The Essential Guide To Treating a Migraine With Natural Supplements
Looking for a healthy way to treat migraine pain? There are a lot of options out there, but one of the best is to make use of natural supplements.
If you have looked up how to use supplements to treat migraine pain, I am going to assume that you are not at all sure what to look for or how to go about your new treatment plan.
So I am going to break it down for you step-by-step, and walk you through the entire process.
I could just say, “Go out and buy any supplement for migraines and take it.” But that does not ensure that you will get the results you are looking for.
There are mistakes you can make at every stage. Most are pretty easy to avoid, but it does take some time and thought to select the right supplements and use them effectively. So let’s get started.
1. First, be sure you have migraines
“Of course I have migraines!” you insist. “My head hurts.”
Well, maybe. Maybe not.
If you know a lot about different types of headaches and how they are classified, you might be in a position to confidently and correctly declare that you have migraines. If however you do not know one type of head pain from another, you could be suffering from a different type of headache and not even realize it.
You might or example have tension headaches or cluster headaches.
I have gone in-depth into this topic in this article.
If you do not have migraines at all, and only suffer from tension headaches, taking supplements for migraines might do you no good.
It is also possible for you to have both. If that is the case, the supplement you take for migraines might reduce your overall head pain, but will probably not eliminate it.
Establishing realistic expectations is important for evaluating the effectiveness of the supplements you end up trying out. So start by establishing whether you likely have migraines or not. If you believe you do, then proceed to the next step.
2. See if you can figure out what might be causing your migraines
Once you have determined that you likely do have migraines, you should make some attempt to try and figure out what if anything might be causing or triggering them.
There are two benefits to doing this. The first is that if you do get to the bottom of the matter, you might have some luck at preventing your migraines from occurring in the first place.
The second is that you can home in on supplements which are likely to make a difference.
Here are a couple of examples.
- Say you notice that your migraines tend to be spurred by bouts of dehydration. In this case, you might need some extra salt and magnesium to help hydrate your cells and keep your serotonin, calcium, and glutamate levels optimal. Pick a supplement for migraines which contains magnesium—or consider taking additional magnesium and salt supplements on the side if the main supplement you plan to use does not contain them.
- Imagine you discover that your migraines are connected to your menstrual cycles and an imbalance of your progesterone and estrogen ratios. At this point, it makes sense to pick a supplement for migraines which contains Vitex or other herbs known to help balance out these hormones.
If you target your treatments to your specific condition, you are going to get much better results than if you do not.
What if you cannot figure out what is going on in your body at all? This would not be a surprise being as a lot of people never are able to establish why they have migraines. Even a doctor might not be able to tell you.
In that case, you can take a supplement which contains a number of different ingredients for treating migraines which are well-supported by science. That way you give yourself a good chance of success. Even if one or more ingredients in the supplement is not a fit for you, some of the others may be.
3. Figure out which supplements might best address your specific migraine disorder
I have pretty much already gone over this idea above, but I will elaborate just a little.
Basically, I think it is important to know that you should expect to be doing some research at this stage.
When I figured out that I have hormonal migraines for instance, I didn’t just look up “supplements for hormonal migraines” and instantly find something that works.
Actually, I found multiple lists which collectively contained more than a dozen different ideas.
It was up to me at that stage to do the hard work of trying to narrow down the list to the supplements which would most likely help with my particular hormonal condition.
This took a few hours of concentrated work. Eventually I narrowed it down to several options which seemed worth a try, and purchased a few supplements.
When you do your research, be mindful of the quality of your sources. Wherever possible, look for actual scientific research, but be wary of conflicts of interest.
Do not overlook the value of anecdotal evidence however—a lot of supplements for headaches still have not been thoroughly researched, but seem quite promising.
Just make sure that the sources you use for anecdotal research seem calm and level-headed. Someone who writes “OMG MY HEADACHES ARE TOTALLY CURED SINCE I STARTED TAKING THIS!!!!” is not a good source.
4. Decide whether to use one or more products.
Next, you will need to decide how many supplements to actually use.
When I started supplementing to treat my migraines, I was taking:
I never got to a point of confidence with anything but the Vitex, which made a clear, observable difference. Some of the others might have helped, but I cannot be positive.
The point here is that you will need to decide whether to take your supplements separately or together.
Back then, I could not find a supplement which contained a blend of all of these ingredients, so I was taking five different pills each night.
But if you can find everything you want to take in one bottle, you should totally go for it. It will save you a lot of money and hassle.
What herbs are useful for treating migraines? We recommend:
Click through to find studies on each of these.
Again, you can buy these supplements separately and try each of them individually, or you can get them in a blend.
Still need help picking natural supplements for treating migraines? Check out this article, where I share in-depth information about boswellia, feverfew, and other natural migraine remedies.
Keep Reading: The Top 8 Natural Migraine Headache Remedies
5. Choose a reputable brand which produces pure, high-quality supplements.
Once you know what vitamins, minerals, or herbs you want to be taking every day, you need to buy from a quality brand.
With common supplements like magnesium, there are a ton of options out there. With something more specific (like Vitex), your options are more restricted.
Either way, look for the following when you are shopping:
- A solid value (do the math, dividing the cost by the dosage and the number of capsules)
- The right dosage for your needs
- Purity (no artificial additives)
- Made from high-quality ingredients which have been sustainably harvested
- Free of allergens, wheat or gluten if necessary
- Manufactured in cGMP certified labs
- Subjected to independent testing
- Great reviews
- Trusted customer service
Once you find a supplement which meets these criteria, then you will be able to order with confidence.
6. Order your supplements.
The next step is easy! Just place an order and wait for your supplements to arrive in the mail.
At this point, I want to mention that depending on the specifics of what you need, you may always end up ordering online.
Some of the best migraine supplements are only sold online, not in brick-and-mortar stores.
Supplements online tend to be more affordable in my experience as well.
Plus, if you live in a rural area, you might not be able to find some of what you need in your location. I usually have to buy Vitex online because only one store in my area carries it, and they do not always have it.
If that is your situation, be sure to think ahead and order early when you need to so you do not have a gap.
7. Read the instructions on the labels with care.
Once your supplements arrive, the next thing you should do is carefully read the instructions.
Sometimes they might surprise you. For example, it is often recommended that one start out with a higher dosage of Vitex for a couple of weeks, and then drop down to half that.
So be on the lookout for specifics like this.
8. Take the prescribed dosages, carefully following the directions.
Once you are familiar with the directions, follow them carefully. Be sure you are taking the right amount of the supplement for your needs.
In some cases, you can diverge from the directions. But if so, you need to have a good reason.
Here are a couple of examples:
- Sometimes the dosages contained in supplements are much higher than what is needed to produce a result. If your research tells you that you can get away with less, taking less can save you money while still effectively treating your migraines.
- The supplement might be suggested for morning use, but maybe you fast in the mornings and do not do well taking supplements on an empty stomach. If that is the case, taking them at night with a meal is your best alternative.
Try not to start and stop with supplements (unless the directions say you need periodic breaks). Most supplements are at their peak effectiveness if you are taking them every day.
9. Keep a headache diary so that you can track your progress.
You might think at this point that this is all there is to it. You are taking supplements for migraines which you have carefully researched and selected, so you are good to go, right?
Actually, sometimes some trial and error is needed to pick the right supplement. Hopefully you will get lucky on your first try, but that is not a guarantee.
What you should do is keep a diary of your headaches. Ideally, you should start this before you begin any of your new supplements. You need to establish a baseline. Do this for at least several weeks.
Record the following in each entry:
- Today’s date
- The time when you feel a headache coming on (if applicable)
- The time when the headache abates (if applicable)
- The intensity of the headache
- What the headache feels like (throbbing pain vs. a dull ache for example)
- Where the headache is located on your head or face
- Supplements or medications you may already be taking
- When you most recently ate, and what you consumed
- When you most recently drank liquids, and what beverages you chose
- When you last slept, and for how long
- When you most recently exercised, and what you did
- Notes about other physiological things taking place in your body (like seemingly unrelated pains or fatigue)
- Your psychological state at the time (stressed, relaxed, etc.)
- Notes on your environment (like whether you were out in the bright sun when the headache struck, or if the weather has changed recently)
Once you begin taking the supplement, you can continue logging notes about your migraines. You should record data on all of the same points I just went over above, noting your new supplements.
I suggest doing this for at least a few weeks before you try and draw any conclusions. It may take this long 1-for the supplement to take full effect, and 2-for any obvious patterns to emerge.
If you are taking each supplement separately (as opposed to all of them being part of a blend), try and introduce just one at a time to your daily regimen.
Otherwise, you will have a hard time pinpointing which vitamins, herbs, or minerals are making the difference in your headaches.
10. Be patient in evaluating your supplements.
This goes back to what I stated above. Even fast-acting supplements often do not achieve their full effects right away.
A great example would be Vitex. Different people have different experiences with Vitex starting out.
In my case, it was fast-acting, and I had no side effects. Within about four or five days, I was positive it was making a difference with my headaches.
But it wasn’t until I had taken it for around six months before I had experienced the full range of its potential. It has a cumulative positive effect over months of use.
As I just mentioned, I had no obvious side effects using Vitex for migraines. But that is not true for everyone.
I have encountered reports from some women who have used Vitex who have said that it temporarily threw their menstrual cycles off.
In most cases, this seems to be a fleeting inconvenience. After a few months, it subsides, and periods return to normal.
So this too is another reason to be patient when trying out a new supplement. Sometimes it takes your body a bit of time to adapt. Only after you wait through that adjustment period can you be sure that a supplement is the right choice for you.
Of course, you should use your own judgement when testing migraine supplements. If you do get side effects you are uncomfortable with and feel the need to quit, by all means, do so. Listen to your body and try something different.
11. Make changes and test out new supplements as needed.
As data on your new supplement regimen emerges, you will be able to make hypotheses about what is and is not working for you.
At that point, you can begin testing changes. If what you are doing isn’t working:
- Consider increasing the dosage of the supplement if that is appropriate (and you haven’t had any side effects).
- Think about quitting the supplement altogether and trying a new one.
If what you are doing is working:
- You may be able to increase or decrease the dosage, depending on the supplement and the guidelines for taking it. Taking more might increase the effect in some cases. In others, you might be able to cut down your dosage and get the same great results.
- If there are other supplements you want to test out, you can try adding them to your course of therapy. If you can, try and add just one at a time and test each for several weeks before you tack on more.
As you go, continue making notes in your headache diary. Over time, you should be able to optimize your treatment plan to your exact needs.
In some cases, your findings may even lead you to form a greater understanding of what causes your headaches.
You might discover that a certain mineral or vitamin helps you out, and then take a look at your diet and realize you were deficient in it.
Or you might notice Vitex helps your migraines, which points toward a hormonal cause.
If you do discover an underlying issue, you may want to talk to a doctor about it or take additional treatment steps on your own.
12. Pair up your supplements with other natural treatment methods for the best results.
Speaking of additional treatment steps, you can certainly try to tackle your migraines using supplements alone—but that is not the most optimal method.
There is a lot more you can do to treat migraines naturally at home. Here are a few quick ideas.
- Get more caffeine in your diet. A cup of coffee can go a long way toward bringing you migraine relief. In fact, any medications you are taking can work 40% more effectively if you take them with caffeine.
- Exercise on a regularly basis. Most studies have found that this is a very effective way to reduce both the frequency and severity of your migraines. According to this research, it is likely that working out boosts nitric oxide levels in our bloodstreams, which is why exercise usually helps with migraines.
- Make sure that you are getting around 7-8 hours of sleep each night and that you wake up and go to bed at the same each day.
- Meditate to lower your stress levels and manage pain.
- Try using cold therapy to treat acute head pain.
- Applying heat may help if muscle tension is contributing to your headaches.
You can also consider using over-the-counter medications in moderation to control migraine pain. Try not to over-use them, however, or you could come down with rebound headaches.
Treating Migraines with Natural Supplements: Action Tips
You now should have a solid idea of what you need to do in order to effectively treat a migraine using natural supplements.
I could have just given you a list and said, “try taking any of these,” but that barely scrapes the surface. Let’s review the best practices:
- Make sure you have actual migraines, rather than another type of headache which might not be as effectively treated using migraine supplements.
- If possible, pick supplements which are geared toward treating your particular types of migraines (dehydration-related, hormonal, etc.).
- Research different supplements to come up with a list of ideas to try.
- Decide whether to buy each supplement in individual capsules, or whether to try a product which contains a formulated blend of minerals, vitamins or herbs.
- Pick a company which manufactures high-quality supplements.
- Once you have your supplements, make sure you understand the instructions and are taking the right dosage.
- Start a headache diary before you begin treating your migraines with supplements, and continue your logs after you start treatment.
- Stay consistent with your supplementing schedule.
- Track your observations and see if they provide you with insights both into the possible causes and triggers of your headaches, and the effectiveness of the supplements you are trying.
- Continue to adjust your treatment plan for maximum effectiveness.
Be as systematic as you can with this process. That way you can make the most accurate, informed decisions about your health.
Conclusion: The Effectiveness of Natural Supplements for Migraines Depends Largely On You
Are natural supplements effective treatments for migraines? They can be—but only if you are making the right choices.
That means picking the supplements which fit your needs, and taking the appropriate dosages and doing so with diligence.
It means keeping a log so that you can figure out what works best for you, and being willing to continue researching and adapting as needed.
Treating migraines is a journey, and you will learn a lot about your body and yourself along the way.
By the time you get your headaches under control, you will be empowered with knowledge that you can use throughout your life to stay as healthy and pain-free as possible.
Read Next: 10 Tips for Managing Migraines at Work