There are several reasons migraineurs choose to manage their migraines with homeopathic treatments instead of prescription or OTC medications. They may dislike the side effects, the prescriptions may be expensive, or they simply want to try what they feel is a more natural approach.
But do homeopathic remedies and treatments work to reduce migraine severity, frequency, and pain? There aren’t many good studies comparing homeopathic and traditional medical approaches. Some of the information we have is purely anecdotal.
In this post, we put together the knowledge we found to help determine whether the homeopathic approach is effective and if it could be the right method for you.
What Is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy is an alternative (some say a more natural alternative) to allopathic or traditional medical treatment.
Homeopathy embraces an approach that considers herbal, mental, and physical practices that may have been used for hundreds of years. As with any migraine diagnosis and treatment, the practitioner performs a thorough evaluation of the patient, including the various factors that could create the environment for a migraine to occur.
Several studies have attempted to gain an understanding of whether this approach is useful.
- In 1991, a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial for 60 patients found significant improvement in the homeopathic treatment group compared to those taking a placebo.
- In 2001, a trial that was not randomized found positive effects for homeopathic remedies in patients who had suffered migraines for over a year.
- In 1997, 60 patients were treated for over four months with homeopathic methods with slight benefits, but not significant in comparison to a placebo group.
So far, evidence of the effectiveness of homeopathic approaches is a bit sparse. However, since the variation in how individuals experience migraines and react to medications, it's difficult to determine when a homeopathic approach would be the right one for any single patient.
The nice thing about homeopathy is that it typically can't hurt even if it doesn't help.
Food is a common trigger for migraines in certain people. Identifying and avoiding a food trigger can reduce migraine frequency for some. Common food triggers include:
- Hot dogs or other foods with nitrites like deli meats, sausage, and bacon. Often so-called cured meats are high in nitrites due to the method used to prepare them
- Cheese containing tyramine, a naturally-occurring compound found in blue cheese, feta, Swiss, Parmesan, and cheddar
- Chocolate (boo!)
- Food with monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Alcohol, especially red wine (double boo!)
- Processed or pickled foods
- Dried fruits and beans
- Cultured dairy products like buttermilk, yogurt, and sour cream
- Foods served very cold like iced drinks and ice cream (triple boo!)
In some people, caffeine may trigger migraines, while in others, the lack of caffeine can cause one from withdrawal.
Keep a migraine diary to determine if you have a food trigger. Identifying triggers and avoiding them is a homeopathic remedy in and of itself.
Physical, Emotional, and Mental Homeopathic Approaches
Several practices may assist with stress relief and muscle strain that could cause migraines in some people. These are also considered homeopathic in nature.
Some patients report success with biofeedback or meditation to handle daily stress. Acupressure and acupuncture may help relieve migraine pain after it starts. Yoga and massage are also calming activities that can loosen neck and shoulder muscles that could be contributing to your migraine frequency and severity.
Vitamins, Minerals, and Supplements
Some studies and anecdotal reports show that the lack of certain vitamins and minerals might cause migraines. Supplements may help in these instances. The most common are magnesium, B2 (riboflavin), and Vitamin D.
- 400 milligrams of Vitamin B2 may treat migraines. Be aware it may discolor your urine, but isn’t harmful.
- 400 milligrams of magnesium daily can help if you have a deficiency. Side effects include upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Magnesium is also present in almonds, sesame and sunflower seeds, cashews, and other foods.
- Vitamin D is found in milk products or can be taken as a supplement. The typical dosages may reduce migraine symptoms without any side-effects. Be aware that taking too much can cause weakness, fatigue, and nausea.
Essential oils and aromatherapy are popular homeopathic remedies embraced for a range of conditions. However, different people experience these scents differently. What might be a remedy for one may turn out to be a trigger for another.
In any case, three oils have been found to be of some use:
- Lavender oil - inhaling lavender essential oil for 15 minutes during a migraine attack may shorten its duration. It can be inhaled or applied to the temples.
- Peppermint oil - peppermint oil contains menthol. Applied to the forehead and temples, it proved more effective than a placebo for pain, nausea, and light sensitivity.
- Citrus scents - often, citrus fragrances help if you suffer from depression that may cause migraines.
- Juniper, chamomile, or marjoram oils may be useful in cases where insomnia triggers migraines.
The oils are applied to the skin or warmed to allow the patient to breathe in the aroma. Lavender oil is particularly relaxing for many. Caution should be used in applying capsaicin, which is the substance that gives peppers their heat. It may cause an unpleasant reaction if used in large or concentrated doses.
Herbs and Plants
Herbal medicine has been practiced for thousands of years. Early humans probably discovered several plants that helped curb pain and had anti-inflammatory or antibiotic properties.
Today, headache specialists and migraineurs use these herbs and plants to relieve migraine symptoms.
- Feverfew - this daisy-like plant is a commonly used homeopathic remedy. There seems to be little evidence it works, but many still swear by it.
- Ginger - this is a common remedy for nausea and dizziness. It can be effective against motion sickness that may trigger a migraine.
- Butterbur - 75 milligrams of Butterbur daily may prevent migraines. However, some people suffer itchy eyes, diarrhea, upset stomach, fatigue, drowsiness, and allergic reactions if they are sensitive to ragweed or other related herbs.
- Belladonna - it can reduce pressure and congestion in the sinuses, a common migraine trigger. It works on the circulatory system and eases pain from sinus headaches.
- Iris versicolor (Northern Blue Flag) - this particular flower can reduce nausea and dizziness associated with migraines. When taken with OTC pain relievers, it can provide effective symptom control.
Even though these are considered “natural” substances, using too much can be harmful. Always use caution when beginning any treatment regimen.
The Migraine Relief Center offers a list of alternative migraine treatments that we have found work for patients. Contact us if you are troubled with migraines. We are happy to help you evaluate and treat your pain and learn to manage your migraines for a full and happy life.