Monday, July 25, 2016

5 Natural Ways to Tackle a Migraine


I had my first migraine at eight years old. At that age, I didn't have any understanding of migraines. Nor did my mother, who was never a headache sufferer. My father, on the other hand, knew all too well the sweet agony of migraines. But since my parents had already divorced years earlier, he was unaware that his daughter was clutching her head in the wee hours of the morning, crying uncontrollably no matter how her mother tried to soothe her.

Am I painting a clear picture here? My mother was terrified, as any decent parent would be if their child was complaining of severe HEAD pain! So off we went to the emergency room, bright lights and all. And there I learned my first lesson in migraines: There's not much anyone can do for you.

...at least not in traditional medicine. 

Now, before you get to composing an e-mail, I understand some people have great luck with certain medications or over-the-counter drugs, but as a child those never worked for me. Ever. 

As an adult, I choose not to use chemicals in my daily life, especially chemicals that never worked! But just because a person chooses to live a natural lifestyle does not mean they have to suffer through ailments! Here are my top five go-to alternative treatments when I'm suffering from a migraine. If you're familiar with the beautiful hell that is a migraine, I hope they offer you some relief!

Peppermint oil

You know that lovely throb you get in your temple when a migraine hits that sweet point? You know that point, the one where you'd promise to never eat ice cream ever, ever again if the pain would just flipping stop? That's when you need to whip out your peppermint essential oil. Now, I'm not going to lie to you. I use it undiluted, straight from the bottle, and massage it gently into my temple. Legally, I have to tell you not to do this! Follow the directions. Dilute in a carrier oil. 

.....

With that said, I use peppermint oil at the start of a migraine. Just be VERY careful not to get it anywhere near your eyes. Trust me on this! No one likes a minty fresh eyeball. Even just the fumes from it can make your eye burn (I speak from experience). So take extra precautions to keep away from your eyes! 

Taking deep breaths of the oil's fragrance can also help, as peppermint helps calm the mind (which is inevitably freaking out about how much pain you're in).

Acupuncture

If you're able to get to an acupuncturist, acupuncture is phenomenal for migraines. And, well, everything else. Sadly, I no longer live even remotely near one. *shakes fist at sky* But if you're able to find an LAc (licensed acupuncturist) near you, most offer free consultations which will allow you to get a feel for the practitioner. Like anything else, people are people. Some acupuncturists you just won't jive with (I've met a doozy or two). Others are the best, most blessed godsend to ever cross your path. (How I miss my acupuncturist in Arizona!!!!)  I highly recommend acupuncture to anyone with any ailment. And to answer the most common question I'm asked about acupuncture— No, it doesn't hurt. The needles are insanely small, a much smaller gauge than what's used to draw blood. 

Homeopathic headache treatment

The first time I tried a homeopathic treatment I was new to natural medicine and was expecting drastic, immediate results.

This is not how homeopathy generally works.

In my experience, homeopathic treatments are gentle and subtle. Therefore, it may take a few doses before you notice effects. But the advantage to homeopathic medicines is that they generally do not have side effects like traditional medications. I say "generally" because there is an exception to everything. If you're interested in more information, you can read about it here. Basically, the manner in which homeopathic medicines are made all but eliminates chances of side effects and drug interactions. But again, I'm not a doctor. So talk with your naturopath before trying any recommendations from this blog and all that jazz... 

There are several different types of homeopathic pellets for migraines depending on the exact symptoms. Personally, my migraines are generally caused by an old neck injury. Therefore, I use Hypericum Perforatum, which helps calm nerve pain. As a child, my migraines were caused by stress and tension. Kali Phosphoricum is great if you're experiencing stress-related migraines. If you tend to feel hot with migraines or get migraines due to heat/overheating, try Glonoinum. I know the names sound confusing and it can be a bit overwhelming if you're not familiar with homeopathy, but it's easy to do some research and familiarize yourself. Boiron, the brand I prefer, has loads of information on their site. I was confused at first as well. Don't be like me and let intimidation keep you from using these helpful products. It took me a couple of years before I finally took the time to educate myself, and I wish I'd done so sooner! 


Coffee (and water!)

For someone who practices natural medicine, I'm surrounded by an odd number of pharmacists, including a sister-in-law and a few family friends. When I was younger and in the thick of my migraines, a pharmacist friend told my mother the (not so) hidden secret to OTC migraine medication: caffeine. Don't believe me? Go take a look at what's in Excedrin Migraine. Go on. I'll wait here.

See! Caffeine! Acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine. So now when I get a migraine that I can't make go away, I have a cup of coffee. And it works quite often! Don't ask me the science behind it, I suspect it has something to do with blood pressure, but it works. And when I have a migraine, all I care about is what works. Dark chocolate can also be used for the same reason. Hey, if you have to deal with a crappy migraine, you should at least get some coffee and chocolate out of it!

Of course you'll want to avoid this if you're sensitive to caffeine. You'll also want to make sure you're drinking a lot of water. Otherwise you'll get dehydrated, which can cause a migraine!

Feverfew**

Feverfew is an interesting herb. I don't recall how I stumbled upon it, but I'm very glad I did. I personally take it when I feel a migraine coming on, but it can be taken daily for the poor souls who deal with chronic (as in weekly) migraines. It has a slew of other uses, such as allergies, fever, and arthritis, but I'll stay on topic for now.

As I said, I take a 455 mg capsule when I feel a migraine coming on. Generally, it does the trick and I'm fortunate to not have to mess with the above suggestions. My best friend, who suffers from migraines related to PMS, has also found it very helpful!

Before you pop a feverfew capsule, here are a few things you should know: Feverfew shouldn't be taken in conjunction with blood-thinners, those who have difficulty clotting, or within a week of surgery. It should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Those allergic to ragweed should avoid feverfew. 

Random (yet helpful) Tips:

-You're probably aware, but using ice packs can help combat migraines. I use homemade rice packs similar to these (which are super easy to make if you have basic sewing skills. Add lavender!!). I keep them in the freezer AT ALL TIMES (seriously, don't f@#$ with my rice packs!). The benefit to rice over ice cubes or a hard freezer pack is that it's soft and conforms to your head. You could also use a cotton sock filled with rice. A side benefit to these awesome cold packs is they are dual purpose! Toss one in the microwave for a minute or two and it can be used as a heating pad. Just make sure it's cotton fabric, as synthetics may melt in the microwave. 

-Lavender oil on your pillow can help you relax when you're trying to sleep off a migraine. If you're super sensitive to scents during a migraine, of course avoid this. But I've found just one drop is not only pleasantly fragrant but helps me relax and sleep.

In conclusion, migraines suck, chocolate is delicious, and don't ever touch my rice packs! =D

**Some information is cited from the wonderful Brigitte Mars, AHG. Check out her fantastic herbal reference guide, The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicinefor more information!


Do you have a natural remedy you use to treat migraines?

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NOTE: As with any recommendation found on this blog, consult your doctor or naturopath before use.

4 comments:

  1. I use willow bark often for my headaches. I actually have a headache tea blend that includes fever few and willow bark that works really well.

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    1. I've never worked with willow bark, but I'm making a note of it right now!

      ....is it the physics class that's giving you a headache? =P Ever since I read that blog post, I think of you every time I'm tight for time! 4-6 hours a physics, ouch!

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  2. I use fresh rosemary when I feel a migraine coming on. I have a large rosemary bush in my garden and a smaller one near my house that I can get to quickly. I grab hold of a few stems of the rosemary and pull upwards so that the oil gets on my hands. Then I rub my hands together to warm the natural oils and rub them on my face and the back of my neck. It works wonders! I've used rosemary essential oil, but the fresh works best for me. I also keep a little mojo bag of beads scented with rosemary and lavender oils that I wear when I can't lay down and sleep the headache away.

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    1. Rosemary is amazing for so many things! Surprisingly, I've never used it on a migraine. I'm definitely trying your trick next time I'm unfortunate enough to have one. Glad you found something that works for you! Thanks for taking a moment to share your insight! =D

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