Migraine sufferers have additional symptoms to headaches and probably different causes; a migraine can last up to 3 days. Migraines are most common between the ages of 20 to 50 in about 15% of the population. Sufferers often report an “aura” before the migraine starts such as seeing flashing lights, confusion or weakness. Migraine symptoms may include:
· Nausea and vomiting
· Sensitivity to light
· Sensitivity to sound
· Affected vision
· Sensitivity to smell and touch.
It's thought that migraine symptoms occur when there is a sudden change in the level of a chemical in the brain called serotonin. This affects other neurotransmitters and causes changes in the blood vessels in the brain. Migraines are more common in people with depression which can also present with lowered serotonin levels.
Hormone changes can cause migraines in some women whether linked to the monthly cycle, prescribed hormone therapy or body changes such as in the menopause.
Some people may have triggers which set off an attack such as oranges, caffeine or alcohol in the diet.
Migraine sufferers may have busy lives and some meditation or therapies for relaxation may help.
Herbs that may help migraines
Some herbs can be used as a preventative such as bay and feverfew and others have analgesic properties such as willow. Herbs which help to calm the body such as passion flower may help and maybe treating depression if present could help, St John’s Wort springs to mind here. It would appear that other herbs which may be useful are gingko and garlic which can help with the circulation to the brain.
Bay is an important herb for migraines as it may prevent them. Take as soon as symptoms are felt.
Cayenne is a type of pepper. Recent evidence has proved that it helps with cluster headaches.
Chamomile is known to be a good for headaches. It is naturally relaxing and can help with the upset stomach and nausea that migraines can cause. Because it is a mild sedative it can help a person relax which often helps to ease pain.
Feverfew is best used as a preventive treatment. A substance found in Feverfew known as parthenolide is said to be the one that helps get rid of migraines, it inhibits the release of substances that dilate blood vessels which contributes to pain. A decrease in serotonin levels in the brain can cause migraines; low levels can also contribute to depression. Parthenolide works in conjunction with other active ingredients in Feverfew to regulate the serotonin levels.
Feverfew can be made into a tea or the leaves can be chewed (3 a day), putting the leaves between bread in a sandwich may help make it more palatable. The plant is bitter tasting and needs to be taken for about 3 weeks for there to be a good effect in preventing migraines but many people report relief soon after chewing a leaf. In research studies feverfew has been shown to be effective for migraines but one Dutch study found no improvement, this study used a tincture instead of fresh or dried leaf.
Garlic & onion reduce clotting which may lead to migraines so there is a constant stream of blood to the brain so there’s no “rush” leading to a migraine.
Ginger is cited here in a case study that was published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. A woman substituted her conventional anti-migraine drugs with ginger. She drank 500mg to 600mg of ginger powder mixed with water, four times a day, for four days, beginning at the onset of a migraine aura. Her condition improved within 30 minutes. Her continued use of fresh ginger in her diet resulted in fewer number of migraine attacks over a year.
Gingko Biloba improves the blood flow and thus ensures better oxygen supply to the brain. It is also good for memory and attention.
Passionflower is a well-known calming herb; it lowers anxiety, relieves pain and is anti-inflammatory so helps more than one symptom.
Skullcap is used for relaxation which relieves stress and tension.
Willow contains salicylic acid which is found in aspirin and acts to decrease inflammation and pain. It should be taken for longer durations for better results. The University of Michigan suggests that although it may take longer to feel the effects of willow than aspirin, the willow effects can last longer.
Wood Betony is a nerve tonic, it calms and relaxes, helping to relieve stress and tension.
1-2 drops of peppermint in carrier oil rubbed on the brow area can bring relief, too much can cause headaches. Rosemary or lavender oil diluted and rubbed onto the affected area can also help.