Migraine is more than a collection of symptoms.
Sure, you’re all too familiar with the overwhelming pain, the sensitivity to light and noise, the nausea, aches, and exhaustion. When you live with migraines, there are dozens of symptoms you may have to suffer at one time or another.
So you go to the doctor for help. You’re told, “We don’t know what causes migraines”, and sent off to the pharmacy with yet another prescription to try.
You’ve been there before, and odds are, you’ll be there again. You know that the medication won’t stop your migraines, but you’re hopeful it can at least relieve your symptoms.
What choice do you have? Your doctor has no idea what is causing this terrible, debilitating disease. All you can do is keep trying.
You do have choices. Herbal remedies will complement your treatment plan, and yield an opportunity for healing that no medication currently offers.
Natural herbs have an advantage over pharmaceutical treatment: where medications contain individual chemicals with specific, known effects, herbs contain dozens of interacting chemicals which complement each other’s effects. This means that even low doses can give you real benefits.
It’s a mistake to think that herbs aren’t potent enough to treat difficult health problems like migraine. The reality is that they are more suited to complex diseases than medications will ever be.
This list will help you get familiar with a wide array of herbal remedies to enhance your migraine treatment. You’ll want to consult with your doctor, pharmacist, or a certified herbalist before trying any of them. Herbs can interact with certain medications and may have side effects.
Herbs with Clinical Evidence
Only a handful of herbal remedies have been proven effective for migraines through controlled clinical studies. All three of these herbs are distinctly anti-inflammatory and have similar success rates, proving effective for around 70% of study participants.
Feverfew: Perhaps the most widely-used herbal treatment for migraines, the leaves of the feverfew plant have been used for centuries to treat fevers and headaches. In clinical trials, feverfew taken on a daily basis was shown reduce the severity and frequency of migraines.
Butterbur: Another traditional remedy for fevers and headaches, clinical studies of butterbur treatment for migraines yielded results similar to feverfew: butterbur supplements reduce migraine frequency and severity in a majority of subjects, when taken daily. Fresh butterbur can have some unpleasant side-effects, so a standardized extract is recommended.
Ginger root: This common culinary spice is well known for its ability to reduce nausea. Clinical trials demonstrated that a small dose of powdered ginger root is just as effective as the migraine drug sumatriptan at stopping a migraine when taken at the first signs of an attack.
Herbs for Pain Relief
Many of the herbal remedies recommended for migraines are notable for their pain relieving effects. These herbs can be used during an attack to reduce the severity of a migraine.
Willow: The inner bark of the white willow and black willow is a traditional pain reliever. It contains the chemical salicin, which was identified and extracted over a century ago, and became the active component in aspirin.
Skullcap: This member of the mint family is a perfect herbal remedy for migraines brought on by stress, anxiety, or insomnia. It is a mild sedative that encourages the production of endorphins, giving you an overall sense of well-being.
Devil’s Claw: The root of this perennial plant from southern Africa contains anti-inflammatory glycosides. It relieves back, neck, and joint pain, in addition to headaches. It is also recommended for digestive disorders and skin problems, so anyone with this combination of symptoms should respond well.
Spices with Benefits
Culinary spices don’t just taste good, they have medicinal properties too. These herbs are widely available and turn your favorite dishes into therapeutic remedies.
Turmeric: This intensely yellow spice is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Its active component is a chemical called curcumin, which has been studied for its effects on numerous health conditions, ranging from cancer to digestive disorders to Alzheimer’s disease. While it has not been clinically tested for its effects on migraine, it is an effective pain reliever with numerous health benefits.
Cayenne: The spicy red pepper is a pain reliever that stimulates digestion and the circulatory system. Its primary medicinal ingredient, capsicum, is used in many topical pain relievers. Capsicum suppresses the transmission of pain signals and increases your overall energy level.
Coriander: Both the leaves and seeds of the cilantro plant have numerous health benefits. A mild stimulant with antioxidant, analgesic, and anxiolytic effects, it reduces anxiety and soothes digestion, while providing mild pain relief. It is highly nutritious and helps regulate blood sugar levels.
Herbs for Muscle Tension
Sore shoulders, tension in the neck, and back pain are common migraine triggers. These herbal remedies can be used to treat and prevent muscle tension, reducing the possibility of triggering a migraine.
Mullein: This unmistakable plant with its velvety leaves and towering stalk of yellow flowers is best known as a lymphatic cleanser. Its leaves can be applied directly to sore muscles or swollen glands to expel accumulated toxins. Tincture of the root or stalk relieves back pain and straightens the spine.
Calendula: A member of the marigold family, these bright yellow and orange flowers improve circulation and stimulate the lymphatic system. Like mullein, it relieves tension by removing toxins accumulated in the muscle tissue. It is also valuable for all kinds of skin conditions, including rashes, acne, burns, cuts, and sores.
Goldenrod: Another yellow flower that is specifically indicated for neck and shoulder pain. It loosens the neck muscles and reduces swelling. It will even help heal a pulled or strained muscle in record time. Commonly considered a cause of seasonal allergies, it actually has very little pollen and has obtained this reputation by blooming at the same time as ragweed, a potent allergen.
Herbs for Stress and Anxiety
Stress and migraines go hand-in-hand. Stress triggers migraines in many people, and migraines are bound to make your life even more stressful. To break the cycle, try these herbal remedies that reduce stress and improve mental balance.
Chamomile: This herb is well known for its calming and relaxing properties. It relieves stress and helps you sleep soundly. It is a mild muscle relaxant and eases joint pain. It soothes the skin and intestinal membranes, and relieves allergies.
Hops: Mostly known as an ingredient in beer, this herb is a mild sedative that reduces anxiety and insomnia. It is anti-inflammatory and helps with neuralgia and tremors, as well as improving digestion because of its bitter flavor. It stimulates the liver and kidneys to assist in the elimination of toxins.
Passionflower: As its name suggest, this herb helps regulate the passions. It is calming and mildly sedative. Passionflower reduces anxiety and overthinking, restoring tranquility of mind. It can also ease neuralgic pain.
Herbs for Digestive Issues
Digestive health is important for building migraine resistance if you have food sensitivities, allergies, or triggers. These herbs aid in digestion and help repair the digestive tract.
Licorice: The anise-flavored root of the licorice plant relieves heartburn and indigestion, and has a documented ability to heal gastric ulcers. It reduces inflammation in the digestive tract, promoting better absorption of nutrients. Licorice also prevents the breakdown of cortisol, enabling the body to better manage stress.
Slippery Elm: The inner bark of the slippery elm tree produces mucilage when combined with water. Mucilage coats and soothes the digestive tract, providing relief for gastric reflux, colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome. It reduces diarrhea associated with inflammation of the intestines.
Yellow dock: The root of this common weed has a bitter taste that stimulates digestion. It relieves constipation without causing cramps. It is high in iron, so it is especially useful if you tend to be anemic. Yellow dock also stimulates the liver and gall bladder, improving nutrient absorption and dispelling toxins from the blood.
Saving the best for last, these herbs are important for normalizing your internal chemistry. Tonic herbs have subtle effects that build your resistance to disease and restore your body to health.
Wood Betony: This member of the mint family was once widely used, and seems to have fallen out of favor because it is relatively slow acting. Its notable effect is restoring normal function to the nervous system, making it extremely valuable for migraine treatment. Of all the herbs we’ve seen, this one is specifically for healing anything that is going on inside your head.
Echinacea: The purple coneflower is well known for its antibacterial properties, and has become a popular remedy for colds and infections. It boosts your immune system and reduces inflammation anywhere in your body. Echinacea can also repair damage caused by bacteria, yeast, and other micro-organisms.
Dandelion: Cursed by gardeners and landscapers worldwide, this herb helps your body eliminate toxins by stimulating liver and kidney function. It builds your overall resistance to migraines and can stop a migraine from developing when taken at the first signs.
More Herbal Migraine Remedies
Dozens of herbal remedies can be used to treat migraines. The sample of herbs covered here are just a few options to get started.
A professional herbalist can review your clinical history and recommend an herbal formula most suitable for your situation. That’s the beauty of herbal remedies: they treat multiple conditions simultaneously so they can be fine-tuned to your specific health needs.