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HeadOn and ActivOn; What Are They? Do They Work?



You may have seen TV commercials for these two products and have wondered what they are. Both HeadOn and ActivOn are over-the-counter and may provide a new option for pain relief. Let's take a closer look at each of these products to see what all of the talk is about.


HeadOn is a homeopathic compound for headache pain relief that is applied directly to the skin on the forehead.1 Homeopathic medicine in general involves taking a substance that is thought to cause an ailment and diluting it out so that just a tiny, tiny bit of it remains in a solution. This solution is then given to the patient, usually orally or topically. The idea is that an ingredient that can cause troublesome symptoms in someone in larger amounts, will somehow have curative properties if given to that same person in minute amounts.3

Homeopathic medications are regulated by the FDA and must be approved by the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States (HPUS). There are five different formulations of HeadOn. All of the formulations contain certain active ingredients such as potassium dichromate and White Bryony. Other formulations contain natural ingredients such as Goldenseal or Blue Flag. Formulations may also contain menthol which can cause a warming, tingling or cooling sensation on the skin and can sting if it gets into the eyes.1

So far, there is no compelling evidence, by way of conventional trials, that show homeopathic formulations such as HeadOn work. However, the product is very popular, perhaps because HeadOn is one of the few pain relievers marketed for headaches is available in a topical form (rather than swallowing a pill). HeadOn is not very expensive if you would like to try it, There are few reported side effects and it is available over-the-counter.


ActivOn, like HeadOn, is applied to the skin in the area where the pain is. ActivOn is used for general joint and muscle aches and pains and arthritis. There are three different formulations of ActivOn. They all contain menthol and camphor which can create a sensation on the skin when applied. One ActivOn formulation, the arthritis and backache product, contains histamine dihydrochloride which causes the blood vessels to dilate in the area where it is applied.2 This ActivOn product is similar to other topical pain relief products already available over-the-counter. If you have experienced pain relief from similar topical pain relief products, you will probably also like ActivOn. Again, ActivOn has few reported side effects, is relatively inexpensive and is available over-the-counter.

HeadOn and ActivOn are fairly easy to use. They are supplied in an applicator that allow the drug to be easily rubbed onto the skin. This is a nice feature if you do not like dealing with messy creams or ointments. In general, topical products like HeadOn and ActivOn are nice compared to pain pills in that they are not invasive. In other words, you are not subject to the some of the side effects and/or toxicities that oral pain medications can have like stomach upset with aspirin or liver toxicity from acetaminophen. Many people may find relief with HeadOn and ActivOn and many find the menthol and camphor in these formulas to be quite soothing. As convenient as HeadOn and ActivOn may be, these products may be insufficient for bigger headaches.

Finally, please remember, not all headaches should be treated with over-the-counter medications before seeking medical attention. There are certain types of headaches that require immediate medical attention:

• Sudden, severe headache that could be classified as the 'worst headache of your life'
• Headache associated with a stiff neck
• Headache associated with a fever
• Headache associated with altered consciousness

It is important to consult with a health care professional immediately if you experience one of these types of headaches because they can be a sign of something more serious such as aneurysm, stroke or severe infection. 



Author: Christi Larson, Pharm. D.

Dr. Larson is a Clinical Infusion Pharmacist and author of Empowered Medicine; A Guide for Consumers . Get your copy of this one-of-a-kind medication reference NOW and find out if YOUR doctor is following the guidelines.




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