Deal With Your Migraines Naturally
Drink ginger tea or simply chew on a piece of raw ginger root at the onset of your headache. Equally beneficial can be sipping on feverfew tea or chewing feverfew leaves with a little sugar or honey. Apply chamomile oil (diluted with sesame oil), peppermint oil (diluted with alcohol) topically on the forehead or try alternating hot and cold compresses for about 15 mins.
If you’re one of the 29.5 million Americans who suffer from migraines, you know how bad these throbbing headaches can get.1 You might experience nausea, vomiting and an increased sensitivity to sound and light if you have this condition. Some people see flashing lights or spot as well before they get a migraine. The pain that you feel during migraines is a result of blood vessels swelling up due to inflammation and pressing on your nerves. Although it’s not clear what exactly causes migraines, experts believe that some dysfunction in the pain centers of the brain might be to blame. Your genes may play a part too.
A variety of factors known as “triggers” can set off a migraine. Common triggers include weather changes, certain foods, stress, environmental factors like strong smells, loud noises, and bright lights, hormonal changes etc.2 Let’s take a look at how you can ease these blinding headaches.
Tackle That Migraine Naturally
If you suffer from migraines you might be turning to painkillers for relief. Your doctor may also advise anti-nausea medication or medicines that can cause the blood vessels around the brain to contract thus countering the swelling of blood vessels that’s seen in migraine sufferers. However, these medications are not without side effects. And taking painkillers frequently can actually make migraines worse as your body gets used to these medicines.3 But there are natural remedies that you can try to help you deal with those head splitting migraines:
1. Identify And Handle Your Triggers
Keep a headache diary which records when you get migraines, how long they last, what you ate for 24 hours before you got the migraine, how much sleep you got, and where you were and what you were doing when the migraine started. This will help you identify factors that may be triggering off your migraines and you can then tackle them. Ideally, you should avoid triggers if possible, but you can also work around them. For instance, wearing sunglasses that are tinted green or blue can be helpful if you find that sunlight triggers your migraines.4
2. Try Relaxation Therapies
Relaxing your muscles and easing tension can help relieve headaches. Many techniques can help you do this. Check them out and choose what works best for you but remember that these therapies work when you practice them consistently, preferably daily. Some options that you can try are:
- Breathing exercises: Taking deep, long, slow breaths where you expand your abdomen rather than your chest can be useful in calming your mind by disengaging from distracting sensations and thoughts and may ease headaches. But you might want to try another technique if you’re have breathing difficulties.
- Meditation: Sitting comfortably with your mind engaged in awareness of the present moment either by training your mind to focus on something specific like your breath or a flame or by observing the thoughts and emotions passing through your mind without judgement can help deal with stress as well as pain.5
- Visualization: Conjuring up soothing places, experiences, or scenes in your mind can help you relax as well as focus your mind. Make sure you visualize imagery that has personal significance for you.6
3. Use Hot Or Cold Packs
Both heat and ice can be used to reduce pain in headaches. Usually people with migraine find that cold packs work better for them while those who suffer from tension headaches seem to prefer heating pads. But there’s no hard and fast rule, you can check out what works best for you. Heating pads should be applied on the posterior of your head and your neck while cold packs should be applied on your temples and forehead. And remember to alternate your cold pack on and off- keep it on for 15 minutes and leave it off for 15 minutes. Also make sure that your heating pad’s not too hot or it can cause muscle spasms or burn you. 7
4. Go For Herbal Remedies
From soothing lavender to fiery cayenne peppers, many plants can help you deal with a migraine:
Peppermint has been traditionally used for migraines and other headaches for ages. Though we don’t yet understand exactly how peppermint works it is thought that it can relax muscles around the skull when it’s applied to the skin. It’s also possible that its characteristic aroma may relax the nervous system. One study found that when menthol, a component of peppermint, was applied to the forehead, it gave relief from pain and also alleviated nausea and vomiting in people suffering from migraines. 8 According to experts, it’s best to dilute peppermint oil with alcohol if you want to use it to treat migraines as pure peppermint oil doesn’t penetrate skin as effectively. It’s also best to use it as soon as a migraine starts as it might not be strong enough to help once the pain gets really bad.9
Polyphenols and flavonoids found in chamomile essential oil are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Traditional Persian Medicine describes a formulation were chamomile extracts are boiled in sesame oil and applied topically for pain relief. This formulation has the added benefit of sesamine, an anti-inflammatory component found in sesame oil.10 You can also try some chamomile tea the next time you feel a migraine creeping up on you. 11
According to research, applying capsaicin, which is an active ingredient found in cayenne pepper, inside the nose can work as a treatment for migraine. However, since this can cause a burning sensation it is best to check with a doctor before use.12
If you thought ginger’s only good for spicing up your food, think again. According to a study, ginger powder can decrease the severity of a migraine attack within two hours of use and its effectiveness is comparable to that of sumatriptan which is a medication used for treating migraines. It is recommended that you take 500 mg of ginger at the onset of a migraine, and repeat every four hours with a maximum limit of up to 1.5–2 g of ginger per day for three to four days to tackle a migraine.13
Lavender essential oil has been used as a mood stabilizer, a sedative, and a pain relieving agent. One study found that when people suffering from migraine headaches inhaled the aroma of lavender essential oil for 15 min their headache severity was reduced. 14 Essential oil which has been diluted with a vegetable oil can also be rubbed on the forehead and temples for relief from pain.15
Feverfew leaves are a popular remedy for migraines. One large leaf or three smaller ones (about 4 cm long) taken every day can be helpful. They can be chopped up and added to a salad or have the leaves by themselves. They do taste a little bitter so you may like to take them with a little sugar or honey. You can also steep the leaves to make a feverfew tea. However, do keep in mind that feverfew can cause mouth ulcers and skin irritations in some people. It’s also contraindicated during pregnancy and while you’re breastfeeding.
Basil oil is used in aromatherapy to relieve migraines. Take a drop onto one of your middle fingers and rub both middle fingers together to transfer the oil to your other hand. Now massage the oil neat on your temples and the base of your skull to treat a migraine.17
5. Get A Massage
Getting a relaxing massage may help you deal with migraines. Once study found that people who got massages got fewer migraines and had better sleep quality compared to the control group which didn’t get massages. Massages were also found to help with stress with participants experiencing a lowering of anxiety, heart rate, and cortisol, a hormone that’s associated with stress during session.18 This is particularly important as stress is a known trigger for migraines.
6. Try Fish Oil
Fish oil containing omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA has been found to reduce the symptoms of a migraine headache symptoms. It is thought that fish oil works by affecting prostaglandins which are hormone like substances that play a significant role in inflammation.19
7. Get A Shot Of Caffeine
For some people having a caffeinated drink like coffee or tea can ease a migraine. This could be because caffeine can narrow your blood vessels which works to counter the expansion of blood vessels which leads to pain and is seen in people who suffer from migraines.20 However, do keep in mind that caffeine is a known trigger for migraines, so make sure it doesn’t contribute to setting off your migraines before turning to it for relief.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Migraine fact sheet. National Institutes of Health.|
|2.||↑||Migraine fact sheet. National Institutes of Health.|
|3.||↑||Migraine – Treatment. National Health Service.|
|4, 20.||↑||Headaches: Relieving and preventing migraine and other headaches. Patient Education Center.|
|5.||↑||Zeidan, Fetal, J. A. Grant, C. A. Brown, J. G. McHaffie, and R. C. Coghill. “Mindfulness meditation-related pain relief: evidence for unique brain mechanisms in the regulation of pain.” Neuroscience letters 520, no. 2 (2012): 165-173.|
|6.||↑||Self Help and Alternative Strategies to Ease Headache Pain. The Patient Education Center.[ref] [ref]Six relaxation techniques to reduce stress. Harvard Health Publications.|
|7.||↑||Hot and Cold Packs/Showers. National Headache Foundation.|
|8.||↑||Borhani Haghighi, A., S. Motazedian, R. Rezaii, F. Mohammadi, L. Salarian, M. Pourmokhtari, S. Khodaei, M. Vossoughi, and R. Miri. “Cutaneous application of menthol 10% solution as an abortive treatment of migraine without aura: a randomised, double‐blind, placebo‐controlled, crossed‐over study.” International journal of clinical practice 64, no. 4 (2010): 451-456.|
|9.||↑||Can Mint Make Migraines Less Miserable?. The Wall Street Journal.|
|10.||↑||Zargaran, Arman, Afshin Borhani-Haghighi, Pouya Faridi, Saeid Daneshamouz, Gholamreza Kordafshari, and Abdolali Mohagheghzadeh. “Potential effect and mechanism of action of topical chamomile (Matricaria chammomila L.) oil on migraine headache: A medical hypothesis.” Medical hypotheses 83, no. 5 (2014): 566-569.|
|11, 15.||↑||Chhater, Singh, A. K. Jain, Agarwal Kshitij, and Verma Santosh. “NATURAL THERAPY OF MIGRAINE.”|
|12.||↑||Cayenne. Blue Shield of California.|
|13.||↑||Maghbooli, Mehdi, Farhad Golipour, Alireza Moghimi Esfandabadi, and Mehran Yousefi. “Comparison between the efficacy of ginger and sumatriptan in the ablative treatment of the common migraine.” Phytotherapy Research 28, no. 3 (2014): 412-415.|
|14.||↑||Sasannejad, Payam, Morteza Saeedi, Ali Shoeibi, Ali Gorji, Maryam Abbasi, and Mohsen Foroughipour. “Lavender essential oil in the treatment of migraine headache: a placebo-controlled clinical trial.” European neurology 67, no. 5 (2012): 288-291.|
|16.||↑||Feverfew. The Migraine Trust.|
|17.||↑||Karen Downes, Judith White. Aromatherapy for Men: A Scentual Grooming and Lifestyle Guide for Every Male Using Essential Oils. Balboa Press, 2011.|
|18.||↑||Lawler, Sheleigh P., and Linda D. Cameron. “A randomized, controlled trial of massage therapy as a treatment for migraine.” Annals of Behavioral Medicine 32, no. 1 (2006): 50-59.|
|19.||↑||Migraine Headache (Holistic). Blue Shield of California.|