Conditions & Ailments

Treat Migraines with herbal medicine

Learn how herbal medicine can treat painful and debilitating migraines.

What is a migraine?

An estimated 25 million people in the United States suffer from migraines - three out four of these people are women.

A migraine is a severe, throbbing headache that may or may not be accompanied by visual disturbances, nausea and an aversion to light.

The pain normally occurs only on one side of the head. Migraines are associated with disorders of the liver, sight and digestion. Migraines can suddenly occur due to stress and mental tension and overworked muscles in the neck and head. As soon as the person relaxes, the tight muscles expand and stretch the blood vessel walls. The blood pumped with each heartbeat then pushes the blood vessels further causing severe pain.

Migraine attacks can last for hours or even several days and are often preceded by warning signs.

Migraines often show up in childhood as colic, vomiting and abdominal pain, dizziness and severe motion sickness.

Migraines occur most often in people between the ages of twenty and thirty-five, and attacks tend to decline with age. Women who suffer from migraines report a decrease in migraines after menopause.

Symptoms of a migraine

There are usually five phases in a migraine:

1. Before the onset of a headache, there usually are detectable changes in a person's mood, there are problems with memory, speech problems and some people have reported an alteration in one or all five senses.

2. Just before the headache starts, people report seeing flashes of light or patterns of light. Numbness in the hands or the mouth is experienced. This is what is called the aura. A migraine preceded by an aura is called a classic migraine. A migraine without an aura is a common migraine.

3. The headache starts with severe, throbbing pain. As mentioned it occurs on one side of the head, but can occur on both sides. Migraines can often migrate from side to side. Tenderness of the neck and scalp occur. Nausea and vomiting set in. The eyes become sensitive to light and the person suffering from the migraine can be immobilized by the pain.

4. The headache starts to dissipate but nausea might remain.

5. The person may feel tired and lethargic and often will sleep for an extended period.

What causes migraines?

There are a wide variety of triggers associated with migraines.

These can include stress, lack of sleep, changes in the weather, certain foods, bright lights, fluctuations in blood sugar levels, hormonal changes associated with the menstrual cycle or the use of an oral contraceptive, as well as certain liver conditions.

Low blood sugar is frequently associated with migraines. Studies have shown that the lower the blood sugar level, the more severe the pain of the migraine can be.

Early research has described migraines as vascular headaches due to excessive contraction or dilation of the brain's blood vessels.

Recent research has brought more information to light. The inflammation of a migraine is more noticeable in the meninges - the three membranes surrounding the brain and the spinal cord. Stimulation of the nerve that runs from the brain to the head and face appears to trigger the release of substances that induce inflammation and trigger pain receptors in the meninges.

Some doctors have compared migraines to meningitis as the symptoms are very similar; however meningitis is caused by viral or bacterial infection.

There are certain underlying causes of migraines that make an individual more susceptible to triggers of a migraine attack. These include genetic factors, poor nutrition, chemical imbalances in the brain and the overuse of painkillers.

The overuse of painkillers cause "rebound headaches." A rebound headache occurs when a headache or migraine sufferer takes high doses of over-the-counter painkillers over extended periods of time. As soon as the effects of these painkillers wear off, the pain returns, often more severe than before. This often leads to liver damage.

A fluctuation in the level of the hormone estrogen is a leading cause of migraine attacks in women. The lower the level of estrogen, the higher the chance of a migraine.

How can supplements help me?

The supplements listed below are useful in preventing migraines and may be used in place of prescription medicine. Do not stop taking your prescription medicine, however, without prior approval from your medical practitioner.

Supplements can assist in preventing migraines, but prescription medicine might still be needed to combat a migraine attack which has already begun.

Migraine sufferers should take magnesium and calcium over the long term. These two minerals help to maintain healthy blood vessels.

Feverfew is beneficial in preventing migraines and headaches. This herbal remedy can reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines when taken over extended periods of time. Feverfew blocks the substances that cause blood vessels to constrict and dilate, causing inflammation. It is important to note that Feverfew will not be of use once a migraine attack has begun.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) can also assist to reduce the number of times that migraines occur. Riboflavin increases the energy reserves in brain cells.

To assist your liver to clear toxins from your body, take a Lipotropic combination. Lipotropic combinations are herbal remedies that contain Milk Thistle, Choline, Inositol, Dandelion and other liver cleansing herbs.

Gingko biloba enhances blood circulation to the brain assisting with the prevention of migraines.

Supplement Recommendations

Supplement Recommendations

Supplement

Dosage

Feverfew

250 mg every morning, standardized to contain minimum 0,4 parthenolide

Magnesium / calcium

400 mg magnesium and 100 mg calcium twice a day

Riboflavin (vitamin B2)

400 mg once a day

Gingko biloba

240 mg daily

Lipotropic combination

1 or 2 pills a day

Other recommendations

A diet low in simple carbohydrates and high in protein is beneficial to migraine sufferers. This kind of diet regulates your blood sugar levels, preventing migraines due to low blood sugar.

Eat a diet rich in raw vegetables and fresh fruit.

Avoid foods containing the amino acid tyramine. This includes avocados, bananas, aged meats, canned fish, hard cheeses, red plums and tomatoes. Also try to avoid alcohol.

Avoid foods containing the preservatives monosodium glutamate (MSG) and nitrites. These are found in many processed meats.

Reminder

Please consult your medical practitioner prior to using any herbal medications should you be under their care. Suggestions offered are not intended to replace appropriate medical investigation and treatment.


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