More than 37 million Americans are affected by migraines. They are inherently complex and differ from person to person in regards to what triggers them, and also what works best to ease their debilitating side effects. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications can only offer a temporary reprieve from the condition, and if taken too often, pose their own negative health effects. Prescription medications of all kinds are handed out with the goal of conquering this looming ailment, but any sort of cure-all still seems far out of reach. However, promising leads are beginning to arise in the field of alternative medicine, so for those who wish to take a more holistic approach to treating their migraines, there are options

The Science Behind the Complexity  

There is a lot of debate surrounding what exactly causes migraines; any number of factors can influence the onset, and the recovery period can look very different for each individual. Some people experience only pain, while others experience more complex symptoms. Triggers are equally as hard to identify, ranging anywhere from red wine consumption to excessive amounts of stress. There are some consistencies amongst migraine sufferers, and WebMD has identified 5 stages of a migraine that are present in many of those who experience side-effects:

  • Prodrome: This preliminary stage proves to be the most difficult to identify, given its arbitrary nature. Signs can be anything from a sudden change in mood or excessive yawning – all symptoms that can be explained by many other conditions, but also be indicative of an oncoming migraine.
  • Aura: Still before the major onset of pain, visual disturbances are observed during this phase of an attack. Blind spots (scotomas) and colorful lights are common.
  • Headache: This phase can be debilitating for some, and can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours. Throbbing pain on one side of the head is common, as is light sensitivity and severe nausea and vomiting.
  • Headache termination: The pain begins to fade during this phase.
  • Postdrome: Usually the pain has disappeared, but lingering side-effects such as lack of appetite and inability to concentrate can be seen during this phase.

Specific events that usually precede an attack, such as brain stem activation or changes in the electrical currents that move across the brain, have been identified – but it still remains unclear as to the exact chronological order in which these incidents take place. From a basic perspective, it’s essential to monitor symptoms and determine triggers so that those factors can be avoided. Consequently, over time, migraine frequency may decrease; however, if triggers become too difficult to identify, and pharmaceuticals or over-the-counter (OTC) medications have been exhausted with no concrete results, other methods should be explored.

Could Alternative Medicine Have the Solution?

There is a lot of debate surrounding what exactly causes migraines; any number of factors can influence the onset, and the recovery period can look very different for each individual. Some people experience only pain, while others experience more complex symptoms. Triggers are equally as hard to identify, ranging anywhere from red wine consumption to excessive amounts of stress. There are some consistencies amongst migraine sufferers, and WebMD has identified 5 stages of a migraine that are present in many of those who experience side-effects:

  • FeverFew (Tanacetum parthenium): Herb native to Greece that can offer relief from migraines, dizziness, and inflammation.
  • Butterbur (Petasites hybridus): Found in wet, marshy areas and used to treat headaches, allergies, and general pain.
  • Peppermint (Mentha x balsamea): Accessible in most areas of the world, this herb can provide relief from spasms and nausea

Just like any other medication, it is crucial to thoroughly research every method of potential treatment, even those offered by natural sources. Speaking with a healthcare professional before introducing a new substance to the body, particularly when other medications are already present, is essential in order to avoid possible negative interactions.

An assortment of healing herbs and essential oils can already be found in many households today. With the healing potential these substances possess, perhaps it’s time to start digging around in the cabinets and investigate more natural approaches for migraine pain and symptom relief.  

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