Here I begin a short series that hones in on my top picks for treating migraine pain naturally. There are several natural supplements and herbal remedies that just might make painkillers unnecessary — and even shorten the duration of a migraine episode. This is the introduction to that series.
Migraine is a very common headache that hits about 28 million people in the U.S. It costs $13.0 billion a year in lost work hours in the country. Still, over $4.0 billion is spent a year on over-the-counter painkillers for various types of headache. Many are not effective.
There are essentially two types of migraine: common and classic. This major difference between is that the classic type is accompanied by an “aura” or warning symptoms preceding the onset of headache. The common type does not have the aura. The aura typically consists of visual disturbance, such as seeing stars or blind spots in front of their eyes.
In 50% of cases, the cause is unknown, but likely related to genes, since 90% of “migraineurs” have at least one affected family member. However, in the other 50%, one or more of the following triggers could be identified:
- Foods: chocolate, red wine, cheese, smoked fish, chicken livers, figs, fruits such as citrus, banana, avocado, nitrate-containing foods such as salami, cured meats, hot dogs, bacon, pickled foods
- Smoking or tobacco smoke
- Sleep duration too long or too short
- Estrogen levels: related to a fall or change in sex hormone levels associated with menstrual cycle or oral contraceptives
- Others: flashing lights, exercise, anxiety, and travel, odors such as perfume, monosodium glutamate, loud noises, and caffeine
The migraine headache has the following characteristics: pounding headache; pain most intense around the side of the forehead; begins on one side and then spreads to both sides; and lasts anywhere from six to 48 hours.
The drugs most commonly used to treat migraine suffers are triptans. After taking them, 20% to 50% of patients are pain-free with recurrence in 25% to 45% of these patients. It is not surprising that many migraine sufferers resort to alternative treatment, including various dietary supplements, acupuncture, and biofeedback. The purpose of my article is to critically examine the proof or lack thereof regarding natural medicines for migraine.