Migraine headache is a recurrent incapacitating neurovascular disorder characterized by attacks of debilitating pain. Migraine headache symptoms include photophobia (light sensitivity), phonophobia (sensitivity ot noise), nausea and vomiting. Migraine affects a substantial fraction of world population and is a major cause of disability in the work place. In the United States, the prevalence is 18% in women and 6% in men.
J Family Pract. 2014 Feb. Chronic migraine in women. Primary headache disorders are the fifth leading cause of disability for women worldwide. The annual prevalence of migraine in the United States is 18% for adult women and the lifetime prevalence is estimated to be 26%. Chronic migraine is and should be considered a complication of episodic migraine that extracts a significant human and social burden from those living with this condition. This is particularly true for women, since they experience a greater disease burden as demonstrated by greater headache-related disability and reduced productivity relative to men.
treatment -- suggestions for natural relief or prevention
Wake up at the same time each morning.
Exercise at least 3 times a week. Exercise stimulates endorphins. Exercise alone does not appear to reduce migraine attacks or their duration, although exercise reduces the intensity of the headache pain in those who suffer from migraines.
No smoking, no caffeine after 3 pm.
No artificial sweeteners, use stevia instead.
No MSG (monosodium glutamate).
Reduce or eliminate red wine, cheese, alcohol use, chocolate, and caffeine. These foods can sometimes trigger migraine headaches. For a healthy diet that can reduce your risk for migraine attacks, see diet.
Try a gluten free diet.
Weight loss can reduce the severity of the attacks. Obese individuals have a higher likelihood of suffering from the condition.
Nutrients and herbs potentially helpful as natural migraine headache remedy
I am currently not aware of any herbs or supplements that are a migraine cure, but some of the following could help reduce the frequency or severity of migraine headaches and can be considered a home remedy:
5-HTP may be helpful since it converts into serotonin which influences migraine headache occurrence or severity.
Testimonial posted on Facebook: I have been taking about 100 mg of 5htp over last 2 months for primarily migraines. I'm 45 and have also had anxiety in last 12 months. I have had positive response from 5-HTP for migraines and anxiety. I have noticed if I forget to take for a day I tend to get more anxiety and panic attacks. Also find I get a little sleepy so I take it at night.
Coenzyme Q10 may help some individuals and it's worth a try.
Feverfew may help a small percentage of users. 1 capsule 3-4 x/day for one month, then decrease dosage to 25 mg of dried herb twice daily.
Petasites also known as butterbur. A product with a standardized extract of butter is called Petadolex and is available for sale.
Magnesium can sometimes reduces migraine severity when used for prevention
Melatonin is a pineal hormone that may reduce migraine headaches when used in the evenings.
Pine bark extract, vitamin C and vitamin E combination may be helpful. Eleven men and women with a long history of migraine who did not respond to several type of drugs, including beta-blockers, antidepressants and anticonvulsants, had fewer and less severe headaches, on average, after taking capsules containing an extract of pine bark, vitamin C and vitamin E every day for three months. In one study, doctors treated 12 patients to 10 capsules containing 120 mg pine bark extract, 60 mg vitamin C and 30 IU vitamin E every day for three months. The patients reported an average of 44 days of headache within a 90 day period before treatment, compared to 26 days during the three-month treatment. Before treatment, participants rated their headache severity, on average, as 7.5 out of 10; this fell to 5.5 out of 10 after treatment. Two patients showed no reduction in disability, headache severity or headache days after treatment. Headache, May 2006.
Efficacy of coenzyme Q10 in migraine prophylaxis: a randomized controlled trial.
Neurology. 2005. Headache and Pain Unit, Neurology Department, University Hospital Zurich, Frauenklinikstrasse 26, 8091 Zurich, Switzerland.
We compared CoQ10 (3 x 100 mg/day) and placebo in 42 migraine patients in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. CoQ10 was superior to placebo for attack-frequency, headache-days and days-with-nausea in the third treatment month and well tolerated; 50%-responder-rate for attack frequency was 14% for placebo and 47% for CoQ10 (number-needed-to-treat. CoQ10 is efficacious and well tolerated.
Migraine relief - easing
If you get a migraine, rest in a dark, quiet room with the lights out, apply a cool, damp rag or a cool compress to your forehead, firmly massage your scalp and apply pressure to your temples.
Though migraine headache causes are still unclear, three major theories proposed with regard to the mechanisms of migraine are vascular (due to cerebral vasodilatation), neurological (abnormal neurological firing which causes the spreading depression and migraine) and neurogenic dural inflammation (release of inflammatory neuropeptides). The modern understanding of the pathogenesis of migraine is based on the concept that it is a neurovascular disorder.
Many people with nasal allergies suffer from migraine headaches as well. This suggests that the compound that causes allergy misery -- histamine -- may also be one of the triggering factors.
People who get migraine headaches have structural differences in their brains particularly in the cortex area that processes pain and other sensory information from the body. It is unclear whether these structural brain differences actually cause migraines or are themselves caused by these recurrent headaches.
The frequency and severity of painful migraine attacks increase as body weight increases, suggest results of a telephone interview study of nearly 3800 migraine sufferers. Overall, 50 percent of interviewees had a normal body mass index (BMI), the ratio of weight to height used to estimate obesity, whereas 30 percent were overweight, 10 percent had obesity and 5 percent were morbidly obese. Only 3 percent of subjects were underweight. Sixty-five percent of those interviewed were women and the average age of participants was 38 years. As BMI increased, so did the frequency of migraine attacks.
I’m a research nurse at the University of Colorado looking
at the effects of choline on fetal brain development. We give 900mg of choline
to pregnant women and then do sensory gaiting on their infant. We unblinded our
first 100 study subjects and found the choline group complained of migraines 4
times more than the placebo group. Have you any research concerning this?
I have not, but this study is interesting.
Cephalalgia. 2009. The cholinomimetic agent carbachol induces headache in healthy subjects. The parasympathetic nervous system is likely to be involved in migraine pathogenesis. The study demonstrated that the cholimimetic medication carbachol caused headache and dilation of cephalic arteries in healthy subjects.
Some people may be vulnerable to developing severe headaches when the temperature climbs or drops sharply, or atmospheric pressure drops. People who have migraines or other types of severe headaches commonly cite weather changes as a trigger of head pain.
People with allergic rhinitis may get a migraine headache after they use a nasal steroid spray to relieve their stuffy noses. Some of these include fluticasone, beclomethasone, budesonide, mometasone, flunisolide, and triamcinolone. Cephalalgia, 2009.
Birth Control Pills
Women who take oral contraceptives have increased chances of suffering from both migraines and non-migraine headaches. Some women have migraines during menstruation, when levels of estrogen drop. These women also are more likely to have migraines while taking oral contraceptives. Birth control pills can boost estrogen levels up to four-fold above normal, resulting in a particularly steep estrogen drop-off with menstruation.
Estrogen withdrawal as migraine
There is a relationship between fluctuations in estrogen levels during the menstrual cycle and the incidence of migraine. If timed correctly, transdermal estrogen therapy may prevent these migraines. Dr. Anne MacGregor from the City of London Migraine Clinic and UK colleagues studied 38 women (average age 43 years) with menstrual migraine and regular menstrual cycles. Over three menstrual cycles, the incidence of migraine peaked on the first full day of bleeding and on the preceding day, which correlated with a drop in estrogen levels. As estrogen levels began to rise, migraine incidence began to decline. In a second study with the same group of women, MacGregor's team confirmed that treatment with estrogen supplements, around the time the menstrual cycle begins, can reduce the severity and duration of menstrual migraine attacks. During six menstrual cycles, the women began treatment with an estrogen gel or placebo 10 days after day 1 of peak fertility and continued daily through the second full day of bleeding. Estrogen gel was associated with a 22-percent reduction in migraine days. Migraine attacks were also less severe and less likely to be associated with nausea. However, in the 5 days after estradiol was discontinued, migraine incidence increased by 40 percent, consistent with a delayed estrogen withdrawal. Neurology, 2006.
Types of Migraine
There are many types of migraine. Abdominal migraine or cyclic vomiting syndrome (abdominal migraine): Patients have violent and sometimes prolonged episodes of vomiting. Attacks may be precipitated by stress, infections, or menses. Many of these individuals with abdominal migraine have prodromal symptoms including nausea, headache, fever, emotional withdrawal, lethargy, sleep pattern changes, and crying.
Ophthalmic migraine - Ocular
Other terms used are optical migraine - ocular migraine (sometimes misspelled as ocular migraine - eye migraine - visual migraine - optic migraine>
Ocular migraines are characterized by abnormal visual sensations. They occur most often in people with a history of classic migraines. Ocular migraines are sometimes followed by head pain. Ophthalmologists are often the first physicians to evaluate patients with headaches, eye pain, and headache-associated visual disturbances. Although ophthalmic causes are sometimes diagnosed, most eye pain and many types of visual disturbances are neurologic in origin.
Retinal migraine is a primary headache disorder, clinically manifested by attacks of transient monocular visual loss associated with migraine headache. Although isolated reports suggest that retinal migraine is rare, it likely is under-recognized. Retinal migraine usually is reported in women of childbearing age who have a history of migraine with aura. It typically is characterized by negative monocular visual phenomena lasting less than 1 hour. More than half of reported cases with recurrent transient monocular visual loss subsequently experienced permanent monocular visual loss.
Menstrual migraine occurs during the menses. Attacks of migraine occurring in a consistent relationship with menstruation can be classified as "pure" menstrual migraine if they occur at no other time of the month, and as "menstrually related" if other attacks occur throughout the month. It remains controversial whether such migraine pain attacks are longer, more severe or more difficult to treat than other attacks, but this form of migraine pain does lend itself to pre-emptive treatment because its timing and trigger can be anticipated.
During the reproductive years migraine is three times more common in women than in men. Although it is often assumed that this female preponderance is associated with the additional trigger of fluctuating sex hormones of the menstrual cycle, few studies have been undertaken to confirm or refute this. There is increasing evidence confirming an association between estrogen 'withdrawal' and attacks of migraine without aura, as well as evidence for an association between high estrogen states and attacks of migraine with aura.
Migraine with aura symptoms clearly originating from the brain stem or from both occipital lobes.
Plastic surgeons have been using Botox to treat wrinkles for a few years. Several patients who also happened to have migraines reported that their symptoms improved following the injection of Botox into forehead and brow muscles.
Medical Migraine Treatment - prescription medication and medicine - Drugs
In patient surveys and analyses of clinical trial data, patients with migraine cite rapid and complete relief of headache pain as the single most important attribute of a migraine medication. Other desirable attributes cited by patients include lack of migraine recurrence; absence of adverse effects; and relief of associated symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to light and noise.
A patient with migraine needs acute treatment with migraine meds as early as possible when the attack occurs. The most frequently used drugs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and triptans. Ergotamine is less and less used.
The drugs used in the treatment of migraine either abolish the acute migraine headache or aim its prevention. The last decade has witnessed the advent of Sumatriptan and the 'triptan' class of 5-HT1B/1D receptor agonists which have well established efficacy in treating migraine. Currently prophylactic treatments for migraine include calcium channel blockers, 5-HT2 receptor antagonists, beta adrenoceptor blockers and gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) agonists. Unfortunately, many of these treatments are non specific and not always effective. Despite such progress, in view of the complexity of the etiology of migraine, it still remains undiagnosed and available therapies are underused.
Topamax (generic - Topiramate) migraine treatment can lead to a reduction in the frequency of migraine headaches. Topamax was originally introduced as a medication for treating epilepsy and, as with many other anticonvulsants such as Depakote and Tegretol, was found to be effective as a mood stabilizer for those with bipolar disorder. Migraine patients taking topiramate may experience disturbances in language.
Treatment with the blood pressure drug olmesartan (sold as Benicar) reduces migraine in patients with high blood pressure (hypertension) or pre-hypertension. Olmesartan belongs to a class of drugs called angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs).
The migraine medication zolmitriptan when administered as a nasal spray appears to be a treatment of acute cluster headache.
The overuse of ergotamine increases the risk of cardiovascular complications, such as heart attack and stroke, among migraine patients who are taking drugs for cardiovascular disease. However, this effect was not seen with triptans, another class of drugs frequently prescribed for migraine.
Other drugs sometimes used for migraine prophylaxis include beta blockers.
A single dose of aspirin can bring at least temporary pain relief to about half of people with migraines. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, online April 14, 2010.
Medications for prevention
The pharmacologic treatment of migraine may be acute (abortive) or preventive (prophylactic), and patients with frequent severe headaches often require both approaches. Preventive therapy is used to try to reduce the frequency, duration, or severity of attacks. The preventive medications with the best-documented efficacy are amitriptyline, divalproex, topiramate, and the beta-blockers.
Overuse of migraine drugs
People with chronic migraines who overuse pain relievers may have abnormalities in certain hormonal responses. It's known that overusing migraine medications can sometimes cause periodic migraines to become chronic. Altered hormone regulation may be one reason. Though it's not clear why migraines sometimes become chronic, medication overuse has been considered a risk factor. Drugs used to treat migraine attacks -- including certain non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), ergot alkaloids and triptans -- may change the body's secretion of hormones such as growth hormone and the stress hormone cortisol.
Over the counter migraine
The United States Food and Drug Administration granted in 1998 marketing clearance to Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Excedrin Migraine for the relief of migraine headache pain, a condition suffered by approximately 25 million Americans. Excedrin Migraine was the first migraine medication available to consumers without a prescription.
Mast cells are critical players in allergic reactions, but they have also been shown to be important in immunity and recently also in inflammatory diseases, especially asthma. Migraines are episodic, typically unilateral, throbbing headaches that occur more frequently in patients with allergy and asthma implying involvement of meningeal and/or brain mast cells. These mast cells are located perivascularly, in close association with neurons especially in the dura, where they can be activated following trigeminal nerve, as well as cervical or sphenopalatine ganglion stimulation. Neuropeptides such as calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), hemokinin A, neurotensin (NT), pituitary adenylate cyclase activating peptide (PACAP), and substance P (SP) activate mast cells leading to secretion of vasoactive, pro-inflammatory, and neurosensitizing mediators, thereby contributing to migraine pathogenesis.
Migraine is a genetically determined recurrent pain syndrome accompanied by neurological and gastrointestinal features, involving interaction of external triggers and internal pathophysiology and the cause of considerable disability to sufferers. A "stepped care" approach to management of acute migraine involves initial nonpharmacological methods followed by antiemetics and simple analgesics or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Moderate episodes are treated with antiemetics and migraine specific medications. More severe migraines often require parenteral medications and sometimes intravenous fluids. Prophylaxis involves adoption of a chronic disease model, identifying and avoiding triggers and causative factors for migraine, nonpharmacological methods such as dietary modification and biofeedback, and for some patients, pharmacological prophylaxis.
Women who suffer from migraine headaches appear to be at much higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) than women in the general population. However, it remains unclear whether migraine is a risk factor for developing MS or if it is a condition that occurs at the same time as MS. American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting in Toronto in April 2010.
Migraine and pregnancy
Migraine is common during pregnancy. The greatest frequency of migraine attacks occurs during the first trimester. It is in the first trimester that the fetus is at greatest risk from abortifacient and teratogenic drugs, and when very early pregnancy may be undiagnosed. Ergot alkaloids (including methysergide) should be avoided during pregnancy because of their teratogenicity, and most other drug classes should be used only when unavoidable. The use of prophylactic agents during pregnancy should be the exception, not the rule, and preferably only during the second and third trimesters; propranolol is probably safest in this situation. Tylenol in small doses (acetaminophen) is the mainstay for the patient whose typical attacks continue into the first trimester. If acetaminopehn is insufficient, then partial agonist opioids may be used if typical migraine attacks persist in the second and third trimesters (which is uncommon).
People with this condition are more likely to have a stroke caused by a blood clot. American Journal of Medicine, online May 20, 2010.
Acupuncture and migraine help
Overall, the existing evidence supports the value of acupuncture for the treatment of headaches. However, the quality and amount of evidence are not fully convincing and the skill and talent of the acupuncturist can make a significant difference in the outcome.
Child and children
Migraine is a chronic disorder that can be debilitating, especially when the attacks are severe and frequent. Children and adolescents are significantly affected. The prevalence of migraine in this age group is higher than predicted due to more recognition of the disease in this population throughout the past century. Severe chronic migraine can cause failure in academic work and may lead to depression. Multiple medications are used to break an acute attack. Most approaches are based on outpatient treatments and include the use of over-the-counter medications and triptans and narcotics.
Children who have migraine with aura are at substantially increased risk of developing epilepsy.
Herbal migraine remedy
A product that combines extracts of Tanacetum parthenium, commonly known as feverfew, with Salix alba, also called white willow, appears to be effective in reducing the frequency, severity and duration of migraine attacks. The herbal combination goes by the commercial name of Mig-RL and is marketed by Naturveda-VitroBio Research Institute, the French company that sponsored the study. In the study, Dr. R. Shrivastava, from Issoire, and colleagues enrolled 12 patients with migraine who were treated with Mig-RL for 12 weeks. Two Mig-RL capsules were given twice daily. Migraine frequency was reduced by 57 percent at 6 weeks and by 61 percent at 12 weeks in 9 of 10 patients. Seventy percent of the patients experienced a 50 percent or greater reduction in headache frequency. Mig-RL therapy was also tied to improvements in quality of life and the medicine was well tolerated and not associated with any side effects. The encouraging results suggest that a larger, placebo-controlled randomized trial of Mig-RL is warranted, the authors conclude. Clinical Drug Investigation, May 2006.
A migraine headache is a severe head pain, often on one side of the head, and frequently described as throbbing in nature. Attacks may include nausea and vomiting, photophobia (intolerance to light) and sometimes intolerance to noise. They are usually recurrent and episodes can last anywhere between several hours to 3 days. An attack has the potential to temporarily disable a person, and can interfere with work or interpersonal relationships.
Can saw palmetto herb, tongkat ali herb or yohimbe herb cause migraine headache?
It's possible that tongkat ali and yohimbe in high doses could cause a headache, I am not sure if they would be classified as migraine headache. I doubt if saw palmetto causes migraine headaches.
I have recently been prescribed “choline
supplements” 350mg twice a day for prevention of migraines. Has any research
been done to show if choline helps in the prevention of migraines? (Or if you
recommend something else).
We have not come across studies regarding choline and migraine headache.
I was experiencing severe silent migraines w/
aura about every 2 months for 3 to 4 years, each lasting 20-30 minutes. So
severe, I became dizzy and forced to lie down until they passed. I had an MRI
and my Doctor found no evidence of TIA or stroke. At that time, I lived at an
apartment complex in a ground-floor apartment; build on-slab (no basement). In
August 2005, I moved to a house and the migraines stopped and I have never
experienced another. I can think no reason (house vs. apartment) other than
maybe RADON poisoning.
We'll see if others email us a similar experience to determine whether radon was the cause or other changes that may have occurred, (diet, new restaurant, etc?) that may have influenced it. Radon may be a possibility but sometimes it is difficult to determine an exact cause. Indoor air quality problems or molds could be another possibility.
Just wanted to let you know that I experienced something similar to the person describing migraines that ceased once he moved from an apartment to a house. For me, though, it was the reverse. In my case, the migraines began after we moved. Finally, after suffering for a few months, I realized that the windows in my house were staring directly into the sun in the afternoon. We live in a Southern State, where the sun can be quite fierce, even during the winter. After hanging darker curtains, my migraines ceased. Moral of the Story: When changing environments, check for potential triggers that weren't a problem before.
As one whose experienced migraines since age 5 and have tried all sorts of natural remedies, I hope you keep tabs on the possible link between them and PFO (Science News issues April 7, 2007, and February 19, 2005) and the use of CGRP-receptor agonists in treating them (March 20, 2004). My migraine regimen (if interested): I currently use a loose protocol of OTC Excedrin Migraine taken with 1000mg Cal/500mg Magbesuyn at the first sign of a migraine. I also have a ritual of taking a near-daily does of the ionic form of liquid mag and topical OTC USP progesterone cream. When I need to work during a migraine, sometimes OTC Gelstat (a sublingual form of feverfew and ginger) will temporarily suspend the migraine and/or ease the symptoms, but the effect only lasts a few hours. Both 5-HTP and a spritz of sublingual spray melatonin at night do not help. Both-- esp. the melatonin -- when taken after a very slight indication of an impending migraine--or after having experienced some migraine triggers--actually seem to hasten or trigger a migraine.
I am a migraine patient for last many years. Zomitriptan 5 mg. works on my headache. I get major attacks if I eat fresh corn, corn starch, aged cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, banana, grapes, black raisins. My biggest attack was 6 weeks as I was unaware of it. I kept checking my eyes, teeth etc. I like banana milk shake so it was in my diet everyday.
I have been successfully taking glucosamine
for joint pain, but have just noticed the "amine" in glucosamine. I suffer from
migraines and have been advised to avoid amines, particularly tyramine, to avoid
migraines. Would glucosamine be one of the amines I should avoid, or is the
"amine" in glucosamine only a confusing similarity?
After several years on the market, I have not heard of glucosamine having an influence on migraine headaches. Unless I come across new information, I will assume that glucosamine supplement use has no influence on migraine headaches.
I have been researching for a natural migraine
preventative. The prescription drugs all give me adverse side effects that are
sometimes worse than the ailment. The only relief I have ever found was from accupuncture, but accupuncture is extremely expensive. Several articles mention
relief from taking Acetyl L-Carnitine, CoQ10 and the B vitamins, especially B2
and B6. I would like to know what your thoughts are on this. I know you are not
able to give medical advice, just wanted to know if your customers have ever
commented on this after taking these natural products. I also know that several
herbs are supposed to help, but for several years I was taking butterbur and
feverfew to no avail. I have been a migraine sufferer for 18 years, just
finished a week long migraine which left me incapacitated. I am desperate for
It is difficult to predict in any one person which herbs or natural will or will not help. Perhaps some of the suggestions on this natural migraine relief page will help you.
I wanted to tell you about a curious experience with an herb that has reduced my migraines even though it is not touted for that purpose anywhere. It is salvia root, aka red sage root or dan shen in TCM. If I take it on a daily basis, I have significantly fewer migraines. I discovered it by accident as I was using the salvia for a different purpose and then I wasn't sure that I was correct. I experimented by taking it for a month and then off for a month and so on until I was sure it wasn't a temporary placebo or coincidental effect. It isn't a cure, but without it, I go through my entire script of Imitrex and beg for more, while with the salvia, I only go through about half or less of the Imitrex. It does not work at all as an on-the-spot treatment but only as a preventative. It is used in TCM as a cardio tonic, so I wonder if it does something to regulate the capillaries or whatever it is that is involved in migraines.