Natural Remedies for Migraines: What Works and Why

If you are one of those who regularly suffers from headaches, here are 18 natural remedies to help you get rid of them.
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Studies have shown that treatment with mg of oral magnesium citrate per day helped reduce both the frequency and severity of migraine headaches 3 , 5. While having an alcoholic drink may not cause a headache in most people, studies have shown that alcohol can trigger migraines in about one-third of those who experience frequent headaches 6.

What are some tips for instant migraine relief?

Alcohol has also been shown to cause tension and cluster headaches in many people 7 , 8. Vasodilation may cause headaches in some people. In fact, headaches are a common side effect of vasodilators like blood pressure medications 9. Additionally, alcohol acts as a diuretic, causing the body to lose fluid and electrolytes through frequent urination. This fluid loss can lead to dehydration, which can cause or worsen headaches Sleep deprivation can be detrimental to your health in many ways, and may even cause headaches in some people.

21 Home Remedies for Headaches that WORK (Even for Migraines!)

For example, one study compared headache frequency and severity in those who got less than six hours of sleep per night and those who slept longer. It found that those who got less sleep had more frequent and severe headaches However, getting too much sleep has also been shown to trigger headaches, making getting the right amount of rest important for those looking for natural headache prevention Histamine is a chemical found naturally in the body that plays a role in the immune, digestive and nervous systems Some people are not able to excrete histamine properly because they have impaired function of the enzymes responsible for breaking it down Cutting histamine-rich foods from the diet may be a useful strategy for people who get frequent headaches Essential oils are highly concentrated liquids that contain aromatic compounds from a variety of plants.

They have many therapeutic benefits and are most often used topically, though some can be ingested. Applying peppermint essential oil to the temples has been shown to reduce the symptoms of tension headaches Meanwhile, lavender oil is highly effective at reducing migraine pain and associated symptoms when applied to the upper lip and inhaled B vitamins are a group of water-soluble micronutrients that play many important roles in the body. For example, they contribute to neurotransmitter synthesis and help turn food into energy Several studies have shown that the B vitamin supplements riboflavin B2 , folate, B12 and pyridoxine B6 may reduce headache symptoms 20 , 21 , B-complex vitamins contain all eight of the B vitamins and are a safe, cost-effective way to naturally treat headache symptoms.

B vitamins are considered safe to take on a regular basis, as they are water soluble and any excess will be flushed out through the urine Applying cold or frozen compresses to the neck or head area decreases inflammation, slows nerve conduction and constricts blood vessels, all of which help reduce headache pain In one study in 28 women, applying a cold gel pack to the head significantly reduced migraine pain To make a cold compress, fill a waterproof bag with ice and wrap it in a soft towel. Apply the compress to the back of the neck, head or temples for headache relief.

Coenzyme Q10 CoQ10 is a substance produced naturally by the body that helps turn food into energy and functions as a powerful antioxidant Studies have shown that taking CoQ10 supplements may be an effective and natural way to treat headaches. For example, one study in 80 people demonstrated that taking mg of CoQ10 supplements per day reduced migraine frequency, severity and length Another study including 42 people who experienced frequent migraines found that three mg doses of CoQ10 throughout the day helped decrease migraine frequency and migraine-related symptoms like nausea Studies suggest that food intolerances can trigger headaches in some people.

To discover if a certain food is causing frequent headaches, try an elimination diet that removes the foods most related to your headache symptoms. Aged cheese, alcohol, chocolate, citrus fruits and coffee are among the most commonly reported food triggers in people with migraines In one small study, a week elimination diet decreased the number of migraine headaches people experienced.

These effects started at the four-week mark Read more here about how to follow an elimination diet properly. Sipping on beverages that contain caffeine, such as tea or coffee, may provide relief when you are experiencing a headache. Caffeine improves mood, increases alertness and constricts blood vessels, all of which can have a positive effect on headache symptoms It also helps increase the effectiveness of common medications used to treat headaches, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen However, caffeine withdrawal has also been shown to cause headaches if a person regularly consumes large amounts of caffeine and suddenly stops.

Therefore, people who get frequent headaches should be mindful of their caffeine intake Acupuncture is a technique of Traditional Chinese medicine that involves inserting thin needles into the skin to stimulate specific points on the body A review of 22 studies including more than 4, people found that acupuncture was as effective as common migraine medications Another study found that acupuncture was more effective and safer than topiramate, an anticonvulsant drug used to treat chronic migraines Practicing yoga is an excellent way to relieve stress, increase flexibility, decrease pain and improve your overall quality of life One study investigated the effects of yoga therapy on 60 people with chronic migraines.

Headache frequency and intensity were reduced more in those receiving both yoga therapy and conventional care, compared to those receiving conventional care alone Another study found that people who practiced yoga for three months had a significant reduction in headache frequency, severity and associated symptoms, compared to those who did not practice yoga Strong odors like those from perfumes and cleaning products can cause certain individuals to develop headaches.

A study that involved people who experienced either migraine or tension headaches found that strong odors, especially perfumes, often triggered headaches This hypersensitivity to odors is called osmophobia and common in those with chronic migraines If you think you may be sensitive to smells, avoiding perfumes, cigarette smoke and strongly scented foods may help decrease your chance of getting a migraine Some studies suggest that taking feverfew supplements in doses of 50— mg per day may reduce headache frequency.

However, other studies have failed to find a benefit Lavender is an essential oil often recommended as a remedy for stress , anxiety , and headaches. Another small study published in European Neurology found that lavender oil inhalation helped reduce the severity of migraine headaches in some people. A study using participants compared the effectiveness of ginger powder with sumatriptan, a common migraine drug. The researchers found the effectiveness of ginger was statistically comparable to sumatriptan, and users were as willing to continue with either treatment.

One definite benefit for people who get migraines is that using ginger cannot hurt and, aside from an existing allergy, there are no side effects to using it. Stress is a common trigger for migraines.

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Stress can also create a cycle where migraine pain worsens the stress, which then triggers another migraine. Finding outlets for stress, such as journaling, exercise, or meditation, may help to prevent future migraines. People can also try taking a stress management class. They may choose to take a warm bath or listen to music, as well, to try to relieve the stress they feel. By doing these positive actions, a person is choosing to take control of their body's reaction to the stress in their life. Yoga is thought to help improve blood flow and reduce muscle tension, which can help relieve symptoms for people who get migraines.

A comprehensive study compared conventional migraine treatment with and without the addition of regular yoga practice.

Natural remedies for migraine headaches

The researchers found that the group who participated in a yoga program had greater relief than the group who joined in conventional treatment alone. Biofeedback takes practice and training. Sensors placed on the muscles feed into a small machine that gives real-time feedback about muscle tension, allowing users to release the tight areas better.

Placement of sensors along the forehead, jawline, or trapezius muscles in the shoulders can help to target muscles that might be triggering migraine pain. An extensive systematic review looked at studies that evaluated the effectiveness of acupuncture for treating migraines and other conditions. The study authors found that acupuncture is an effective treatment choice for people with migraine headaches, although they pointed out that other factors might be playing a part also.

People who are interested in using acupuncture for migraines should make sure to find a licensed practitioner for treatment.

How do natural remedies work?

Massaging the muscles in the neck and shoulders can help to relieve tension and alleviate migraine pain. Massage may also reduce stress. People can choose to use a professional masseuse for a massage.

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Alternatively, taking a tennis ball and using it to do a self-massage along the shoulders and back is another, more cost-effective, option. Butterbur and feverfew are two herbal supplements that may be helpful in reducing migraine pain and frequency. A daily dose of milligrams mg of butterbur was effective in lowering migraine frequency when taken for about 3 months, according to the American Migraine Foundation. The foundation suggest feverfew is less effective than butterbur. Feverfew may, however, be helpful for some people. There are some risks in using these herbs, severe in rare cases, and anyone wanting to try them should speak with their doctor first.

Deficiency of magnesium , which is an essential mineral, may trigger migraine aura or a menstrual-migraine headache. A migraine aura is a visual disturbance that occurs at the onset of a migraine. Not everyone who gets migraines will experience a migraine aura. Research has found that supplementation of magnesium can be useful in reducing the frequency of migraines in some individuals. People should speak with their doctor before starting to take magnesium, particularly if they have other health conditions. The B vitamins may have an impact on reducing migraine frequency and severity.

B vitamins play a role in regulating neurotransmitters in the brain. B vitamins are water soluble, meaning that excess levels are excreted in the urine and not stored in the body. The body quickly excretes B vitamins, so it is unlikely someone could take too much. Nevertheless, it is still important to speak with a doctor before starting to take a daily B-complex vitamin.

Trials are being done to establish how useful B vitamins are in helping to alleviate the occupational stress that people experience from their jobs. Not drinking enough water is a well-known migraine and headache trigger, and it only takes minor dehydration to bring on a headache. People can try to drink more water each day to avoid dehydration. People with severe dehydration may initially need an oral rehydration solution to replace missing electrolytes. Drinking water throughout the day, and maintaining a healthful diet is usually enough to stay sufficiently hydrated.

Some people find placing a cold or warm compress on their head can be soothing and help to reduce migraine pain. Many people who get migraines report a preference for a cold compress, but warm or cold can work. There are few side effects of using this therapy, though people with circulatory problems, diabetes , or skin issues should avoid extremes of temperature. People need to collaborate with a doctor or migraine specialist to find a treatment regimen that works, even when trying natural remedies.

Keeping a migraine or headache journal can be useful in identifying triggers and effective remedies for migraines. Article last reviewed by Mon 20 August All references are available in the References tab. Acupressure for pain and headaches. Acupressure in the control of migraine-associated nausea. Biofeedback and relaxation training for headaches. Effect of Yoga on migraine: A comprehensive study using clinical profile and cardiac autonomic functions. Raising money for migraine research. A placebo-controlled clinical trial [Abstract]. Reducing occupational stress with a B-vitamin focused intervention: A randomized clinical trial: Nutrition Journal , 13 , Acupuncture for chronic pain: Individual patient data meta-analysis.