If you have ever had a migraine headache, you know firsthand that you never want to have another headache again. You’ll do anything to prevent migraine attacks, treat migraines, and provide relief. There are common migraine pharmaceutical options available, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, triptans, and Toradol, but all of them have side effects that can include chest pain, GI bleeding, stomach upset, heartburn, dizziness, and kidney problems. Toradol may only work for the first 24 hours – and then what do you do?
According to the American Migraine Foundation, 1 billion people suffer from migraines. In the U.S. alone, 39 million Americans have them. Many live in fear of what will trigger a migraine attack, while others are so busy tending to the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks that they can only concern themselves with managing migraine episodes. Often it’s family members or friends of people with migraine who may help them manage their migraine symptoms by getting them to treatment from a headache specialist because they need instant migraine relief. And after you have exhausted all the medical routes with no relief, the next step may be to google studies on migraine research to learn more about migraine, looking for natural remedies for headache and migraine.
Herbal remedies may be one’s only option.
What Herbal Supplements Help with Migraines and Offer Headache Relief?
This herb is often used for headache and migraine pain. Herbalists use it to reduce the frequency of migraine and provide relief from migraine. It’s available in teas, capsules, and tablets. Regular use of feverfew has shown in the research to decrease the frequency and severity of migraines. As a remedy for migraine, feverfew is one of the top treatments for migraine.
One study reported at Mount Sinai Medical Center’s website found that those who took feverfew had a reduced incidence of migraine attacks per month.
This plant may provide some headache relief for migraines with its extract. Studies have shown that butterbur extract, like feverfew, may reduce the frequency of migraine attacks when taken regularly. The extract may be found in a form that says on the label “PA-free”, which may be the best form to take if you are currently challenged with several other health issues. The “PA” stands for pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are natural substances found in butterbur that may accumulate in some people in their liver, and can become a health challenge. However, that whole scenario is avoided if you just opt for the PA-free version of this migraine prevention herb.
And just for your information, the American Academy of Neurology started recommending butterbur as a common migraine drug (even though it’s herbal) for the prevention of migraines in 2012.
Peppermint and Lavender Essential Oils
Essential oils are the extracts of the oils found in plants. One drop of peppermint or lavender essential oil is created from thousands of plant leaves in the process of distillation that gives the essential oil. So you can call it a concentrated herbal remedy. These two essential oils are considered a migraine medication from an herbalist’s perspective.
Peppermint and lavender essential oils are used either singly or together as aromatherapy to offer headache relief and reduce migraine pain. A few drops may be placed directly on the forehead or point of the migraine or the drops may be added to a diffuser that diffuses the volatile oils of the plants into the air.
Peppermint oil helps alleviate tension in the body, not just from a headache but also elsewhere, and thus ease migraine pain. Lavender essential oil is very calming and can help reduce stress and anxiety. This may be the key for some people with migraines because stress and anxiety could trigger migraine attacks.
Don’t forget, essential oils are powerful – a little goes a long way and you should test everything before ongoing use.
Some patients with migraine will use willow to treat headaches and migraine attacks. Willow bark contains an ingredient called salicin, which is what is used by the pharmaceutical industry to make aspirin. And it makes sense that because aspirin often works for headaches, willow does too. Willow clearly has been shown to be great for headache pain, according to Mount Sinai Medical Center.
However, if you are sensitive to aspirin, you may also be sensitive to the herb willow and may have to use other natural remedy options.
Ginger is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to relieve nausea. In people seeking migraine treatment, the nerves inside their head may be inflamed, so the use of ginger makes sense. People living with migraines may also have nausea as one of their symptoms, and if so, ginger can help. Fresh ginger diced up to make tea or ginger supplements may help ease migraine pain.
In some people with migraines, caffeine can be effective in reducing symptoms of migraine headaches. It my increase the absorption and effectiveness of the triptans, aspirin, or ibuprofen and thus relieve headache pain. However, there’s a warning with caffeine. Both too much caffeine or too little as in caffeine withdrawal could be a migraine trigger and the person might end up with another throbbing head pain or a worsened migraine.
Some plants naturally contain caffeine in them. For example, yerba mate from the jungles of South America, contains caffeine but it’s not used for treatment of migraine. Instead, herbs such as passionflower, pu d’arco, guarana, and manaca are used. Guarana is another herbal natural remedy that contains caffeine.
Caffeine is also found in tea leaves and cocoa beans but there aren’t any studies on using these for headache relief or to help prevent migraine.
Signs of a migraine attack include the following:
- Severe headache, usually a throbbing or pulsating type of pain that may worsen when you move around.
- A migraine aura before or during the headache phase. This could be visual or a sensation. If it’s visual, migraine patients may see flashing lights, blind spots, or zigzag lines, and these tell them they are headed for a severe migraine.
- Photophobia, or sensitivity to light. Even normal lighting can intensify the severity of migraine attacks.
- Phonophobia, or sensitivity to sound. Even normal conversation in the background can intensify a headache or migraine for some people.
- Nausea and vomiting. This is a common symptom of migraines.
When to Go To the Doctor for Headache Relief
Most headaches and even some migraines don’t warrant medical care and are managed with natural and home remedies. But if you have any of the following symptoms, it’s best to have a doctor try to find the cause of headaches, just in case something major may be occurring.
• Your headache is the worst headache of your life.
• Your headache isn’t like the same ones you have had in the past.
• Your headache started after a head injury or after working out or physical exertion of some sort.
• You have a headache along with either a high fever or neurological symptoms such as difficulty speaking, visual disturbances, confusion, numbness, loss of consciousness, and weakness.
• Your headache or migraine simply won’t go away. Your migraine frequency has increased.
When evaluating whether or not an herbal remedy for headaches is working for you, start a journal that tracks your migraine days and severity of the migraine on each day. You can use the pain scale of 1-10 where 10 is the worst pain possible. What you’re looking for is headache relief.
Give the herbal remedy a period of at least 60 days to work. Herbs contain medicinal ingredients that often have to accumulate in the body and achieve a certain level before an achievable result is made evident. When you begin seeing that your days with migraine are fewer, and the severity of the next migraine is considerably less, you will know you are on the right path to healing.
Migraine and Mental Health
If you’re someone who gets migraines, you should know that you are more likely to experience depression and anxiety than those without migraines. These severe headaches can cause super high levels of pain and disability, and that will cause emotional distress in anyone. There is a relationship between migraine and mental health. Remedies and lifestyle changes should truly be considered to act as migraine prophylaxis and prevent the onset of migraine.