Natural medicines to relieve headache and other pain dates back thousands of years, and plenty of evidence exists that healers in cultures such as ancient Egyptian and Chinese made use of herbs and other plants for this purpose. In spite of the advances in modern medicine, many people prefer to use natural remedies to combat their pain. Some reasons for this are:
- Lack of tolerance of over-the-counter or prescription drugs
- High cost of medication
- Unpleasant side effects, especially with strong chemical medications
- Interaction between migraine drugs and others, or other conditions the patient has.
Several remedies are commonly recommended for migraine sufferers. These range from dietary and nutrition supplements through to herbs and botanical oils. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t require rigorous testing of natural products, so there’s limited evidence to show how they work. If you’re considering trying these options, check with your doctor before doing so.
Botanicals and Herbs
Fragrant essential oils are a big part of aromatherapy, and can be relaxing and have a positive effect on migraine sufferers. Oils such as peppermint and lavender are reported to both calm the patient and numb the pain, and each has specific benefits for users.
Lavendar Oil: This botanical is recognized for its mood stabilization and calming properties. A 2012 study of 129 migraine patients showed 92 responded positively after inhaling the lavender for 15 minutes. This makes it a safe and effective treatment for migraine headache pain.
Peppermint Oil: The refreshing fragrance gives this oil a cooling effect when it’s used on the skin. The forehead is a primary site for migraine activity, but applying the oil to the area stimulates the skin blood flow and soothes muscle contractions. Research also shows that when used in conjunction with ethanol, peppermint oil reduces headache sensitivity.
Feverfew and Butterbur: These herbal remedies are safe for ingestion, and frequently used to treat migraines. Feverfew is easy to buy in various forms, including dried leaves, fresh or freeze-dried supplements, capsules, liquid or tablets. Try 50 to 100 milligrams of Feverfew extract to ease tension and facilitate relief from the symptoms of migraine headache, such as pain, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivities to light and noise.
Butterbur acts as a beta blocker and helps maintain normal blood flow to the brain. It also has anti-inflammatory benefits to counter chemicals that trigger migraines. Both of these attributes are preventive in nature, so it’s best to take this herb regularly to help avoid migraine attacks. A 2004 study showed that patients who took the recommended dosage of 75 milligrams of Butterbur twice daily reduced their frequency of attacks by almost 50 percent.
Diet and Nutrition
Our diet plays a role in everything related to our health, and migraines are no exception. In addition to avoiding personal food triggers such as gluten (if you have a sensitivity) and following a healthy, ketogenic diet, patients can add nutritional supplements to help minimize migraines. Some of the most popular supplements are:
Several vitamins have a beneficial effect on migraines, with the B range topping the list. Riboflavin or B2 encourages the production of red blood cells, and regular dosages of 400 mg per day helped to reduce the frequency and severity of migraines in a group of 80 respondents.
Vitamin B6 contains the chemical pyridoxine, which helps the body use brain chemicals like serotonin effectively. A low level of this chemical is believed to affect many migraine sufferers, so maintaining the amount of serotonin is a key factor in migraine relief.
A 2008 study showed that 42 percent of migraineurs have Vitamin D deficiency. These patients may also risk feeling pain that isn’t helped by the majority of pain relievers. By keeping up the levels of Vitamin D migraine patients can ensure that this deficiency isn’t a cause of their pain.
Magnesium and potassium are both invaluable for the effective functioning of the body’s systems. Potassium affects the electrical processes of the heart, as well as building of muscle for growth. It’s also an ingredient in diclofenac, which is a pain killer with anti-inflammatory qualities.
Magnesium, however, is well known to benefit headaches by blocking the pain-transmitting chemicals that cause them. It’s also a valuable mineral supplement for patients with chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure, which often make them inclined to have low levels of magnesium. A dosage of 200 to 400 mg a day is inexpensive and easy to obtain, and safe even during pregnancy.
Other natural remedies you can try include flax seed, a cayenne pepper muscle rub, a relaxing bath with baking soda or apple cider vinegar in the water to help your body detox. Incorporate the methods you prefer into your daily migraine management and you might find it makes a difference for you.