I remember the first time I had a migraine. I was driving my daughter to school one morning when I started noticing that everything in the outer edge of my vision looked watery. A few minutes later, I started seeing squiggly flashes of light. I had no head pain, only this dramatic change in my vision. The sensation was startling.
I pulled my car over and called a friend to pick us up. About the time he arrived, my head started to throb. I felt waves of nausea. The sunlight felt excruciating.
My friend took me to the hospital where I was poked, prodded, and scanned. The ER doctor, a friend of mine, said, “Good news, Tieraona, you’re not having a stroke. It looks like you’re just having a migraine.” JUST a migraine! Wow. He’d obviously never had one. Of course, neither had I. It took several days to return to normal.
For the next few years, I was plagued with migraines. I tried lots of measures to get them under control. I kept a strict food and headache diary to see what might be triggering them, then eliminated those triggers. And I used some straightforward measures, a few of which I’m sharing with you here. I’m happy to report that my migraines are under excellent control today.
Headaches are one of the most common pain conditions that prompt people to see a doctor. Tension-type headaches are by far the most prevalent type of headache. And although muscle tension may be the culprit in some cases, scientists don’t know what causes the majority of them. Environmental, emotional, and physical stressors can trigger them, as can certain medications. Tension headaches can last as little as 30 minutes or linger for days. They are more common in women than men.
Migraine headaches are the second most common painful headache disorder, affecting 10 percent or more of the general population, and are three times more common in women than in men. Migraines are characterized by headache pain on one side of the head, pulsating in quality, and lasting 4 to 70 hours. They are accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound, as well as nausea and vomiting. Some people experience an “aura,” a neurological symptom, before or right as the pain begins.
If you struggle with headache pain but prefer to avoid conventional treatments (or find that they don’t work for you), these three recipes may provide the natural solution you’ve been looking for. Featuring simple ingredients, they’re easy to prepare and can bring immediate relief.
The Peppermint Promise
Peppermint is an excellent remedy for a headache. A study found that massaging peppermint oil into your temples and forehead was as useful for relieving a tension headache as ibuprofen.
Peppermint Headache Oil
- 20 drops peppermint essential oil
- 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) almond, grapeseed, or sunflower oil as the carrier oil
Put the carrier oil into a bottle and add peppermint essential oil. Shake well. Put on lid.
How to Use: Gently rub oil into temples, forehead, neck, and shoulders, being careful to avoid the eyes.
Note: Peppermint should not be used on the face of any child under the age of three.
- 2 tablespoons fresh herb or 1 tablespoon dried herb
Prepare as an infusion. Strain. Add a couple of ice cubes. Soak a soft cotton or flannel cloth in the liquid, wring, and apply to the forehead.
How to Use: Compresses are typically applied for 20 minutes and then removed for 10 to 20 minutes. The cloth can be dipped into the liquid again and reapplied for additional 20 minutes.
The Fighting Power of Ginger
Ginger is my favorite herb for relieving a tension headache. I’d take it over ibuprofen or aspirin any day. Ginger tea reduces inflammation and relaxes tense muscles. You can also drink it you feel nauseated from a migraine.
Ginger Tea for Tension Headaches
- 1-inch fresh ginger rhizome (root) cut into slices or ½ teaspoon dried ginger
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 ½ cups (12 ounces) water
Put water into a saucepan, add ginger, and gently bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on a very low heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain and add honey and lemon juice.
How to Use: Drink a cup when you first feel a headache coming on. Repeat in an hour or two, if needed.
Vitamin and Mineral Magic
Herbs aren’t your only option when it comes to natural headache relief. Did you know that people with migraines often have low brain levels of serotonin and magnesium? Research shows that taking 400 to 600 mg of magnesium per day reduces the number and severity of migraines in adults. One study found that supplementing with 9 mg of magnesium per kg (2.2 pounds) of body weight per day reduced the frequency of migraines in children. The Canadian Headache Society gives magnesium citrate a strong recommendation for the prevention of migraines. The American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society give magnesium a level-B recommendation, the same level as the pain relievers ibuprofen and naproxen. As someone who deals with migraines, I can tell you that magnesium has made an enormous difference in my own life.
Riboflavin (vitamin B2) has also been studied for the prevention of migraine headaches. A current theory is that migraines are caused by mitochondrial dysfunction in brain cells. (Mitochondria are the powerhouses of our cells.) Riboflavin helps maintain normal energy production in brain mitochondria. At a dose of 400 mg per day, riboflavin is “strongly recommended” for migraine prophylaxis according to the Canadian Headache Society guidelines and receives a “probably effective” rating from the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society.
Interested in learning more about making your own remedies? These and more recipes can be found in my book, Healthy at Home (https://www.drlowdog.com/books/healthy-at-home/). And for more information on supplements and how they can improve your health, I suggest my book Fortify Your Life (https://www.drlowdog.com/books/fortify-your-life/).