The Curable Migraine

What actually works to end migraines once and for all? Or at least make life with them bearable? I’ve never had one, but the suffering I’ve seen in friends prompts me to write this. Approximately 12 million people in the US have migraines every year. They tend to run in families and women are three times more likely to have them than men.

Unfortunately, suffering isn’t the entire story. Recent research from clinical studies on rats at the Rochester Medical Center indicates migraines actually induce a form of brain damage. During an attack swelling in some parts of the brain deprive it of oxygen. Persistent attacks cause brain cell death since these cells are extremely sensitive to inadequate oxygen.

Also, migraine sufferers are more prone to strokes.

Could these headaches be inflicting their torture as a sign that something is seriously wrong and MUST be treated? It doesn’t help that migraines have an air of mystery about them. There are different theories about what causes them. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic think they’re caused by a nervous system disorder affecting the trigeminal pathway (stretching from the brain stem to the head). Some think its related to low levels of serotonin.

They can be triggered by such things as stress, medications,lack of sleep, excessive exercise, skipping meals, msg, glaring lights, female hormones, caffeine, odors, alcohol. The first step is to figure out what’s triggering the attacks, a journal helps.

While herbal lore has plenty of recommendations, I decided to go to the migraine sufferers themselves and find out what worked for them. My big surprise was finding so many effective self-treatments. It’s not just feverfew, folks! Here’s a sampling of what I found (kept anonymous) :

  • Apply cold packs to the neck while soaking the feet in a very hot bath. Drink lots of feverfew tea and water (some migraines are caused by lack of water), and take copious amounts of Dr. Christopher’s Herbal calcium. Try to enjoy the bath.
  • Dong Quai tincture helps prevent them. (Makes sense if they’re triggered by hormonal changes since this herb regulates female hormones)
  • Cayenne sprinkled on food or in juice (try tomato juice) to relieve pain
  • Passionflower for its relaxing effect
  • Tilden flower for migraines associated with high blood pressure
  • At the first sign, dip a toothpick in cayenne and sniff it in each nostril
  • Increased intake of folic acid and other B vitamins can reduce frequency and severity. (This was confirmed by a study at the Genomics Research Center at Australia’s Griffith University).
  • A lot of success is reported by using a special extract of Butterbur (Petasites hybridus), marketed as Petadolex. It should be used several months and after a period of “being free” of migraine, one tapers off of it. Not all Butterbur products are safe, stick with the Petadolex, 50-100 mcg. twice daily with meals.
  • Someone else found using a magnetic  therapy pillow case helpful.
  • Someone wrote: “Marjoram tea relieved my migraine. I’ve suffered from migraines for over 20 years and have tried most medications OTC & prescriptions. I know most of my triggers but sometimes one sneaks up on me anyway. I found a remedy online and now its all I use. I steep 1 1/2 – 2 tsp of marjoram in a small 2 cup teapot and drink it. After one cup I find relief from the pain and foggy head feeling.”
  • Another, “I run menthol-camphor ointment all over my temples and forehead and put a small amount just under my nose and it begins to relieve the tension in my head and put me to sleep.”
  • This one was different, “Get yourself a really thick milkshake and suck it through a straw as fast as you can. Don’t eat it slowly. The speed plus the cold and stop the pain in minutes.” I wonder what flavor?
  • “Magnesium. Up to 50% of patients experiencing an acute migraine attack have low levels of magnesium. One study showed that migraine attacks were reduced by 41.6% in those who participated in regular magnesium supplementation.
  • Take 5-HTP in the morning. It’s the precursor to serotonin. Migraines are caused in part by low serotonin, when serotonin levels are low, blood vessels dilate. Therefore, increasing serotonin may be helpful in preventing migraines. Supplement with CoQ10. In one key trial, 61.3% of migraineurs who supplemented with CoQ10 during a four-month trial reduced occurrence of migraine attacks by at least 50%
  • Add coconut and flaxseed oil to your diet
  • Eat plenty of unrefined low-glycemic carbohydrates (brown rice, sprouted grains, winter squash)
  • Limit fruits that have a high glycemic index such as apricots, raisins, banana, papaya, mango
  • Eat plenty of vegetables and vegetable juices
  • Drink clean water throughout the day
  • Stay away from coffee (substitute with Ganocafe)
  • Tian ma mi huanjun pian is cheap and effective. Available from chinese medical shops.
  • Inhaling lavender,eucalyptus, or peppermint oil. Dab some diluted peppermint oil to your temple. An eye pillow stuffed with lavender helps.
  • Rub half a lime on your forehead.
  • Rub the area right above your eyebrows slowly in a circular motion.
  • A study at Michigan State University suggests that apples act as a tranquilizer. The study reveals that eating 2 apples a day reduces tensions, headaches, and emotional upsets.
  • Apply a cold compress of witch hazel over the forehead.
  • Spicy soups will cure a migraine. Its the hot peppers that do it.
  • One woman gets relief if one has just started by juicing 4 grapefruits, or eating a lettuce, and doing EFT.
  • Research was done with niacin. At the first sign of aura, 300-500mg of niacin were ingested orally, slightly chewing the pills. Best on an empty stomach. Migraines were resolved when the flushing occurred. See this study here.
  • Others have had success with oil pulling. One Tbs of oil every morning. For instructions on oil pulling go here and here.

Yikes, I’m only about half-way through my list of remedies! I’d be interested in finding out what success readers have with the above. If still more are needed, I’ll whip out another blog post. Please do let us know what works for you…


About dcoda

An herbalist for over 40 years, ten years spent alone in the Ozark Hurricane Creek Wilderness Preserve, working with its brilliant botanicals. I'm an instructor and co-founder of the Ozark Herbal Academy which offers training in medicinal and edible plants through hands-on workshops and online courses.

Posted on January 30, 2011, in Conditions and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. My remedy, or rather, suppressor is Kosher pickle juice and a good hot bath to completely submerge myself in. The pickle juice has to be the kind with all the spices visible in it, not the un-spiced types. If I can’t get rid of the migraine when I feel it coming on, then I begin sipping pickle juice. I’m not sure what the vinegar & spices are flushing out (toxins?) because my migraines are brought on by high pressure weather systems not foods.

    The pickle juice settles my nausea, gives a boost of energy, removes the fogginess, makes light more tolerable…you name it, and it relieves it considerably. Granted its not a quick-fix, but it definitely works. And when I’m crawling around the house because I can’t get vertical, I’ll do anything to feel even slightly better!

    The teas, etc. never seem to work for me. But, the Kosher pickle juice and a good hot bath work wonders.

  2. I’ve since made my own pickle juice to have available to sip on, but I also have Claussen because I prefer their specific pickles and I hate them getting dried out because I drink all the juice their in! So, I have both.

    As for figuring it out, it was odd. I would crave the pickles in the fridge but then I’d throw them back up, but I’d have energy and no nausea. Go figure. So, I tried just sipping the juice – no throwing up and my energy improved, my mind was clearer, and I recouped quicker.

    So now, I make sure to always have the jar of pickles and the extra jar of homemade pickle juice….I’m still trying to perfect my recipe to match that of Claussen’s – its getting there, but its not quite “right” yet. The herbs are all the same, but the quantities must be different. Also, the homemade batch doesn’t work quite as well. I’m thinking it has more to do with the pickles (cucumbers) themselves than the spices. Still experimenting to determine this….but as it has to be done when I have a migraine, and the mind isn’t really in “analysis” mode, that makes experimentation a bit slow! lol

    As I figure out more I’ll let you know, if you’d like. Of course, if others try this then there’d be more doing the experimenting and we might figure it out quicker! 🙂

  3. Sometimes those cravings are telling us something we need to pay attention to! I do hope a few other folks will try this and let us know what happens. Given the variety of ways people do manage to get a handle on migraines its clear that one needs to have an experimental attitude, and what you’ve shown us — that the body’s cravings just might provide a clue. “Body Wisdom” & pickle juice… !!!

  4. Hot bath is helpful for me, since it draws the blood to the improved circulation in body parts other than the head, thanks to the heat. But I LOVE pickles, so will try this.

  5. I’ve finally perfected by pickle juice recipe and add it to the pickles, since the juice was depleted long before the pickles – and I hated throwing out all those poor, wrinkled pickles!

    I’ve also taken to having a good drink of it once a day (right from the jar – yucky, I know, but I’m the only one here that likes pickles, let alone their juice!). So far, even when the high pressure weather is here I can feel the pressure, but no migraine. I really wish mine were food oriented – I can control that! But I certainly can’t control the weather.

    But do post if you notice a difference for yourself. I’d be interested in seeing if it could be universal or if its just specific to myself….which I can’t imagine, honestly.

    Another “side effect” of the pickle juice (and this has to be the vinegar) is that “certain (personal) body odors” are gone….almost “sweet” smelling.

  6. I found out I was allergic to tomatoes and a few other things. Although I still have mild headaches, they are nothing like they were, since I stopped eating tomatoes. I do have aneurysms in my brain and my mother had a stroke.
    I would suggest anyone who has migraines to get tested for food allergies. I also have SIBO, which was previously dx’d as IBS.

  7. Ginger root or powder also helps, study’s shown that ginger helps prevent migraines before they start.

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