Migraines are on the list of the top 20 medical conditions that are the most disruptive and disabling to our day-to-day lives. The symptoms that accompany a migraine can be extremely challenging to cope with and many people have to seek refuge until a migraine passes. Several home remedies for migraines provide a drug-free way to reduce the severity and duration of your migraine symptoms and stop a migraine the minute it strikes.
What Is a Migraine?
One of the most severe types of headaches, migraines are characterized by throbbing, intense headache pain that typically sticks to either the left or right side of the head. It is believed that an instant change of chemicals in the brain affects activity in the nerve cells and overall blood flow and leads to a migraine developing. Many migraine sufferers must immediately lay down because being up and about intensifies the pain.
How long a migraine persists varies. It can last a few hours or well over 24 hours and can cause you to feel nauseous or even vomit.
Migraine vs. Headaches: What’s the Difference?
The amount of pain you feel and the symptoms you experience will indicate whether you’re dealing with a traditional headache or a migraine. Nerves in the head become very irritated with a migraine and can lead to visual disturbances, pain behind the eyes, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. You will also notice that pain may be more isolated to one side of your head.
Unlike a traditional or tension headache, you may notice a disruption to your eyesight before a migraine hits. These visual cues include zig-zag lines, light flashes, blind spots, auras, and extreme light sensitivity.
Common Migraine Triggers
Migraines are hereditary, so if you have a family history there is a 50-70% chance you will have to contend with migraines too. While genetics play a major role, other factors can trigger migraines, such as changes in barometric pressure, alcohol, sleep deprivation, certain foods and additives, tobacco smoke, perfumes, and hormone fluctuations. Stress is also a big contributor, and many people find a significant connection between migraine development and frequency and daily stress levels.
Identifying personal triggers and properly managing these factors is essential to getting to the root cause of your migraines and hopefully keeping them at bay. If one still manages to pop up, here are some natural remedies that can stop a migraine and provide some much-needed pain relief.
Home Remedies for Migraines
Treatment of migraines centers around finding ways to relieve migraine pain. While over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen can help, if migraine frequency requires you to take them often, you’re vulnerable to side effects such as stomach ulcer, hemorrhage, vomiting, and anemia, which are no more fun than migraines. So without further ado, here are some natural ways to help ease pain during a migraine attack.
1. Ice Pack
If you are looking for instant relief, grab several ice cubes from the freezer, wrap them in a cloth, and hold to the back of your neck, forehead, or temples for several minutes. You can alternate cold compresses with heat if that provides relief and add essential oils like peppermint or lavender oil to increase the pain-fighting power.
2. Peppermint Oil
Peppermint oil is made up of over 40% menthol, which has been shown to soothe migraine symptoms such as nausea and throbbing pain through its anti-inflammatory superpowers. One study found that a menthol-containing gel applied to the base of the skull reduced migraine pain.
To make your own mixture, combine coconut or olive oil with several drops of peppermint oil. If you would like to improve the scent and soothing qualities, add lavender essential oil as well. Using a small amount at a time, rub the oil mixture onto the back of your neck and on your temples and forehead, avoiding your eyes and nose. Peppermint tea can also ease symptoms, especially nausea and an upset stomach.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has been used for centuries as an antiseptic to disinfect wounds. A quick internet search brings up a long list of uses for this liquid. It has a high mineral content, containing iron, calcium, and potassium, and a daily intake of apple cider vinegar can help maintain the body’s acid-alkaline balance.
Add 1-2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water, mix in a spoonful of honey, and drink daily to help prevent and treat migraines. You can also replace half the water with apple juice to lessen the acidic flavor. If the taste does not agree with you, heat equal parts apple cider vinegar with water in a pot and inhale the vapors until you feel headache relief.
Note: apple cider vinegar should always be diluted, as it can damage the throat and break down the enamel of the teeth.
4. Cayenne Pepper
If you want to heat things up and get your blood flowing, try a home remedy of cayenne pepper. This hot pepper contains capsaicin, a compound that increases circulation and minimizes pain. Successful in desensitizing nerve endings, capsaicin sends pain messages to the brain by releasing the neurotransmitter substance P. When you’re in the grips of a migraine and the pain is intense, after consuming cayenne pepper, the nerves sending out pain-inducing chemicals are overwhelmed and then depleted by this substance P.
To make your own homemade remedy, mix 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper with a cup of warm water with lemon juice or honey and drink slowly.
5. Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea not only promotes a good night’s rest but also has anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties for migraine pain relief. German chamomile is the most effective at combating a migraine, so be sure to look closely at the label.
Boil water and add up to 3 teaspoons of chamomile or use a prepared tea bag. Drink 3 times a day until your symptoms let up.
6. Ginger Tea
You may find migraine relief by adding ginger to your arsenal. One study compared the use of ginger with Sumatriptan, a medication used to treat migraines, and ginger was found to be equally as effective at relieving symptoms. A type of lipid called prostaglandins in our tissues and organs influences hormones, muscle contractions, and the brain’s blood flow. It is believed that ginger blocks these prostaglandins, similar to anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin.
Brew a cup of ginger tea with a pre-made tea bag or by crushing fresh ginger root into a cup of hot water.
Found in a cup of your morning coffee or tea, caffeine can provide some relief from migraine pain in its early stages. Blood vessels within your head become enlarged and open right before a migraine strikes. Caffeine helps to constrict these vessels and slow down the flow of blood within your head.
You want to stick to only a cup or two, or 300 mg, daily, as too much of the diuretic can increase dehydration and worsen your symptoms. Some people are sensitive to caffeine and it may be a headache trigger, so trial and error can help determine if caffeine is a migraine maker or inhibitor.
8. Willow Bark
Coined “nature’s aspirin,” willow bark contains anti-inflammatory powers that help relieve pain and calm the inflammation caused by a variety of conditions. The main active ingredient in white willow bark is salacin (fun fact: aspirin’s main ingredient salicylic acid comes from salicin!). Although white willow bark might take longer to take effect, the results will last longer than those produced by most conventional medications. You can find willow bark in capsules, liquid tinctures, and in tea form.
Cherries are packed with potassium, which is linked to headaches and migraine reduction. Plus the antioxidants cyanidin and anthocyanin contained in cherries provide anti-inflammatory benefits that help reduce pain. You can reap the benefits by sipping a glass of tart cherry juice or by eating 20 tart cherries. You can also blend together a cherry smoothie using Veggie Shake powder for an antioxidant punch.
Migraine headaches can be devastating and debilitating, and can be quite challenging when they turn into a chronic problem. As with many conditions, prevention is one of the best remedies against headache and migraine pain. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, exercising regularly, identifying migraine triggers, and adhering to a consistent sleep schedule can help keep migraines away.