Migraine Headaches and Herbal Medicine
Migraines are debilitating. The only refuge when a migraine attacks
is a dark quiet room. Hopefully, sleep brings relief.
Life stops with a migraine. There is no way one can work,
engage with others or enjoy the simple pleasures of life.
The fact that there has been a 50% increase in the occurrence of
migraines in the last 20 years is alarming.
Migraines, like any chronic illness, generally have a number
of triggers. To relieve migraines, it is important understand
the pattern in which the headaches occur. Once the pattern is
understood and the triggers discovered, herbs,
dietary and lifestyle changes can be used to
reduce the number and the severity of the
Discovering the Triggers for Your Migraine
To begin, ask the following questions. Are the headaches
are associated with certain foods, stress, lack of sleep,
florescent lights, alcohol or premenstrual hormonal flux? Do
migraines run in the family? Are they associated with
What is the mood of the person experiencing the headaches? What is their personality like? What events lead up to the headache and how is it resolved? Keeping a record of the events surrounding
each headache will reveal the headaches’ pattern and their
Frequently dietary changes are necessary to relief from
migraines. The primary food culprits of migraines are chocolate,
aged cheese and red wine, processed meats containing nitrates
and foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG). One
person I know wakes with a migraine if she eats a banana
Other foods associated with migraines are avocadoes, tomatoes,
dairy products and canned fish. In my experience, these foods
must be avoided when the pattern alerts to the possibility of
For example, if stress is a trigger for a migraine, do not try
to relieve stress with red wine or chocolate. The two triggers
combine produces the migraine. Instead choose exercise to
let go of the tension.
Regular exercise can reduce the numbers and severity of
migraines. Currently, fluctuating serotonin levels are seen as part of the migraine picture. Exercise increases and helps the body maintain serotonin levels. Exercise, that is non-competitive and focuses on releasing tension are the most effective, for example yoga or Ti chi.
Choosing Herbs Specific to Your Migraine
If choosing herbs to relieve migraines it is important to keep in mind that there is not specific herb or group of herbs that will always bring relief. If using herbs holistically, it is important to remember help the person and not just get rid of the migraines. There are however, a few general guidelines.
The first step in reducing the number and severity of migraines is gentle cleansing. Herbs like dandelion root and leaf (Taraxacum officinalis) help remove toxins from the body via the liver without the headache, nausea and fatigue associated with aggressive cleanses. A tea of nettles (Urtica dioica), cleavers (Galium aparine) and red clover (Trifolium pretense) will nourish the body with minerals and vitamins while gently cleansing.
Releiving Tension with Herbal Medicine
If the migraine is associated excess tension the herbal apothecary has much to offer. Sculcap (Scutellaria laterfolia) quietens an overactive mind. Valarian (Valarianna officinalis) relaxes muscular tension. Oats (Avena sativa) soothes frayed nerves. Peppermint (Menthe piperita) eases a sensitive stomach, often associated with migraines and Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) settles an anxious heart. A combination of these herbs brings on the relaxation necessary to ward off a migraine.
If the migraines are premenstrual, herbs that help balance the sex hormones are essential. The queen of these herbs is vitex (Vitex angus-castus). Vitex, formerly known as chaste berry, was used to depress the libido of monks in the middle ages. Now it is the most commonly used herb to relieve menstrual irregularities, including PMS with migraines. Adding vitex to the above formula along with dietary changes and regular exercise can decrease the frequency and intensity of migraine headaches.
The final key to relieving migraines is an attitude change. The serenity prayer, is a powerful medicine for those who suffer with migraines. It goes like this:
Grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.