Get Relief from Migraine Pain

Woman with Migraine PhotoMillions of people get migraines and there are almost as many remedies as there are sufferers. Narelle Muller looks at both cause and effect, offering some ideas for natural relief.

What causes Migraines?

Everyone knows someone who suffers from migraines. Yet, for something so common, there is still much confusion. Because there are so many possible triggers and just as many different symptoms surrounding migraines, there are few hard and fast rules. They are believed to be caused by changes in the chemicals of the brain, which result in narrowing and dilation of the blood vessels. Some sufferers find nothing can be done other than to confine themselves to a quiet darkened room until an attack subsides. Others swear by a certain type of painkiller, while some find drugs simply don’t work. It is believed around 16 per cent of the population is hit by migraine at some point in their life. The World Health Organisation estimated several years ago that some 303 million people worldwide suffer from migraines, though with population increases, this figure could well have risen. One study suggests on any given day there are 20 million people across the planet enduring migraine symptoms. With so many sufferers, there has undoubtedly been much research into this painful condition and speculation as to how it can be avoided and treated.

Migraine symptoms or a bad headache?

While the symptoms of migraine vary from person to person, there are recurring themes. Those afflicted typically may suffer from a moderate to severe pain in one side of the head. The position of the pain can change in subsequent attacks. There may be throbbing and pain may worsen when physical or mental activity is undertaken. Many feel nauseous and may even vomit. They can become sensitive to noise and light. Some see visual colours or lights before their eyes in the hours preceding an attack. Each episode varies and may last from a few hours to several days. Known triggers include stress, heat, tiredness, shift work, long journeys, lack of food or irregular meals, allergies and changes in sleep patterns. Irregular eating patterns can cause migraines as blood sugar levels fall when you haven’t eaten. A sugary snack can then make blood sugar levels soar and this roller-coaster effect can spark a migraine.

Trigger foods

Anything containing tyramine, i.e. foods which are aged, dried, fermented, salted, smoked or pickled, such as
  • red wine,
  • cheese,
  • smoked fish,
  • chicken livers,
  • figs,
  • and some beans;
  • monosodium glutamate,
  • nitrates in processed
  • meats,
  • chocolate,
  • nuts,
  • peanut butter,
  • avocado,
  • banana,
  • citrus,
  • onions and
  • dairy products.
Environmental factors such as smoke and certain odours, alcohol and some foods, even being in a stuffy room can bring on a migraine. Medicines can also trigger reactions, as can hormonal fluctuations.

What can Natural Remedies offer Migraine sufferers?

While many medicate the symptoms of a migraine for pain relief, there is a growing interest in returning to remedies successfully used for hundreds of years, especially herbal treatments. For centuries Europeans used Feverfew for headache and what may well have been in days gone by an undiagnosed migraine. Today it is commonly used as an alternative to pharmaceutical drugs. Studies show Feverfew can reduce both the severity and frequency of a migraine attack, as well as ease symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light. As well as trying to avoid physical and environmental triggers, natural therapies, such as over-the-counter products containing Feverfew blended with other plants known for their healing and pain relieving effects are becoming popular migraine management strategies. Specific herbs including:
  • Ginkgo biloba,
  • Pueraria lobata,
  • Salvia miltiorrhiza,
  • Ligusticum wallichii,
  • Panax notoginseng,
  • Paeonia suffruticosa, and
  • Paeonia lactiflora
...are said to have strong anti-inflammatory properties as well as helping improve blood circulation. Combining...
  • Angelica dahurica and
  • Ledebouriella divaricata
...is also believed to bring relief to migraine sufferers. In ancient Chinese medicine Gastrodia elata is thought to assist with blood flow to the brain. A combination of all these herbs can be beneficial for relieving the symptoms of migraine. 'Ask a Naturopath' at Mr Vitamins for advice on the best treatment plan to alleviate your migraines.