Migraines can put a major cramp on your day. Here’s some information that can help you relieve your pain naturally.
You know that feeling…a dull hammer tapping inside your head that turns into a jackhammer? You may be sensitive to light. Simple background noise becomes as unbearable as nails dragging across a chalkboard. Even moving your head becomes a difficult task.
You have a migraine—the seemingly unstoppable monster of all headaches. However, there are some simple remedies you can use to counteract this beast! What causes migraines in the first place? Genetics have an important role in migraines and, these headaches are viewed as a family disorder. If your parents or grandparents suffered from migraines, chances are you do,too.
Hormones are also linked to migraines. A marked association exists between women’s headaches and their menstrual cycles, and in no headache type is this more obvious than in migraines. Researchers suggest that 10 to 20 percent of all women experience some sort of migraine during or around the time of their menstrual period.
Allergies and sensitivities to certain substances are another culprit. A study conducted by Joseph Egger of the Hospital for Sick Children suggests that the percentage of migraines due to allergies is 93 percent. Symptoms for 88 migraine sufferers decreased when sensitivity-causing foods were eliminated from their diet.
People with abnormal copper metabolism tend to be especially given to migraine attacks, while low magnesium sets the stage for headaches to occur. Both of these minerals help metabolize serotonin and amines that expand blood vessels (a migraine is caused by constricted blood vessels). Studies show that not only are brain levels of magnesium reduced during attacks, but that among migraine sufferers, magnesium levels are low even during headache free periods.
Emotional stress and depression are also linked to migraines, but luckily, there are home remedies that can help you curtail the migraine monster.
For wafting relief, fill an aroma lamp, bowl, or diffuser with water and mix in 4 drops of melissa and 2 drops of peppermint or Roman chamomile.
- For a soothing temple rub, combine lavender and peppermint oil. Rub the mixture on your temples for pain relief.
- An aroma soak bath can help any headache in progress. Fill a bath with warm to hot water and add eucalyptus, wintergreen, or peppermint oil and soak for 20 to 30 minutes.
- If you prefer a cool treatment, try an icy migraine compress. Add 2 drops of peppermint, 1 drop of ginger, and 1 drop of marjoram oil to 1 quart of ice water. Soak a clean cloth in the mixture and apply it to your forehead and neck.
- At the first sign of a migraine, make 2 compresses, a lavender and peppermint compress for the forehead, and a hot marjoram for the back of the neck; this combination provides relaxing, stimulating, and vasodilating (stretching blood vessel) effects.
- A helpful aromatherapy steam can be made by pouring 2 pints of boiling water into a large bowl, adding 1 drop melissa, 2 drops of peppermint, and 2 drops of lavender oil. Put your head over the bowl, covering your head and bowl with a large towel. Inhale deeply through your nose for about 10 minutes.
- Some other good oils for migraines are anise, basil, coriander, eucalyptus, lemon, marjoram, onion, and rosemary.
- Vinegar compress: Soak a washcloth with vinegar and place it in the refrigerator until it’s chilled. Then apply the compress to your forehead, temples, and neck. You can also inhale vinegar for even faster relief. Boil equal parts vinegar and water, pour the mixture into a bowl, and place a towel over the bowl and your head as you inhale the rising steam.
- Warm salt packs: To make a salt pack, roast 1 cup of salt in a dry frying pan until the salt is warm to the touch. Be careful not to overheat the salt. Pour the salt into a thin dish towel, then fold it so you can apply it your head; rub the painful areas rather than keeping the pack in one place.
- Herbal foot bath: This is an excellent way to draw blood and congestion away from your head. Place 1 tablespoon of powdered mustard or ginger in a deep basin big enough for both feet. Fill the basin with water as hot as you can bear, then sit in a comfortable chair and slowly immerse your feet in the water. Drape a thick towel over the basin to keep the heat in, and place a cool or cold towel on your neck or forehead. Close your eye and relax, breathing deeply for about 15 minutes.
- Icy foot bath: Fill a basin with ice water and soak your feet. Believe it or not, your feet will actually start to feel warm after a few minutes. When you are finished, dry off, get under the covers of your bed, and relax.
- Cold hip-sitz bath: Fill a tub with 2 inches of warm water. Sit in the tub, and then turn on the cold water and let it run till it covers your hips. Dry off with a coarse towel and cover up. A muscle massage is especially beneficial after this treatment.
- Alternating hot and cold showers: To improve blood circulation, try alternating hot and cold showers once a day for 2 to 3 months; this remedy works to stop vascular-type headaches because the heat further dilates the blood vessels (which may temporarily cause pain) while the cold makes blood vessels contract.
- Cold water and hot water wrist baths: If you feel a headache coming on, fill a sink with cold water, then hot water. Alternate dipping your wrists back and forth until you feel the headache pass.
- Drink a headache tonic: Fill a large pot with water and mix in small pieces of fresh ginger root, coriander seeds, diced garlic, and a little honey to taste. Boil off half the liquid and drink what is left periodically throughout the day.
- Apple cider vinegar and honey tonic: Take apple cider vinegar in water and/or 2 teaspoons of honey every day to help regulate the body’s pH balance. When taken as a rescue remedy, this mixture should stop any headache within 30 minutes. If you don’t like the taste, you can place equal parts apple cider vinegar and water in a steamer, place your face over it with your head covered with a towel, and inhale 75 deep breaths.
- Try 12 almonds: Because they contain the natural aspirin salicin, almonds can offer headache relief.
- A spoonful of honey: Taken at the first inkling of an impending headache, a tablespoon of raw honey can stop a headache. Take a spoonful, wait a half hour, if it doesn’t work, take another tablespoon with 3 glasses of water.
- Wear a headband: In Korea, people tie a cloth snugly around their heads, just above the eyebrows. This remedy has been somewhat validated by Western science: according to one study, wearing a snug elastic headband helped about a quarter of the participants obtain relief of 50 percent or more, possibly because the headband restricts blood flow and prevents the dilation of blood vessels
- The paper bag trick: Because our exhaled breath is composed largely of carbon dioxide, which is known to dilate the cerebral arteries, some say breathing into a bag and inhaling your expired air at the earliest sign of a headache can stop the approaching attack. Try breathing into the bag for 15 to 20 minutes and then lying down for 20 minutes. If the headache has not gone away, repeat the breathing cycle one more time.
- Migraine tea: Use equal parts of loose leaf horehound, meadowsweet, and chamomile to make an infused tea.
In addition to the folk remedies listed above, there are several lifestyle changes that could benefit your attempt to relieve migraine headaches. Often times, migraines come on when the greatest stress is over. To avoid this, wind down slowly rather than suddenly. This gives blood vessels a chance to relax slowly and better handle increases in blood flow. You can also try to intersperse work with rest and rest with play, keeping a balance among the three. Doing so will keep you from getting too stressed or overwhelmed.
If none of these work for you, try to keep a regular weekday schedule. For example, on weekends, wake up at the same time and eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at regular times. This will keep your body “on schedule.”
By Brooke Holmgren