Migraines & Headaches – Natural Relief
By Aidanne MacDonald-Milewski, ND • January 28, 2021
Most people have lived with a headache at some point during their life, making headaches one of the most common complaints that brings people to see naturopathic doctors. Where headaches can resolve and recur, for some they become a persistent issue that impairs daily function.
Headaches come in many forms and common types of primary headaches include migraines, tension headaches, and cluster headaches. Headaches can also present as the result of a certain condition (i.e. TMJ, osteoarthritis of the spine, sinusitis, eye disorders, etc.) or long-term medication use.1
In cases primary headaches, there is almost always a trigger that can perpetuate the headache.
Common triggers include2,3:
- Nutrient deficiencies – Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, magnesium, riboflavin, niacin, etc.
- Dietary Sulfites &/or Nitrates – diary, processed meats, beets, spinach, wine, beer, dried fruits, etc.
- Food sensitivities – gluten, dairy, eggs, nuts, etc.
- Caffeine – Coffee, tea, chocolate
- Hormone fluctuations
- Bacterial or fungal overgrowth
- Environmental stimuli – atmospheric pressure changes, light stimuli, air quality, odors
- Physical stress, tension or posture
- Sleep disturbance & deprivation
- Emotional stress
The Naturopathic Approach
Naturopathic doctors work with patients to identify the trigger and employ individualized management strategies which could include dietary & lifestyle counseling, physical medicine (i.e. stretching, exercise), herbal medicines, nutritional supplementation and/or stress management.
Laboratory testing often ordered by Naturopathic doctors to identify the trigger include:
- Food sensitivity testing
- Serum nutrient testing
- Serum or salivary hormone testing
Herbal medicines can be a useful tool in providing symptom relief given their ability to affect blood flow and the cardiovascular system, reduce inflammation, relax the nervous system, support the liver in detoxification, and regulate hormonal imbalances.
Herbs used to manage headaches include (but are not limited to):
- Butterbur (Petasites hybridus)4
- Chastetree berry (Vitex agnus-castus)5
- Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)4
- Ginger (Zingiber officinalis)6
- Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)7,8
- Lavendar (Lavendula officinalis)9
Remember, there are options available to address your headaches outside of prescription medications. Reach out to your Naturopathic doctor today to get to the root cause of your headaches and discuss options that will best fit your needs!
1. Headache classification committee of the international headache society (Ihs) the international classification of headache disorders, 3rd edition. Cephalalgia. 2018;38(1):1-211.
2. Andress-Rothrock D, King W, Rothrock J. An analysis of migraine triggers in a clinic-based population. Headache. 2010;50(8):1366-1370.
3. Nattagh-Eshtivani E, Sani MA, Dahri M, et al. The role of nutrients in the pathogenesis and treatment of migraine headaches: Review. Biomed Pharmacother. 2018;102:317-325.
4. Holland S, Silberstein SD, Freitag F, et al. Evidence-based guideline update: NSAIDs and other complementary treatments for episodic migraine prevention in adults: report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society. Neurology. 2012;78(17):1346-1353.
5. Ambrosini A, Di Lorenzo C, Coppola G, Pierelli F. Use of Vitex agnus-castus in migrainous women with premenstrual syndrome: an open-label clinical observation. Acta Neurol Belg. 2013;113(1):25-29.
6. Martins LB, Rodrigues AMDS, Rodrigues DF, Dos Santos LC, Teixeira AL, Ferreira AVM. Double-blind placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial of ginger ( Zingiber officinale Rosc.) addition in migraine acute treatment. Cephalalgia. 2019;39(1):68-76.
7. Usai S, Grazzi L, Bussone G. Gingkolide B as migraine preventive treatment in young age: results at 1-year follow-up. Neurol Sci. 2011;32 Suppl 1:S197-199.
8. Guo SG, Guan SH, Wang GM, et al. Clinical research of persimmon leaf extract and ginkgo biloba extract in the treatment of vertebrobasilar insufficiency. J Biol Regul Homeost Agents. 2015;29(1):151-157.
9. Sasannejad P, Saeedi M, Shoeibi A, Gorji A, Abbasi M, Foroughipour M. Lavender essential oil in the treatment of migraine headache: a placebo-controlled clinical trial. Eur Neurol. 2012;67(5):288-291.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.