Natural Remedies for Migraine Headaches
This page looks at using natural remedies for migraine headaches such as herbs, aromatherapy, and nutritional supplements to alleviate the pain
caused by migraines.
Migraine headaches are intensely painful. For some reason, women are more susceptible to migraines - Up to 17 percent of women
have experienced a migraine (compared to only about 6 percent of men).
Very often, migraine headaches are accompanied by extreme sensitive to light, vision disturbances, nausea, and vomiting. An episode of a migraine attack can last for
a few hours; however, sometimes it can go on for several days.
Migraine headaches are believed to be caused by disturbances in blood flow to the head, and by imbalances in brain chemicals, including serotonin. During a headache,
serotonin levels drop causing neuropeptides to be released. (Neuropeptides are small protein-like molecules released and used by neurons to communicate with each other.)
The released neuropeptides travel to the brain's outer covering (meninges) where they cause blood vessels to become dilated and inflamed. The result is headache pain.
A tendency toward migraines often runs in families, and allergic factors seem to be involved.
Symptoms of Migraine Headaches
A typical episode of a migraine attack produces some or all of these symptoms:
- Moderate to severe pain, usually on one side of the head (but sometimes it may affect both sides)
- Vision disturbances that precede or accompany the headache
- Head pain with a pulsating or throbbing quality, which worsens with physical activity
- Nausea, sometimes accompanied by vomiting
- Sensitivity to light and sound
A number of factors can trigger migraine headaches. For example:
- Hormonal Imbalance: Exactly how hormones and headaches are related is still unclear. However, it seems that fluctuations in estrogen can
trigger migraine headaches. For example, a major drop in estrogen in women before or during menstruation can cause migraines.
- Excessive Intake of Certain Foods: Certain foods seem to trigger headaches in some people. For example, alcohol (especially beer and red wine);
chocolate; overuse of caffeine; nicotine; aspartame (an artificial sweetener); cured meat that contains nitrates such as hot dogs, sausages and bacon; and monosodium
- Nutritional Deficiencies: A diet deficient of certain nutrients, especially vitamin B-6, magnesium, and essential fatty acids, can also trigger
- Environmental Changes: A change of weather, season, altitude level, barometric pressure or time zone can cause a migraine in certain people.
Natural Remedies for Migraine Headaches
There is a host of allopathic medicines for treating migraines, such as Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), Triptans, and Ergots. While these medicines may
be effective in treating migraines, they can also cause quite a few unwanted side-effects, such as dizziness, nausea, and muscle weakness.
If you want a more holistic and natural approach to control your migraines, below are suggestions of various natural remedies for migraine headaches, using herbs,
nutritional supplements, and aromatherapy.
Natural Remedies for Migraine Headaches - Nutritional Supplements
Certain vitamins and minerals seem to be effective in preventing and treating migraines:
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): It has been found in a study that people suffering from migraines got significantly less attacks after taking 400 mg of riboflavin every day for
three months. It seems that riboflavin is effective in preventing migraine headaches.
- Vitamin B6: B6 is connected with the synthesis of serotonin, a deficiency of which may cause migraines. 50 mg of vitamin B6 daily is recommended.
- Magnesium: An increasing number of doctors believe that a fairly large percentage of the most severe cases of migraines may actually be caused by an imbalance of
key minerals such as a low level of magnesium and a high level of calcium. Some doctors have reported positive results in using magnesium gluconate to treat patients
with migraine. If you decide to try using magnesium to treat your migraines, consult first with a doctor. (People who have kidney or heart problems should supplement
magnesium only under medical supervision.)
- Essential Fatty Acids: EFAs improve circulation and reduce inflammatory prostaglandins that may contribute to migraines. A daily intake of 5000 mg of fish oil or
one tablespoon of flaxseed oil is the recommended dosage.
Natural Remedies for Migraine Headaches - Herbs
Herbs can be effective natural remedies for migraine headaches as well. Beneficial herbs include:
- Feverfew: Studies published in the British Medical Journal conclude that taking feverfew regularly prevents migraine headaches. You can
take this herb in capsules.
**Note: Pregnant women should not take feverfew because of a remote possibility that it might trigger miscarriage. Women who are nursing should not use it either
because of the possibility of passing the herb to infants in breast milk.
- Ginkgo: Ginkgo improves blood flow through the brain and, according to a medical study, headaches often clear up with increased cerebral
- Ginger: Ginger has been used in Asia for years to treat headaches. It is effective probably because it is anti-inflammatory and it
also improves blood circulation. You can use ginger powder - take 500 mg of dry ginger in capsules.
- Evening Primrose: This is one of the best sources of the pain-relieving compound phenylalanine. A daily dose of six to eight capsules of
evening primrose oil is recommended.
Natural Remedies for Migraine Headaches - Aromatherapy
Essential oils that are effective in relieving migraine headaches include:
You can use the above oils in the following ways:
- Roman Chamomile
- Dilute one to two drops of any of the above oils in a carrier oil and use it to massage your temples.
- Add two drops each of two of the above oils to a cold compress.
Natural Remedies for Migraine Headaches - Diet
As mentioned above, certain foods can trigger migraine headaches. Therefore avoid such foods. In particular, avoid foods that contain:
Instead, try to base your diet on simple natural foods, and try to include sources of magnesium and essential fatty acids in your diet. Sources of magnesium include
green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, bananas, and wheat germ. Sources of EFAs include fish such as salmon and mackerel.
- Tyramine: Tyramine is an amino acid that can be found in cheese, chocolate, coffee, cold cuts, smoked fish, alcohol and wine, vinegar,
sour cream, sausages, fresh baked goods made with yeast, lima beans, Italian beans, lentils, snow peas, navy beans, pinto beans, peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin
seeds and sesame seeds.
- Nitrates: Nitrates can be found in cured and processed meats, such as hot dogs, bacon, and salami.
- MSG: Many processed foods and Asian foods contain MSG. Because of all the bad press of MSG as a main cause of migraine headaches, many food
companies no longer list it on their product labels. Common additives that are hidden sources of MSG include "Hydrolyzed protein", "Autolyzed yeast",
"Calcium caseinate", and "Sodium caseinate".
- Other foods to avoid: If you are prone to migraines, also avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugary foods.
Balch and Stengler, Prescription for Natural Cures, (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2004).
Duke, J.A. The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook. (St. Martin's Paperbacks, 2002).
Editors of Prevention Health Books, Prevention's Healing with Vitamins, (Rodale Books, 1998).
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