For many who suffer from migraines, finding relief can feel like an endless battle. While prescription medications may help in some cases, they often come with unpleasant side effects. Thankfully, there are also several natural remedies and lifestyle changes that can help reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. Here are ten natural approaches worth trying:
1. Avoid certain foods
Certain foods are common migraine triggers for many people. The top offenders often include aged cheeses, processed meats, caffeine, alcoholic beverages, and foods high in nitrates. Foods containing tyramine, an amino acid, can also worsen migraines in some individuals.
Cutting out offending foods may require some detective work. Keep a food diary to track what you eat and when you experience migraine symptoms. Over time, patterns often emerge regarding your personal migraine triggers. Once identified, avoiding these foods can help reduce the risk of an impending attack.
For some, even slight dehydration or skipping meals can provoke a migraine. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day and don't skip meals, as low blood sugar levels may play a role for certain migraine sufferers. Maintaining stable blood sugar through regular, nutritious meals is a wise migraine prevention strategy.
2. Apply lavender oil
The soothing scent of lavender has therapeutic benefits beyond just calming the nerves. Several studies have found lavender oil to be an effective natural migraine remedy when applied topically. Its therapeutic compounds, particularly linalool and linalyl acetate, have analgesic, anti-inflammatory and sedative properties that may help relieve migraine pain and tension.
To use lavender oil for migraines, apply a few drops to your temples and back of the neck at the first sign of an attack. You can also add 5-10 drops to a warm bath and soak for 20 minutes. The steam helps open your respiratory passages while its aromatic compounds are absorbed through your skin to target pain receptors in the brain. Make sure to use a high-quality therapeutic grade lavender oil for best results.
3. Try acupuncture
Several studies show acupuncture can be an effective complementary treatment for migraine and headache relief. During an acupuncture session, thin needles are inserted into specific points along the body's energetic meridians. This is believed to stimulate the nervous system and release endorphins to counteract pain signals.
In one review of 19 randomized controlled trials, acupuncture was found to significantly reduce migraine frequency, duration and intensity better than conventional medications or fakes acupuncture therapies. A regular series of 6-12 acupuncture treatments is usually recommended for long-term migraine management. Look for a licensed acupuncturist with experience specifically treating migraine and headache conditions.
4. Look for feverfew
Feverfew is an herbal migraine remedy that has been used for centuries. Its bioactive compounds like parthenolide are thought to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Several double-blind studies have found feverfew extract capsules to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks when taken daily on a preventative basis.
Fresh feverfew leaves can also be chewed to receive faster relief during an attack. As a word of caution, feverfew should not be taken during pregnancy due to its emmenagogue effects. When not pregnant, take up to 25mg of standardized feverfew extract daily to help prevent future migraines. Look for products clearly indicating the parthenolide content.
5. Apply peppermint oil
Just like lavender oil, peppermint is an aromatherapy oil that provides dual migraine relief from its scent and therapeutic compounds. Its key components menthol and menthone have cooling, calming and anti-inflammatory qualities that are soothing for headache and migraine pain.
Simply rub a few drops of peppermint essential oil on your temples, neck or chest during an attack to get faster symptom relief. You can also add 5-10 drops to a warm washcloth and inhale the steam, or put some on your pillow before bed. Peppermint oil should not touch the eyes or inside the nose, so always dilute it first when applying topically.
Ginger root has been used in traditional Asian medicine for thousands of years to help treat nausea, motion sickness and migraine symptoms. Its active compounds gingerols have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Several studies have confirmed ginger's ability to significantly reduce migraine frequency and severity compared to a placebo.
For migraine prevention, look for standardized ginger supplements providing 250-500mg of ginger extract daily. During an attack, try drinking ginger tea, chewing on crystallized ginger candies or taking enteric-coated ginger capsules for faster absorption. Ginger ale containing real ginger is another easy option. Always check with your doctor before taking ginger if you are pregnant or have a significant medical condition.
7. Sign up for yoga
The mind-body practice of yoga has shown promise as a complementary treatment for reducing migraine frequency. Some key aspects that make yoga beneficial include its focus on deep breathing, relaxation, improved posture and muscle tension relief – all of which counter common migraine triggers.
Specific yoga poses that target the neck, shoulders and back are especially helpful for releasing tension in areas prone to migraine pain. Just 20-30 minutes of gentle yoga on most days may provide preventative benefits over time. Look for beginner migraine-friendly yoga classes or videos that incorporate restorative poses, breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques.
8. Try biofeedback
Biofeedback uses medical sensors that monitor your body's responses to help retrain your breathing, muscle tension and overall stress response. During a biofeedback session, sensors measure things like heart rate, respiration, temperature and muscle tension. Visual and auditory feedback then helps teach how to consciously relax and regulate these involuntary processes.
Several clinical trials found that 8-10 biofeedback therapy sessions significantly reduced both migraine frequency and headache intensity when compared to a control group. This non-drug approach helps address the role of stress and physiological triggers in migraine development. Work with a biofeedback professional trained specifically in headache and migraine treatment.
9. Add magnesium to your diet
Population studies link low magnesium levels to an increased migraine risk, as magnesium plays an important role in nerve and muscle function. In some studies, intravenous magnesium injections during a migraine attack provided fast relief for over 70% of participants. While this extreme is not practical long-term, dietary magnesium may help prevent future migraines.
Good dietary sources of magnesium include leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish and whole grains. Most Americans do not meet the recommended daily allowance. A supplement providing 400-500mg of magnesium Glycinate or citrate may help reduce migraine frequency for those prone to deficiency. Talk to your doctor before starting a supplement regimen, as excess magnesium intake can cause diarrhea or laxative effects.
10. Apply stress management techniques
The mind-body connection is very strong when it comes to triggers associated with tension, anxiety and stress-related migraine attacks. While stress alone may not initiate all migraines, it certainly aggravates symptoms for many sufferers. Using relaxation techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation and yoga can help keep the body from habitually holding onto tension.
Cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnotherapy have also shown promise for improving migraineurs ability to manage stress responses. Learning emotional release by journaling, spending time with pets or nature, and positive affirmations also support relaxation and healthy coping with daily demands. While stress may remain a challenging trigger, regular relaxation practice arms the body and mind against its impact.
In conclusion, natural and lifestyle approaches like diet, targeted supplements, aromatherapy, acupuncture and relaxation techniques address the root causes of migraine and its triggers rather than just masking symptoms. While a combination of methods may work best, every migraine sufferer should experiment to discover their most helpful non-pharmaceutical options. With patience and consistency, reducing migraines naturally through preventative self-care becomes very achievable.