This frequently debilitating, recurring problem, more common in women, can
often be helped by complementary health care approaches. The prognosis
for migraine headaches is favorable if your doctor takes the time to perform
a thorough assessment and helps you learn to avoid migraine triggers, along
with developing an individualized program for you which addresses the underlying
biochemical factors in your system which increase the likelihood of migraines.
With proper understanding of your nutritional status, your hormonal status,
the stressors in our life, and your personal history with migraine (including
therapies tried), your "alternative" health care provider will
be able to develop a course of metabolic therapy for you. If you have frequent
and severe migraines it is important to "rule-out" certain conditions.
Make sure your doctor assures you that you don't have any of the following:
- Brain tumor.
- Carotid aneurysm.
- Meniere's disease.
- Seizure disease.
Conventional medicine frequently cannot provide relief for your mjigraines.
So, you're turned to a good resource for exploring other options. Whatever
method you choose, please stick with it for a minimum of three months.
It is critical to give a new therapy a chance to work.
What kind of Physical Medicine can you use to help migraines?
The breath is a good place to start changing any old pattern. Try doing
relaxation breathing, with consciously slow, deep, even breaths, at some
regular time during the day, every day. Also, regular aerobic exercise
is known to decrease the frequency of migraines. Choose an aerobic activity
that's fun for you, such as hiking, Nordic track, volleyball, or whatever,
and do it 3 times a week for at least 20 minutes.
Hydrotherapy, described at length in the Introduction to Modalities section,
can be very helpful with migraines. Here are some key concepts:
- apply cold wet packs to head, forehead and back of neck. This creates
constriction of the blood vessels and reduces the rushing of blood into
the head, which is frequently a cause of migraines.
- rub finger tips on head, especially around the temples and the nape
of the neck, after dipping them in ice water.
- soak feet in a hot foot bath with apple cider vinegar and peppermint,
to draw blood down to the feet, cleanse the blood and cool it down (with
- for a severe headache, alternate applications of hot and cold wet,
wrung out towels to the head and face. Always end with cold.
- hot hip bath, to draw the blood down from the head.
- alternating hot and cold hip baths
- ice pack to head
- some folks get instant relief by taking a cool enema, because often
migraines are created by toxic wate build-up in the digestive tract.
Also, make sure your spine is in alignment, especially the cervical, or
upper 7, vertebrae. Check with your local osteopath, naturopath or chiropractor.
Some folks find relief from the use of therapeutic ultrasound to the neck
area. Others use a micro-current device called TENS ("transcutaneous
electrical nerve stimulator") which applies a tiny frequency to the
affected nerves, causing conduction to be blocked and pain to be relieved.
TENS units are also believed to stimulate the production of endorphins,
the body's own natural painkillers. This unit is widely used in doctors'
offices, but can easily be used at home. Your doctor may be able to rent
or lend you a TENS unit, or help to to purchase one.
Can Herbal Medicine Provide Relief From Migraines?
Plant medicine has been used for as long as man has begun to fashion tools
from his natural surroundings. Many plants have particular biochemical
properties, usually alkaloids (so called because they render the system
less acid, and more alkaline), which can contol pain, as well as many other
therapeutic effects. Medicinal plants which have analgesic (pain-killing)
action can be toxic, sometimes at what would seem a small dose. Please
consult with a qualified herbalist, naturopath or botanically trained pharmacist
before experimenting with the following plant drugs:
- Atropa belladonna (the active ingridient, atropine, can be toxic
in not very high doses) is useful for cerebral congestion, occipital or
dull frontal ache with malaise, cool skin, mental sluggishness, and unpleasant
- Bryonia alba (White Bryony, can be toxic) for a frontal migraine,
with pain around the eye sockets, for right-sided headache, tenderness on
pressure, and made worse with any motion.
- Cimicifuga racemosa (Black cohosh) is good for congestive migraines,
such as from colds, rheumatism, menstruation.
- Cnicus benedictus: (Blessed Thistle) is specific for strenthing the
function of the liver. This botanical is useful for migraines due to hepatic
problems, such as with a history of hepatitis or alcoholism.
- Gelsemium sempervirens (Yellow Jasmine, which may be toxic in high
doses) is for migraines with acute excessive cerebral bloodflow, which
presents with restlessness and excitability.
- Lavandula officinalis: (Lavender flower) is great for calming the
nervous system. It works through the sense of smell. Rubbing a little
lavender oil on yourr temples, or dropping some in the bath water can be
extremely soothing. For the migraine associated with depression or poor
- Melilotus officinalis: (Melilot flower) for migraines with no known
cause which come on in the cold and leave the entire head sore and tender
to the touch.
- Nepeta cataria: (Catnip) for a nervous headache, because it acts
as a sedative for both cats and humans!
- Passiflora incarnata: (Passion flower) is for the migraine due to
an attack of nervousness, which presents with great fatigue and where the
head feels "full."
- Piscidia erythrina (Jamaican dogwood, can be toxic) for all kinds
of head pain.
- Rosmarinus officinalis: (Rosemary) for the migraine associated with
hypertension (high blood pressure).
- Salix spp.. (Willow, both black and white) for the inflammatory migraine.
This is the plant from which aspirin (acetyl salicylic acid) was first
derived, and like aspirin it reduces pain and inflammation.
- Scutellaria lateriflora: (Skullcap) is a sweet-tasting nerve soothing
- Tanacetum parthenium (Feverfew) is for the migraine which improves
with warm applications. This is a common garden plant and many people with
chronic migraines can prevent them by eating two or three of the Feverfew
leaves every day.
- Valeriana spp. (Valerian root), similar biochemically to valium,
this plant is both sedative and stimulating and works well for the migraine
due to nervous excitability.
- Viscum flavescens, album (Mistletoe. Beware, this plant is toxic
in quite small doses) reduces the increased flow of blood to the brain typical
of migraine states and works well for frequent headache with flushing of
A terrific herbal tea formula to detoxify the system (often the only treatment
needed to prevent or reduce migraines) is:
1 part Chamomile
1 part Hops
1/2 part Skullcap
1/2 part Catnip
1/2 part Oatstraw
1/4 part Peppermint leaf
Your local herbalist can mix up this blend for you, or you can order it
ready-made from Frontier Herbs (1-800-669-3275). Brew one heaping tablespoon
to 1 cup just boiling water. Steep for 3-5 minutes then drink with a touch
of honey 2-3 times daily.
Can Diet and Nutrition Be Used Effectively To Help Migraines?
Yes, absolutely. It may be helpful to begin with a short (5-7 day) therapeutic
fast to rid the body of toxins. Some specific nutritional ideas are:
- if headache is in left side, squirt carrot juice into left nostril;
if on right side, squirt into right nostril, if both sides affected, squirt
into both nostrils
- drink lemon juice and 1/2 tbsp. baking soda mixed in glass of water.
This will help balance the pH of your blood and flush out digestive wastes.
- With a 2 p.m. headache or evening headache try to increase potassium-rich
foods such as various seaweeds (dulse, kelp), sunflower seeds, wheat germ,
almonds, raising, parsley, dates, yams, soybeans, garlic and spinach.
- Take a teaspoon of honey in warm water each morning before eating.
Foods to avoid are:
- any food that causes a bad physical reaction, whether it be the migraine
itself, or fatigue, or indigestion. Try to pay attention to your food intolerances,
and ingest these culprit foods sparingly.
- spicy foods, alcohol, excess stimulation, coffee, caffeine, chocolate,
fried foods, stimulating foods.
Sometimes diet alone is not enough. This is where supplementation with
specific vitamins, minerals or amino acids may be necessary, at least at
first, to bring your metabolism into balance so that you reduce the possibility
for the onset of a migraine. Here is a list of supplements which may help
you; but please consult with a qualified nutritionist or naturopathic physician
- Vitamin B-complex inejcted into the muscle (IM) every 2-10 days
- omega-3 fatty acids (e.g. raw flax or linseed oil, 1 T daily)
- omega-6 fatty acids, found in fish, and olive oil
- Vitamin B3 , 500 mg at the onset of the migraine
- Magnesium 400-800 mg daily, as a muscle and nerve relaxant
- Quercetin , a concentrated bioflavonoid which will help with vascular
tone so that the neck veins are less likely to become engorged with blood,
How Can Homeopathy Help Migraines?
Homeopathy is a form of "energy" medicine, which like Traditional
Chinese Medicine uses substances to stimulate your own innate power to heal.
Homeopathic medicine is often touted as the "medicine of the 20th
century" by its proponents because it uses miniscule doses of plants,
minerals or animal parts to produce "remedies" with very little
resultant environmental damage. The following remedies may be considered:
- Aconitum napellus for a headache that is hard to describe; comes
with great violence: wild, tearing and burning in brain, scalp; with fear,
fever and anguish; fullness, throbbing in left forehead and strong beats
in right side by fits; skull feels constricted by the feeling of a band
around the forehead.
- Anthracinum for a headache that feels as if a hot, searing pain was
passing through head; for the migraine which creates dullness, confusion,
dizziness, or loss of consciousness.
- Apis mellifica for a migraine which is primarily localized in the
occiput, with occasional sharp shrieks; pains like bee-stings; no thirst,
easy sweating; this migraine is worse from heat and a warm room; better
in a cold room, in cold air, and with cold applications.
- Argent metallicum for the migraine that comes on at noon along with
other troubles; pressing, burning pain in skull; the pain gets gradually
more violent and then suddenly ceases.
- Argent nitricum for the migraine that includes an all-over ache and
fatigue; plus a feeling of expansion, as if the head were enormously enlarged;
the patient wants cold air, cold drinks, cold things; craves sweets; is
beset by strange notions and impulses.
- Arnica montana for burning in head, the patient feels as though the
brain were hot but the rest of body feels cool; a migraine with aching pains
over eyes, radiating to the temples; pain shoots through the head from coughing,
sneezing; or a migraine from injuries to the head, such as a concussion.
- Arsenicum album for periodic headache every other day, every 4th
day, 7th, l4th; very congestive headache; chilly; the patient desires the
body warm and the head cold; the head throbs, the patient complains of a
burning feeling accompanied by restlessness and anxiety; has a slight thirst
but drinks often, in sips and is worse after midnight.
- Belladonna for a migraine that presents with great violence, comes
and departs suddenly, lasts indefinitely; congestion; throbbing in brain,
violent throbbing and cutting stabs; worse from jerking motion (walking,
going upstairs), stooping; bursting pain as if brain was pressed out; worse
from noise, light, lying; better with pressure, drawing head back.
About The Author
A graduate of Bastyr University in Seattle, she completed both the Naturopathic and Acupuncture/Oriental Medicine programs. Her preceptor work (similar to residencies) took place in Seattle, West Virginia and China, with emphasis on gynecology, counseling, herbal medicine and naturopathic manipulation...more