Migraine
38 Case Studies
17 Member Stories
35 Research

Natural remedies for migraines and headaches from a life long Vaidya and researcher in Ayurveda.

What is a migraine?

Ranked sixth among disability causing diseases by the World Health Organisation (WHO), migraine is a primary headache disorder that is characterized by recurring attacks. Attacks typically include headache of moderate or severe intensity, mostly one-sided, pulsating in quality that is aggravated by routine physical activity, accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Duration of a migraine attack may vary from few hours to 2-3 days. Attack frequency is anywhere between once a year and once a week. In children, attacks tend to be of shorter duration and abdominal symptoms are more prominent. Natural remedies for migraine may help in managing the associated pain.

See: Migraine diet

How does migraine impact society?

Migraine is an intense and frequently painful type of headache. The term migraine comes from the Greek word hemikrania, meaning "half the head," since the classic migraine headache affects only one side of the individual's head. Migraines affect as many as 24 million people in the United States, and are responsible for billions of dollars in lost work, poor job performance, and direct medical expenses. Approximately 18% of women and 6 percent of men experience at least one migraine attack per year. Presently, just 1 in 11 Americans now suffers from migraines, more than three times as many are women, with most of them being between the ages of 30 and 49.

Two types of migraine are known. Eighty percent of migraine sufferers experience "migraine without aura" (common migraine). In "migraine with aura," or traditional migraine, the pain is preceded or accompanied by visual or other sensory disturbances, including hallucinations, partial obstruction of the visual field, numbness or tingling, or even a feeling of heaviness. Symptoms are often most prominent on one side of the body or head, and might start as early as 72 hours before the onset of pain. Natural ways to get rid of migraine depend on the type of migraine one has.

About 18% women and 6% men around the world suffer from migraine. According to the Global Burden of Diseases (GBD, 2000), a report released by the WHO, migraine was ranked 19th; when it first featured in the list of top causes of years lived with disability (YLDs) worldwide. However, the disease has ascended to sixth position as per GBD 2013. The WHO attributes 1.3% of all years lost to disability to migraine. 

Besides causing debility, migraine brings substantial socioeconomic loss as well. 90% migraine sufferers report functional impairment during migraine episodes and over half report that their severe headaches result in substantial impairment of activity or the need for bed rest. 53.7% report that migraine episodes were associated with severe impairment or the need for bed rest, with just 7% reporting lack of impairment.

To measure its impact, let us look at some global reports. For instance, according to the data of Hu et al. [Compiled from 1994 MEDSTAT medical claim data], the employers annually lose out an estimated $13 billion, if they employed migraineurs, this estimate is based on missed workdays and functional impairment in the workplace, with approximately $8 billion directly attributed to missed workdays. Direct costs for migraine care on an annual basis were estimated at approximately $1 billion. In the United Kingdom, some 25 million working- or school-days are lost every year because of migraine alone. 

See: Migraine Supplements

What Causes Migraine?

Researchers believe that migraine has a genetic cause. We still don’t understand the causes of migraine very well. But, a few factors trigger the onset of the excruciating pain--migraine. These factors can be dietary, environmental and lifestyle changes.

With fast changing lifestyle, intensity of migraine is induced because of stress, hunger, fatigue and hormonal influences, such as menarche, use of oral contraceptive, pregnancy, pre-menopause and menopause. In migraine without aura, these hormonal influences play a greater role. In many cases, intake of certain food items aggravates migraine symptoms. In several cases, dieting, delayed or irregular meals, dehydration, alcohol consumption, food containing high content of tyramine (such as dairy, meat, poultry and fish products), caffeine (such as tea and coffee) trigger migraine attacks. But in some cases, specific foods such as chocolate, citrus fruit or cheese may also trigger migraine. In fact, the environment also plays a significant role in migraine. Exposure to sun or any bright light, smoke, crowded places, loud noise, or any climatic change such as high humidity or very cold temperatures can trigger migraine.

See: Migraines vs Headaches treatment

Types of Migraine

There are many types of migraine, with different symptoms and natural healing methods.


a) Migraine without aura

This is the most frequent type of Migraine. Symptoms include moderate to severe pulsating headache pain that occurs without warning and is usually felt on one side of the head. It comes along with nausea, confusion, blurred vision, mood changes, fatigue, and increased sensitivity to light, sound, or smells. Attacks typically last 4-72 hours, and they repeat a few times a year to a few times a week. Depending on the type of migraine, one can learn how to get rid of the headache naturally.

 See: Home remedies for Migraines

b) Migraine with aura

This type of Migraine includes visual disturbances and other neurological symptoms that appear about 10 to 60 minutes before the actual headache and usually last no more than an hour. Patient may temporarily lose part or all of his vision. The aura may occur without headache, which can strike at any time. Less frequent aura symptoms include an abnormal sensation, numbness, or muscle weakness on one side of the body, a tingling sensation in the hands or face, trouble speaking, and confusion. Nausea, loss of appetite, and increased sensitivity to light, sound, or noise may precede the headache.

 

c) Chronic migraine

Characterized by headaches occurring on 15 or more days per month for more than 3 months, which have the features of Migraine headache on at least 8 days per month. They can be with or without aura, they usually require preventive medications and behaviors to control, and they are often disabling. After drug withdrawal, about half of Chronic Migraine patients revert to Episodic Migraine and half do not. Preventive habits are highly advised to keep the condition from progressing from Episodic to Chronic.

 

d) Menstrual migraine

Menstrual Migraine (MM) develops most frequently in the second decade of life, around the onset of menarche, and prevalence peaks around age forty. ‘Pure menstrual migraine’ affects 10% to 14% of women with migraine and refers to attacks occurring exclusively on days 1± 2 (ie, days -2 to +3 of menstruation in at least two out of three cycles) and at no other time of the month. Close to 60% of women with migraine experience menstrually related migraines. ‘Menstrually related migraine’ affects over 50% of women who have migraine and by definition migraines occur not only in the perimenstrual periods as described, but also at other times of the month. Premenstrual headache occurs earlier in the cycle, typically 2 to 7 days before the onset of menses and may be part of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Migraine attacks may occur before, during, or after menstruation, but attacks associated with menstruation are often more severe, of longer duration, and less responsive to both acute and prophylactic treatment.

 

e) Hemiplegic migraine

A rare but severe form of Migraine that causes temporary paralysis – sometimes lasting several days – on one side of the body prior to or during a headache. Symptoms such as vertigo, a pricking or stabbing sensation, and problems seeing, speaking, or swallowing may begin prior to the headache pain and usually stop shortly thereafter. When it runs in families, the disorder is called Familial Hemiplegic Migraine (FHM). Though rare, at least three distinct genetic forms of FHM have been identified. These genetic mutations make the brain more sensitive or excitable, most likely by increasing brain levels of a chemical called glutamate.

 

f) Migraine with brainstem aura

Mainly affects children and adolescents, this includes Migraine with Aura symptoms that originate from the brainstem, but without motor weakness. It occurs most often in teenage girls and may be associated with their menstrual cycles. Symptoms include partial or total loss of vision or double vision, dizziness and loss of balance (vertigo), poor muscle coordination, slurred speech, a ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and fainting. The throbbing pain may come on suddenly and is felt on both sides at the back of the head.

 

g) Abdominal migraine

Abdominal migraine is an episodic syndrome that may be associated with migraine. Most cases are reported in young children, though it can occur in patients of all ages. As children with an abdominal migraine grow older, about half of them “grow out” of an abdominal migraine by the age of 14-16 years. Typical attacks of a migraine headache are reported by two-thirds of children with an abdominal migraine either concurrently with an abdominal migraine or in the place of an abdominal migraine during late adolescence and early adult life.

 

h) Retinal migraine

A very rare type of Migraine is characterized by attacks of visual loss or disturbances in one eye. These attacks, like the more common visual auras, are usually associated with Migraine headaches.

 

i) Refractory Migraine

A refractory migraine refers to a persistent migraine that is difficult to treat and fails to respond to standard and aggressive treatments. People with refractory migraines do not get relief from acute migraine therapies, and they continue to develop migraines despite preventive therapies. Also, for people with refractory chronic migraines, their headaches severely impact their quality of life and daily functioning.

 

j) Medication overuse headache (MOH)

MOH is caused by chronic and excessive use of medication to treat a headache. It is the most common secondary headache disorder that affects up to 5% of some populations, more women than men. MOH occurs almost daily, is oppressive, persistent and often at its worst on awakening. It typically occurs in patients with an underlying headache disorder such as a migraine or a tension-type headache that transforms over time from an episodic condition to chronic daily headache due to excessive intake of acute headache relief medications. MOH is a serious, disabling and well-characterized disorder, which has become a worldwide problem and is now considered the third-most prevalent type of headache.

See: Ayurvedic Treatment Protocol For Migraine in 30 yr old female

Symptoms of Migraine

Migraine without aura can be preceded by heightened mood or energy level variation up to a day before the assault. Other pre-migraine symptoms may include fatigue, depression, and excessive yawning.

Aura frequently begins with shimmering, jagged arcs of white or colored light progressing through the visual field in the course of 10-20 minutes. This may be preceded or replaced by dark areas or other visual disturbances. Numbness and tingling are common, especially of the face and palms. These sensations may spread, and may be accompanied by a sense of weakness or heaviness in the affected areas.

Migraine pain can be present only on one side of the head, though it may involve either, or change sides during attacks. The pain is usually throbbing, and may range from mild to incapacitating. It is frequently accompanied by nausea or vomiting, painful sensitivity to light and sound, and intolerance of scents or food. Blurred vision can also be common.

The pain tends to intensify over the first 30 minutes to many hours, and may last from a few hours to a day, or more. Subsequently, the affected individual is usually weary, and sensitive to sudden head movements.

See: Migraine, Body Ache, Anxiety, Depression, & Insomnia with Bisoma & Tetrasoma Acupuncture and Sasang Herbs

Natural Remedies for Migraine

At the beginning of symptoms, in order to find natural ways to get rid of migraine, the migraine sufferer must seek out a quiet, dark area and attempt to sleep.

 

Placing a cold, damp cloth or a cold pack on the brow may help. Additionally, linking a headband closely around the mind can alleviate migraines.

Migraine headaches are often linked with food allergies or intolerances. Identification and elimination of the offending food or foods can decrease the incidence of migraines and/or relieve these headaches altogether.

 

Complementary & Integrative  remedies for migraine may include:

• Acupressure. Pressing on the Gates of Consciousness (GB 20) points may relieve migraine.

• Acupuncture. A National Institutes of Health (NIH) panel concluded that acupuncture may be a helpful treatment for headache. The essential oil rosemary eases migraine pain. Autogenic training is a form of self-hypnosis developed in Germany in the 1930s that's been shown in several studies to alleviate the pain of gout.

Learn more about Acupuncture treatment for migraines.


Ayurvedic therapies for Migraine [See my research,  PMCID: PMC2876931

•Cognitive behavior therapy. Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium), ginger, ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha), linden, wood betony (Stachys officinalis), skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), or cramp bark (Viburnum opulus) may alleviate migraines.

• Hydrotherapy. Contrast showers, where a short hot shower is followed by a longer cold shower, can stop an oncoming migraine. A sexy enema can temporarily relieve migraine pain.

• Naturopathy. Migraine headaches are among the most common reasons for consulting cosmetic practitioners. Naturopaths normally treat migraine with a mixture of supplements and mind/body methods. 

Learn more about Naturopathy for Migraine

• Relaxation techniques. Meditation, yoga, hypnosis, visualization, breathing exercises, or progressive muscular relaxation may stop the progression of a migraine.

See how Yoga for Migraine can help you.


• Nutritional supplements. Clinical studies have shown that vitamin B2 (riboflavin), magnesium, 5-HTP, or melatonin can reduce the severity of migraines.

• Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS). 

See: Ayurvedic herbs for detoxification

Prevention of Migraine

The frequency of migraine headaches may be lessened by avoiding triggers. It's helpful to monitor these causes by maintaining a headache diary.

One material which has been studied as a potential migraine preventive is coenzyme Q10, a compound used by cells to produce energy needed for cell growth and maintenance. Coenzyme Q10 was analyzed as a potential complementary therapy for cancer. Its usage in preventing migraines is reassuring and merits further research. Ongoing work is going on to  find a natural cure for migraine. 

A research published in early 2003 reported that three drugs now used to treat disorders of muscle tone are being explored as potential preventive remedies for migraine. They're botulinum toxin type A (Botox), baclofen (Lioresal), and tizanidine (Zanaflex).

 

A Pure prep made from butterbur root (Petasites hybridus) was marketed in Germany since the 1970s as a migraine Preventive under the trade name Petadolex.  

 

Other possible preventive steps include: eating at regular intervals, maybe not Skipping meals, reducing the use of caffeine and pain-relievers, restricting Physical exertion (especially on warm days), and maintaining regular sleep , But maybe not oversleeping. Other steps include:

• Aerobic exercise, that can reduce the frequency of migraines.

• Biofeedback thermal control was found to be as effective as medications in Preventing migraines.

• Celery juice absorbed twice daily may help to prevent migraines.

• Feverfew was demonstrated to reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. This Herb shouldn't, however, be used during pregnancy or by individuals taking Blood-thinning medications.

• Ginger may help prevent migraines.

A preliminary study found that pulsing Electromagnetic fields reduced the frequency of migraines.

• Supplementation with magnesium and riboflavin was shown to stop migraines

See: Celery Juice Benefits & Side Effects

Case studies of migraine by practitioners

You can gain valuable insight by examining the many migraine case studies and success stories by holistic practitioners the world over. Each case study reflects the challenge and personal approach used based on the patient's background and genetic history. 

These are few examples:

1. Shirodhara and Ayurvedic Therapies for Success Case of Migraine  for 27 year old female

2. Proper Diet Eliminates Chronic Migraine and Brain Fog for 38 year old male

3. Neck & Knee Pain, Depression, and Migraine with Bisoma & Tetrasoma acupuncture and Sasang herbs for 45 year old female


You can also find other Member Stories and therapy ideas from experts here.


See: Ginger for migraine pain relief

References

1. medlineplus.gov Migraine

2. NIH: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
3. American Council on Headache Education. Migraine: The Complete Guide. New York: Dell, 1994.
4. Pelletier, Kenneth R., MD. The Best Alternative Medicine, Part II, “CAM Therapies for Specific Conditions: Headaches.” New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.
5. Bendtsen, L. “Sensitization: Its Role in Primary Headache.” Current Opinion in Investigational Drugs 3 (March 2002): 449–453.

6. Pubmed: PMC2876931
  7. Corbo, J. “The Role of Anticonvulsants in Preventive Migraine Therapy.” Current Pain and Headache Reports 7 (February 2003): 63–66.
8. Danesch, U., and R. Rittinghausen. “Safety of a Patented Special Butterbur Root Extract for Migraine Prevention.” Headache 43 (January 2003): 76–78.
9. Diamond, S., and R. Wenzel. “Practical Approaches to Migraine Management.” CNS Drugs 16 (2002): 385–403.

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