Looking for natural headache and migraine relief remedies? There are a few plant-based therapeutic supplements and essential oils that may help.
“Much has been written and little has been established as to the etiology [causes] of migraine.”
This quote comes from an article by John W. Scott, “Natural History of Migraine,” in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
The publication year, 1941, seems, medically-speaking, like the stone age in comparison to the medical advances of today. However, over 75 years later, researchers still aren’t 100 percent certain what causes migraines.
Without doubt, theories have developed over the decades. And thus, there’s a greater understanding of the underlying causes.
But a theory is just a theory. And if you’re exploring natural headache and migraine relief remedies, there’s more questions than answers.
Consider this quote from 2012, in the journal, Headaches:
“As for mechanisms behind botanical treatments, the lack of funding for studying these agents will continue to retard progress in this area as well, but hopefully the future will bring more concentrated efforts in this field.”
In other words, all-natural solutions might work. But because there’s not enough money for large-scale studies, few medical experts will conclude herbal medicine works.
What are migraines?
We’ll explore natural headache and migraine relief remedies shortly. But just in case you’re wondering how migraines differ from regular headaches, let’s briefly cover this area….
According to this PubMed Health article, a migraine attack starts suddenly with severe pain on only one side of your head. Most often, the pain is much worse than a normal headache. You might have other symptoms as well.
To be classified as a migraine, you need to have experienced typical symptoms at least five times. The frequency of them varies. For some people, it rarely occurs while others may experience them every month. And in severe cases, symptoms can last for a few days.
As for the symptoms, they typically involve pulsating, throbbing or pounding pain on one side of the head. Pain worsens if you’re doing something active. Or, it can also seem to worsen simply with the slightest movement.
In addition, nausea and vomiting or dizziness may present with an attack. Light and/or noise sensitivity is also a typical experience during an attack.
Many people are able to anticipate when an attack is imminent. Visions of flashing lights, strange shapes, or blurry or wavy lines may appear. Difficulty speaking, tingling sensations or even temporary paralysis may manifest as well.
These “aura” disturbances, as the medical condition is referred to, most often lasts for only an hour. However, after the aura (or auras) subside, sufferers aren’t in the clear. After the auras end, typical migraine symptoms persist, sometimes for days.
What causes them?
Again, not much has changed since 1941. Researchers still are not absolutely certain what causes attacks. One theory places the blame on inflammation of blood vessels in the brain. Pain signaling pathways may also play a role.
Stress and anxiety are likely catalysts as well. So, too, are irregular eating and sleeping schedules, both of which, it can be argued, are forms of stress on the body. Likewise, diet may be a stress-related factor in migraine attacks.
Experts recommend keeping a migraine diary. Recording diet, sleep patterns, weather conditions, and mood may help determine if there are any attack patterns.
Natural Headache and Migraine Relief Remedies
There are several so-called “triptan” medications for migraines. However, these pharmaceutical drugs may produce side effects.
According to the Mayo Clinic, side effects of triptans include reactions at the injection site, nausea, dizziness, drowsiness and muscle weakness. In light of this, are there any herbal remedies that may offer relief?
Research in an Italian neurological journal suggests yes. The article says, “There is a growing body of evidence supporting the efficacy of various complementary and alternative medicine approaches in the management of headache disorders.”
The researchers add, “Promising tools to treat migraine patients are herbal products. In particular constituents of Petasites hybridus, Tanacetum Parthenium and Ginkgo Biloba have shown antimigraine action in clinical studies.”
Most likely, you’re familiar with the third herb, ginkgo. But what are the other two?
The common name of “Petasites hybridus” is butterbur. According to Healthline, butterbur root is native to Germany. In research, it demonstrates anti-inflammatory effects.
Several studies suggest taking butterbur extract in doses of 50–150 mg reduces headache symptoms in both adults and children. That sounds very promising.
As for the second herb, “Tanacetum Parthenium,” you can find it in your local health food store as “feverfew”. And hopefully, if you take it, you’ll have fewer fevers. Or more accurately, fewer headaches.
Like butterbur, feverfew plant contains anti-inflammatory properties. Not all studies offer proof it works. However, some studies on it suggest that taking feverfew supplements in doses of 50–150 mg per day may reduce headache frequency.
The article from above in Headaches claims butterbur and feverfew are the two best natural headache and migraine relief remedies. At least that have studied thus far.
The authors of the Headaches article conclude, “They seem to have real potential to help many patients with migraine and perhaps other headache types.”
Home Remedies for Migraine Headaches in Adults
Got essential oils in your medicine cabinet? If not, get some.
Essential oils for headaches may not have a ton of large-scale clinical trials backing it up. However, there’s loads of anecdotal evidence it works. Plus the research that does exist is promising.
So how do oils offer relief? Mostly by reducing stress and relieving inflammation. And the way you use them is as simple as inhaling some (aromatherapy). Or, you can rub some directly on your temples.
Alternatively, you can also use oils on a cold compress, bathtub or in a diffuser. In fact, you can try all these methods until your symptoms subside.
So what are the best oils that act as natural headache and migraine relief remedies?
This study concludes, “10% peppermint oil in ethanol solution efficiently alleviates tension-type headache.”
Three other possibly beneficial oils for migraines are wintergreen, frankincense and marjoram.
When you feel a migraine coming on, placing two drops of frankincense oil on your finger and rubbing it on the roof of your mouth may help.
The co-authors of this study in The Clinical Journal of Pain also recommend magnesium, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), riboflavin (vitamin B2), and alpha lipoic acid. In addition, the researchers say that the second and third best options are buttercup and feverfew, respectively. Magnesium was their top-rated remedy.
There are certain vitamins (in addition to B2) that may lessen the severity of attacks. But the exact vitamins depend on what’s the root cause of the attack.
Researchers think that low levels of the main power-generator of the cells (the mitochondria) might be to blame for migraine attacks.
Another theory is an increase in homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid that’s produced when proteins break down. The more homocysteine you have in your blood, the more inflammation you have.
As for the first theory, the co-authors of this research in BioMed Research International suggest vitamin B2 can be helpful. That’s because riboflavin increase mitochondrial energy.
As for the second theory–high homocysteine–genetic dysfunction such as the MTHFR mutation might be to blame. If this is the case, vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid can decrease the severity of migraine with aura.
But if you have attacks in conjunction with your menstrual cycle, it could be because of increased prostaglandin (PG) levels in the endometrium. In this case, one of the best natural headache and migraine relief remedies is vitamin E. Another anti-PG supplement is vitamin C.
Instant home remedies for headache
If it’s too late to prevent an attack, try using lavender oil. This study says it’s highly effective at reducing migraine pain and symptoms when applied to the upper lip and inhaled.
In addition, make sure you drink lots of water. Also, take a magnesium supplement.
And whatever you do, avoid aged cheeses, fermented foods, beer, wine, smoked fish and cured meats. These foods have high levels of histamine, which triggers inflammation.
Another one of the natural headache and migraine relief remedies you can try is acupuncture.
Although it might be difficult to see an acupuncturist immediately when symptoms present, this study says it works better than a leading prescription drug for chronic migraines.
Hopefully, though, seeing the needles will not stress you out and make your symptoms worse.
What natural remedies do you use for headaches? Leave a comment?