Throbbing pain that may be worse on one side of the head plagues over 36 million American migraine sufferers. Vision problems with extreme light and sound sensitivity may occur. You also might experience nausea and vomiting. These and other debilitating symptoms can hinder your work and other daily activities.
If untreated or misdiagnosed as sinus or tension headaches, migraine attacks may last four hours to three days. Finding an effective treatment combination to manage your migraines can be challenging. While most people take prescription medications like Maxalt (Rizatriptan) and traditional over-the-counter pain relievers, many migraine sufferers are finding relief by adding herbal remedies.
Cultures around the globe have used Mother Nature’s medicinal plants to treat headaches and other common migraine symptoms for thousands of years. Modern clinical trials testing ancient herbal traditions found the following supplements help people cope with migraines. Consult your doctor about combining herbal remedies with prescriptions to avoid any possible adverse reactions.
In China, caffeinated teas were common throughout the Ming Dynasty, and they became popular in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries. Traditional Chinese medicine combined green tea with other herbs for migraine pain. People in most cultures drank caffeine for headaches, high blood pressure, circulatory problems, inflammation and other conditions.
Research of combining caffeine with other pain relievers considers it a useful and safe additive for many migraine patients. Today, caffeine is a common over-the-counter migraine medication ingredient. However, if caffeine intake or withdrawal triggers your migraines, avoid it.
Ancient Greeks used feverfew, or featherfew, to treat fever, swelling and inflammation in the fifth century B.C. By the first century, this herb became an ache and pain reliever or medieval aspirin for headaches. Feverfew has been a European folk remedy for headaches, migraines and other pains for centuries.
Some studies indicate that feverfew can help prevent and treat migraines. In one study, participants who took the herb for up to six months experienced fewer headaches. When they switched to a placebo, their headaches tripled. Native to the Balkan Mountains, this plant grows nearly worldwide now. Current treatments include migraines, dizziness and inflammation. Some cultures eat fresh leaves, but feverfew supplements and extracts are more common
The Chinese have used ginger as an herbal medicine for over 2000 years. This tropical Asian plant has been popular in Indian and Arabic medicine since ancient times. Traditionally, this spice is a remedy for headaches, nausea and other conditions. A study showed a sublingual feverfew and ginger combination stopped or relieved migraine pain in the majority of participants. Most people can tolerate fresh or dried ginger root, supplements and extracts.
Traditional Chinese medicine used Japanese honeysuckle, native to Asia, to treat many conditions. It took root in North America in the 1800s. Research found anti-inflammatory properties in this plant’s stems, leaves and flowers provide pain relief similar to aspirin, so it may be effective for migraines.
Known for its sweet smell, lavender oil comes from fragrant lavender plant flowers. Because of lavender oil’s antimicrobial properties and clean scent, Romans, Grecians and Persians added it to baths to treat headaches, stress and fatigue, and Ancient Egyptians used it during the mummification process.
Using lavender oil during a migraine may help calm or overcome some symptoms more quickly. Breathe in the oil or apply a diluted solution to your temples. While lavender is indigenous to the mountainous regions surrounding the Mediterranean, it grows widely throughout North America, Europe and Australia today.
The British documented the peppermint plant that grows throughout North America, Europe and Asia as a species in 1696. Since then, peppermint leaves and essential oil have become popular medicinal and culinary ingredients. Peppermint oil and menthol, its active ingredient, are available in liquid capsule form. Research shows applying a 10-percent menthol solution to the forehead and temples stops migraine pain while easing nausea.
History traces valerian back to ancient Greece and Rome from the time of Hippocrates. In the 1500s, it became a cure-all for many ailments including headaches. Its sedative properties relax migraine’s over-contracted muscles and tension. Although valerian is native to Europe and Asia, it’s common in North America today. Typical use is as a supplement, dried root tincture or tea.
In 400 B.C., patients chewed willow tree bark for its anti-inflammatory and fever-relieving effects. People in China and Europe used it later for headaches and other pains. Aspirin owes its pain-relieving, fever-reducing and anti-inflammatory origin to willow extract from this tree that grows in North America, Europe and Asia.
A study found that taking 300-milligram willow extract and feverfew supplements twice daily for 12 weeks reduced migraine frequency, intensity and duration significantly. In another trial, topical applications of willow’s salicin extract relieved pain and reduced migraine duration.
Monitor Your Condition to Optimize Your Migraine Relief
Keeping a migraine journal or using a smartphone migraine app can help you and your doctor monitor your condition pattern to customize your treatment plan accordingly. Include migraine days, other headache days and symptom-free days. Also track your migraine triggers, symptoms, pain intensity, duration and other related factors such as weather, menstrual cycle and activities. Triggers may include hunger, certain foods, bright or flickering lights, stress, routine changes and hormone fluctuations. Reducing your exposure to your personal triggers can make you less vulnerable to future migraines.