress symptoms but are unlikely to reverse whatever it is that’s making you sick.

My advice: Whenever possible, try natural remedies before pharmaceuticals. Natural therapies are more likely to target the “root” causes of illness, increasing the likelihood of a cure. These therapies also have fewer (or no) side effects. 

Finding The “best of the best”: As a medical doctor who has spent more than 44 years studying the full range of holistic modalities—from supplements to herbs and folk remedies—and treated more than 30,000 patients who have failed to respond to conventional medicine, I have identified the most effective natural therapies for the following common health problems…*  


About 90% of patients who see a doctor for headaches suffer from tension-type headaches. Despite the name, they’re not always related to tension or stress. They are commonly triggered by certain fumes or other sinus irritants.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Motrin), are often used for tension headaches, but they can cause side effects, including nausea and diarrhea. What I prefer… 

Coriander seeds. Coriander, an anti-inflammatory herb, has been used for headache pain for thousands of years. Inhaling the steam will improve sinus drainage and soothe irritated tissues. What to do: Put about one teaspoon of the seeds in a small bowl…cover with boiling water…drape a towel over your head and the bowl…and carefully inhale the steam for about 15 minutes.


Medications for insomnia—such as zolpidem (Ambien) and eszopiclone (Lunesta)—can cause many troubling side effects such as confusion, lack of coordination and sleepwalking. They also can make you feel like you have a hangover the next morning. The following natural remedy is very effective for insomnia—without the side effects…

Lavender. It’s a “calming” herb that’s among the best natural treatments for sleepless nights. Many people swear by chamomile tea, but I’ve found that lavender is even more effective. What to do: Sip a cup of lavender tea at bedtime…or inhale the aroma from a drop of lavender oil placed on a cotton ball under your nose. To use on your skin (for example, on your temples or pulse points on your wrists), add a drop or two of lavender oil to a tablespoon of almond or olive oil to dilute it.   

A study at Wesleyan University found that people exposed to the scent of lavender reported more deep sleep and felt better in the morning than those who did not inhale the scent. Lavender can also help you fall asleep more quickly.


This neurological disorder causes an irresistible urge to move the legs when you lie down at night—and the drugs that are often prescribed, such as benzodiazepines and muscle relaxants, aren’t very effective and can cause drowsiness, confusion and dizziness. What helps…

Magnesium lotion. Most Americans don’t get enough magnesium, a mineral that reduces overexcitability of the central nervous system. You can take oral supplements, but the absorption is much faster when magnesium is applied to the skin. Apply it to your legs/feet before bedtime.


This viral infection can cause recurring outbreaks of blisters and rashes—and, in some cases, excruciating pain. Antivirals and other medications can shorten the duration of outbreaks but are unlikely to completely eliminate the discomfort. The following can be used along with medication to provide more effective relief…  

Vitamins A, C and E. Research has shown that each of these nutrients can reduce pain and the severity of shingles rashes. Combining these vitamins is about four times more effective than taking them individually.

My advice: At the first sign of a shingles outbreak (typically marked by numbness, tingling or itching on the face or abdomen), take 1,000 mg of vitamin C daily…25,000 international units (IU) of beta-carotene (which is converted to vitamin A in the body)**…and 400 IU of vitamin E (the tocopherol form). Keep taking them until your symptoms are gone, typically for several weeks.


Few things are more painful than a toothache—and it always seems to erupt on weekends or late at night, when you can’t get to a dentist. What to try until you can see a dentist… 

Cinnamon oil. Dip a cotton ball in the oil and apply it to the painful area. The oil often curbs pain almost instantly. It’s also an antimicrobial that kills oral bacteria and can reduce inflammation and swelling. 

If cinnamon oil doesn’t help after five to 10 minutes, add crushed garlic. Like cinnamon, it’s a natural antibiotic with analgesic properties. If it doesn’t hurt too much, you can chew a whole clove, using the tooth (or teeth) that is aching. Or you can crush a clove and apply the pulp to the area that’s hurting.

*Consult your doctor before trying any of these remedies if you take medication or have a chronic medical condition.

**Smokers and heavy drinkers should not take beta-carotene supplements—they may increase cancer and heart disease risk in these people.