Migraine headaches are one of the 20 most disabling medical conditions worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
A migraine is characterized by a throbbing pain, usually confined to one side of the head, that tends to get worse with movement. They typically last from four to 72 hours.
Symptoms tend to vary from one person to another. People often experience sensory warning signs, such as blind spots, flashes of light, increased sensitivity to light and sound, tingling in the arms and legs, nausea and vomiting.
Signs like irritability, food cravings, a stiff neck, constipation and frequent yawning may also occur a couple of days prior to a migraine attack.
About 75 percent of all migraine sufferers have a family history of this debilitating problem. The complex condition is thought to be caused by changes in brain chemicals.
Some potential triggers for a migraine are allergies, stress, smoking, alcohol, bright lights, loud noises, strong smells, skipping meals, dehydration, irregular sleep, poor posture, low blood sugar and hormonal fluctuations.
Though there is no known cure for migraines, you can try some natural home remedies to get relief from migraine headaches and reduce their frequency.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for migraines.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Being a nutritional powerhouse, apple cider vinegar helps reduce migraines. Apple cider vinegar also offers health benefits like aiding detoxification, controlling blood sugar, regulating high blood pressure, reducing bone pain, promoting weight loss and relieving constipation.
- Add one tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar to a glass of water.
- Mix in one tablespoon of honey.
- Drink this daily to prevent as well as treat migraines.
If you are not used to taking apple cider vinegar, start by taking one teaspoon and gradually increase the amount. During migraine attacks or when you feel them coming on, you can take two or three tablespoons.
2. Ice Pack
Using an ice pack is perhaps the most popular home remedy to get rid of tension as well as migraine headaches. It has a numbing effect that alleviates pain.
- Wrap a few ice cubes in a clean towel and place it on your temples, forehead and/or the back of your neck for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat as needed.
- You can also try alternating hot and cold compresses for about 15 minutes, as needed. For better results, add lavender and/or peppermint essential oils to the water for the compress.
The anti-inflammatory property of peppermint helps soothe the nerves. Plus, it has an antispasmodic and calming effect. A study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience in 2008 found that the fragrance of this herb induces the feeling associated with headache relief.
- Simply drink peppermint tea sweetened with honey. Repeat as needed.
- You can also massage each of your temples with one drop of peppermint essential oil or a combination of peppermint and lavender oils. Leave it on for at least 20 to 30 minutes. Do this a few times a day until you get relief.
4. Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper is a great home remedy for migraines because it stimulates circulation and improves blood flow. Plus, it contains capsaicin, a compound that works as a natural painkiller.
- Mix one-half to one teaspoon of cayenne pepper in a cup of warm water.
- Optionally, add some lemon juice and honey to improve the taste as well as health benefits.
- Drink this as needed.
Chamomile has anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and soothing properties that help relieve migraines. Regularly drinking chamomile tea can also help prevent the problem.
When dealing with migraines, you’ll get best results using German chamomile (Matricaria recutita). So, when purching this herb, look for the label that says “German chamomile”.
- Steep two to three teaspoons of dried chamomile flowers in a cup of hot water for a few minutes. You can also add some lemon juice and honey. Strain and drink this tea three or four times a day for relief from migraine symptoms.
- Alternatively, prepare an herbal tea by steeping equal quantities of chamomile, horehound and meadowsweet in a cup of hot water for at least five minutes. Strain and drink it. Repeat as needed.
A 2013 study published in Phytotherapy Research indicates that ginger may prove effective in the treatment of common migraines.
It blocks prostaglandins, which are chemicals that promote muscle contractions, impact hormones and regulate inflammation in blood vessels in the brain. Most non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), too, work by reducing the production of these chemicals.
- Drink ginger tea a few times throughout the day until you get relief. Make sure to drink it at the onset of your headache. See Ginger Tea recipe here.
- Simply chewing on a piece of raw ginger root will also help treat the problem and relieve symptoms like nausea and digestive distress.
Feverfew is another effective home remedy for migraines that has been used for centuries. The herb contains a compound called parthenolide that relieves spasms in smooth muscle tissue and prevents inflammation. It also neutralizes prostaglandins that influence pain signals, thereby reducing pain.
- Prepare an herbal tea by steeping one teaspoon each of dried peppermint and feverfew leaves in a cup of hot water for 30 minutes. Strain and drink this tea a few times throughout the day. Continue until the pain subsides.
- You can also eat two or three fresh feverfew leaves daily or take dried leaf capsules (50 to 100 mg daily). Consult your doctor before beginning use of a supplement.
Massaging the head helps ease migraine headaches as it blocks pain signals sent to the brain. It also boosts serotonin activity and stimulates certain serotonin receptors, thereby reducing the symptoms as well as frequency of migraines.
A study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine in 2006 also found that massage therapy helps in the treatment of migraines.
- Gently massage your head with your first two fingers in a circular motion. While massaging, keep in mind that there are pressure points at locations like the base of the skull, middle of the forehead (between the eyebrows) and corners of the eyes that when pressed correctly help relieve pain.
- Alternatively, heat two tablespoons of sesame oil. Mix in one-half teaspoon each of cinnamon and cardamom powder. Apply this mixture on your forehead and massage. Leave it on for a few hours before washing it off.
Repeat either of these remedies as needed. Also, regular massage will help reduce the frequency and duration of migraines.
Eating an apple as soon as you experience the warning signs of a migraine attack can help reduce the problem. Moreover, research suggests that the smell of a green apple can also help reduce the severity of migraine and shorten migraine episodes, especially for those who find the smell pleasing.
A cup of strong coffee can help reduce migraine headache symptoms. It contains caffeine that restricts blood vessels and blocks certain receptors that could be causing the migraine.
To increase the effectiveness, add a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice as it counteracts the effects of acidic diets that contribute to cyclic headaches.
Warning: Caffeine may trigger migraines in some people. Also, too much caffeine may worsen your headache or cause a rebound headache.
In addition to these remedies, try muscle relaxation exercises and relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation. Plus, get enough sleep, eat a diet low in carbohydrates and high in protein, avoid foods that trigger your migraine attacks and drink plenty of water.