If you’re among millions who experience migraines, you know they’re much more than just a headache. The intense pulsing, throbbing, and excruciating pain that accompanies a migraine can be so debilitating that the American Headache Society reports that more than 93 percent of all those who get migraines are unable to work or function normally during an episode.
Most patients who suffer from migraine opt for traditional medicines. But many are now turning to natural therapies such as herbal remedies and relaxation techniques.
Cultures around the world developed many herbal remedies for headaches and many common migraine symptoms years before modern medicine was introduced. Some of these herbal traditions have survived. Although most herbal migraine remedies haven’t been scientifically tested for their efficacy, some herbs are rapidly gaining widespread support of the medical community.
Willow (Salix spp.)
Willow bark extract (WBE) has been used for developing aspiring, a famous over-the-counter pain reliever, anti-inflammatory and fever reducer drug. WBE possesses anti-inflammatory ingredient salicin. A 2011 study suggests WBE can also be a powerful antioxidant.
Willow tree is found in abundance in Asia, Europe, and North America. It has been widely used since the time of Hippocrates (about 400 B.C), when people used to chew its back for fever-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects. It was later used in Europe and China for osteoarthritis, headaches, lower back pain and tendonitis. Willow bark is now available in capsule form and also as a chewable bark in many health food stores.
Peppermint (Mentha x balsamea)
A cross of water mint and spearmint, peppermint grows in abundance throughout Asia, Europe, and North America. Peppermint leaves and essential oils are regularly used for culinary and medical purposes. Besides headache treatment, you can also use it to treat:
- Gastrointestinal problems
You can buy peppermint oil and its active ingredient, menthol in liquid capsule form. In fact, these days many tea versions are also available for hassle free brewing. A 2008 study published in International Journal of Clinical Practice found that menthol was highly effective at stopping migraine pain and easing nausea when applied to the temples and forehead in a 12 percent solution.
The current research is limited on its actual clinical effectiveness, but topical peppermint oil is a nice and safe herbal option for getting some relief from migraine pain. It‘s also one of the easiest herbal remedies to try because of its easy availability in pharmacies and food stores.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Being a tropical Asian plant, ginger has been used in Chinese herbal medicines for over 2,200 years. It is also popular in Indian and Arabic medicines since ancient times. Ginger is widely used as a spice and as a remedy for:
- Neurological problems
- Stomach pain
- Cold and flu symptoms
Ginger has been well-documented as antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal. In addition, a 2015 study published in the Journal of Phytotherapy Research showed that ginger powder benefits can be compared to sumatriptant, a widely used migraine prescription, but with negligible side effects. Most people can easily tolerate dried or fresh ginger root, extracts, or supplements. However, you should avoid ginger or its supplements with blood thinners because of some drug interactions. Ginger tea and ginger capsules are both easily available in any pharmacy or grocery store.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Valerian is native to Asia and Europe. It’s also commonly found in North America. It’s being used in ancient Rome and Greece since the time of Hippocrates. It’s now commonly found at many places in North America. It’s a good remedy for insomnia and is known as “all-heal” remedy, as it can treat multitude of ailments. These include:
- Heart palpitations
Valerian is usually taken as a tea, supplement, or tincture made from its dried roots. These days, you can also get liquid extract in capsule form.
It’s also used in modern treatment of different types of headaches, but valerian has not been researched enough to determine it efficacy in treating migraine. You can easily get valerian root capsules in the United States.
Caffeinated tea became widely popular in China during the Ming Dynasty. It reached Europe during the 18’th and 19’th centuries. Green tea was also popular and was made in combination with many useful herbs used to ease migraine pain in traditional Chinese medicine. Coffee also became popular in Arabia. A less widely known caffeinated tea, Yerba mate, originated in South America.
People in several cultures primarily consumed caffeine to treat:
- High blood pressure
- Stomach problems
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Circulatory problems
- Skin damage
- Kidney disease
Caffeine is widely used in many over-the-counter pain relievers today.
Although researchers study caffeine in combination with many other pain relievers, it’s usually considered safe and useful additive in pills for many people who experience migraines. In a 2011 study, the Journal of Headache and Pain found that a combination of 1100 mg of paracetamonl and 132 mg of caffeine is particularly helpful. However, caffeine intake and caffeine withdrawal can also be migraine and headache triggers.
Coriander seed (Coriandrum sativum)
For over 8,000 years, people across cultures have used coriander seed’s unique seasoning and healing properties. They have been lauded for their ability to heal ailments that ranged from diabetes to allergies to migraines. In fact, traditional Ayurvedic medicine used coriander to relieve headaches and sinus pressure by pouring hot water over fresh seeds and inhaling the steam.
Research on this seed’s medicinal effects is mainly focused on its ability to treat diabetes and arthritis. More studies are being done in the US and other parts of the world to determine its capabilities. However, coriander seeds anti-inflammatory potential can prove beneficial for some forms of migraines. You can also chew these seeds and use in teas and foods. These days, oral extracts are also available.
Lavender oil (Lavandula angustifolia)
Lavender oil is highly fragrant, and is known for its sweet smell. It’s made from the flowers of lavender plant and is has been widely used to perfume hygienic products. Lavender is indigenous to the mountainous regions surrounding Mediterranean. It’s widely grown throughout Australia, Europe, and North America.
It was used in ancient Egypt for mummification process. Due to its clean scent and antimicrobial properties, it was later added to baths in Greece, Rome, and Persia. The aromatic flowers and their oil is used to treat everything from insomnia and headaches to some mental complaints such as fatigue and stress. In fact, many of these historical uses remain popular even today.
A 2007 study published in the European Journal of Neurology suggested that inhaling lavender oil during a migraine can help relieve symptoms more quickly. If you want to use lavender oil, apply the diluted solution to the temples or breathe in the oil. If not diluted in a proper way, this oil can irritate the skin at the application site. Lavender oil can be toxic if taken beyond certain doses.
Dong quai (Angelica sinensis)
Hailing from the same family as parsley, carrots, and celery, dong quai has been widely used as a medicinal cream, spice, or tonic for more than 1,500 years. This is especially the case in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean medicinal practices. Modern uses often mix this herb with other herbs to treat:
- Nerve Pain
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean region. It’s widely used as a medicinal herb and for culinary seasoning. Uses include the treatment of:
- Memory problems
- Muscle and joint pain
- Concentration difficulties
- Circulatory problems
- Nervous disorders
- Liver ailments
You can dilute rosemary oil and apply it topically or inhale it for aromatherapeutic purposes. The leaves of the plant can be dried and ground for use in capsules. It can also be used in tinctures, teas, and liquid extracts. Rosemary is believed to have antispasmodic, antimicrobial, and antioxidant effects. Still, it’s ability to easily reduce migraine pain has made it highly popular with masses.
Linden, lime tree (Tilia spp.)
Linden, also known as Tilia or lime tree, is a tree whose blossoms are used to prepare medicinal teas in both Native American and European cultures. The plant has been used to ease tension, anxiety calm nerves, and many inflammatory problems, among other issues. The blossoms of the plan can also be used in liquid extracts, tinctures, and capsules.
Linden also possesses sedative and sweat-inducing properties. It has been used to calm the mind, relieve sinus headaches and tension, and induce sleep. The flowers have been used to lower blood pressure and relieve nasal congestion.
Linden tea can be used to treat migraines and headaches.
Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)
Horseradish is native to Europe, and has been widely used in some medicinal folk remedies in fresh root or dried or in oil extract form. It has historically been used to treat:
- Bladder infections
- Respiratory problems
- Joint pain
- Kidney disease
- Muscle strains
It’s ability to easily narrow blood vessels can help in treating migraine headaches, and it has absolutely no side effects.
Raw potato cuttings
The potato has been popular in European folk medicine since past 250 years and is used to treat many ailments. Country folk medicine has anecdotally supported the use of thick raw potato slices to calm down migraine pain. Traditionally, the potato slices cloaked in a thin cotton cloth and wrapped around the head or rubbed directly on one’s temples helped to ease pain and tension. There is no firm scientific research suggesting raw potato cuttings can treat migraines when applied topically
Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
Native to Asia, the Japanese honesuckle became popular in North America in the 1800s. It has been used in the traditional Chinese medicine to treat:
- colds and viruses
besides good antimicrobial and anti-cancer powers, research has also identified many anti-inflammatory properties in the plant stems, leaves, and flowers that can provide lasting pain relief similar to that of aspirin. They may also help in easing migraine pain.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
It’s believed to be named after famous Greek mythical hero Achilles, yarrow has been historically used to slow blood loss and heal wounds. Other folk remedies encourage the use of yarrow to teat various inflammatory conditions, anxiety or insomnia, and muscle spasms. More recent folk remedies have used yarrow to relieve flues, colds, diarrhea, and coughs.
Yarrow has shown to have anti-anxiety, pain-relieving, and antimicrobial properties. Although more research in needed, this plant has good anti-inflammatory properties that may provide instant relief to people who experience migraine attacks. Yarrow is available in wide variety of forms, including tinctures and capsules.
Mullein is being used by people in Asia and Europe since ages for medicinal and other practical purposes, from treating diarrhea, migraines to inflammatory conditions to spasms. The flowers and leaves can be used for capsules, extracts, dried preparations, and poultices. In fact, tinctures of the plant are used in modern homeopathic therapies for migraine treatment. Mullien has been known to have too diuretic properties.
Teaberry (Gaultheria procumbens)
Teaberry, also known as wintergreen, is easily available in entire eastern North American. It’s an edible plant, made famous by Teaberry gum, has long help an important place in folk medicine for its good anti-inflammatory properties. It can be used to make tinctures, teas, and oil extracts.
It has been used historically as an stimulant and astringent to fight fatigue. Most important for all those who experience migraine attacks is teaberry’s ability to treat headaches and neuralgias as well as stomach pain and vomiting. Teaberry can be brewed in hot water for four to five minutes. You can drink the mixture to benefit from its healing properties.
Betony (Stachys officinalis)
It’s a perennial herb mostly found in Asia and Europe. It has been widely used as a medicinal plant since ancient times. It can not only reduce headaches but also facial pain and swelling. The leaves can be used as a poultice, juice, or ointment.
The plant possesses mildly sedative properties that are used to treat migraine and headache pain, stress, tension, and menstrual cramps. It may help alleviate congestion and sinus headaches when it’s used in combination with comfrey and lime flowers.
You can find betony online or in many health food stores. It can also be grown at home. Betony has excellent tonic effect on the body. However, it’s best to avoid it if pregnant.
Common hops (Humulus lupulus)
Hops are native to western Asia and Europe and can now be found everywhere in North American. They were once a food in ancient Roman culture, this flavorful plant also possesses many medicinal properties. Hops have historically been used to treat:
- Sleep problems
- Neuralgia (pain from nerve damage)
Modern medicine acknowledges the powerful sedative effect of hops, but their impact on headache and migraine pain hasn’t been student in detail.
Evodia (Evodia rutaecarpa)
This deciduous tree is a native to Chinese mainland and has been widely used in traditional Chinese medicine since first century A.D. It has mainly been used to treat headaches, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea. The fruit of the tree can also reduce blood pressure.
The pain-reducing and anti-inflammatory properties of the fruit can help ease migraine pain.
Butterbur (Petasites hybridus)
Butter is mostly found in marshy, wet areas of Asia, Europe, and North America. It was once used by people of these regions to wrap and preserve butter during warm weather, which is where it got its name. it has been used throughout history for wide variety of purposes. Butter was also used by famous Greek physician Dioscurides to treat skin ulcer. Since then, it is being used to treat:
- General pain
- Gastrointestinal problems
Most butterbur herbal remedies include its purified root extract (Petasites) for treating migraines and headaches. Many studies have shown that Petasites are effective in preventing migraines when taken as 45 to 79 milligrams twice daily.
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
It was first used in ancient Greece in early fifth century B.C. Feverfew is helpful in treating a wide variety of ailments. These include swelling, fever, and inflammation. People mostly took this herb to ease aches and pains such as headache in the first century.
A 2004 study published in Pharmacognosy Review suggested that feverfew can be effective for treating migraines, the common cold, fever, and arthritis.
The plant growls in abundance in Balkan Mountains but is now found nearly worldwide. Feverfew has been used in East European cultures for treating insect bites, headaches, and other pain. More modern uses have extended to the treatment of:
- Breathing issues
Feverfew is prepared by drying flowers, leaves, and stems. This combination is also available as extracts and supplements. Many cultures eat the leaves raw.