The Top 8 Natural Migraine Headache Remedies
If you are suffering from migraine pain, it is easy to feel like there is no end in sight. Especially if you have already seen your doctor and have had your request for prescription pain meds denied.
Thankfully, however, you do not need prescription meds to treat migraines effectively. You can achieve powerful results using all-natural herbal supplements.
Do Herbal Supplements for Migraines Really Work?
That question is exactly the one I am setting out to answer clearly and comprehensively in this post.
The short answer is “yes,” but only if you buy products which contain herbs that actually have some scientific backing and you use them properly.
In this post, I am going to share a few herbs with you which have been researched and which have yielded promising results.
Studies into these herbs are ongoing, and it will be some time before we reach a complete understanding of their effectiveness for migraine treatment.
But for right now, they are some of the best options out there.
Benefits of Treating Migraines With Herbal Remedies
Before jumping into the research studies, I want to go over a few reasons why you should consider herbs over prescription meds.
- You do not need a doctor to approve your treatment. You are taking control of your own healthcare.With medications—even OTC drugs—you are risking rebound headaches. That is not the case with herbal remedies.
- You are not putting anything artificial in your body—just wholesome natural goodness.
- With herbal supplements, you are avoiding both the short- and long-term side effects that come with medications.
- You may save money using an herbal supplement instead of an expensive prescription medication.
- Herbal remedies are non-addicting. This is not the case for all prescription meds for treating migraines.
- You always know when to take herbal supplements. Usually I take mine once a day in the evening. Some people prefer to take theirs in the morning. But the point is that you never forget like you do with NSAIDs. Nothing is more annoying than saying, “Did I take Ibuprofen two hours ago?” and not being sure whether you can have more or have to wait your pain out.
- Some prescription meds may help to tackle the root of your problem instead of just the pain. For example, if your migraines are the result of a hormonal imbalance, using Chase Berry can help balance your hormones, which in turn lessens your pain. This is superior to simply killing the pain since it may also help treat other health issues simultaneously.
- Many patients report fantastic results with herbal medications. I use herbs to manage my own
migraines,and can tell you that nothing else has made as big a difference overall in how I feel.
Key Point: You may feel disappointed if you cannot obtain prescription meds for your migraines, but there are actually a lot of reasons to try herbal supplements first.
You may find they have great results without the side effects, high costs, and other inconveniences associated with prescription medications.
8 Scientifically Backed Herbal Remedies for Treating Migraines
Now that you understand some of the benefits of herbal remedies for migraines over OTC or prescription medications, let’s check out some of the most effective herbs out there.
1. Boswellia Extract
Boswellia is a type of tree which belongs to the order known as “Sapindales.” The resin of the tree is fragrant and medicinal. Indeed, there are four species of boswellia which are known to produce frankincense.
Boswellia is an anti-inflammatory agent, and its resin has been used in traditional medicine for hundreds of years.
It can help speed wound healing and has demonstrated antimicrobial qualities. Despite its longstanding medicinal use and its religious significance to ancient cultures, it has yet to receive extensive study.
If you take over-the-counter medications for migraine, you may be aware that some popular treatments are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), for example Ibuprofen.
Migraine are still somewhat mysterious to scientists, who do not entirely understand the mechanisms through which migraine pain is generated. It is believed however that neurogenic inflammation may play a role.
This may account for why NSAIDs are effective against migraine pain, and also why boswellia may be able to counteract head pain as well.
Boswellia has also been shown to be helpful in reducing the severity and frequency of cluster headaches.
This makes boswellia one of the more promising herbs out there right now for treating not just migraines, but a range of different types of headaches.
2. Feverfew Extract
If you were to stumble upon a patch of feverfew, you’d see a cluster of white flowers which look like daisies.
Indeed, feverfew is a member of the daisy family. The herb has a long history in traditional medicine, and has been used since ancient times to treat arthritis, head pain, menstrual cramps, inflammation, fever (as you might guess), and more.
Actually, feverfew is not particularly useful for treating fevers. But it does appear to be useful in treating migraines. Indeed, here are a few studies to check out:
- In this double-blind placebo-controlled research study, fifty-seven patients were assessed over a two-month period. It was found that “feverfew caused a significant reduction in pain intensity” compared to a placebo. There was also a “profound reduction” in other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and light and noise sensitivity.
- Another slightly larger study also found that “treatment with feverfew was associated with a reduction in the mean number and severity of attacks” during a time period of two months. Likewise, it was discovered that patients experienced a reduction in vomiting and visual disturbances.
It should be noted that once again, this research is still just in the beginning stages. So far, meta-studies have not yet established conclusively that feverfew is more effective than a placebo. But for now, there is at least enough evidence to say that it might be—and that it certainly warrants further research.
3. Butterbur Extract
Also known as “petasites,” butterbur is a shrub found in North America, Asia, and Europe. Its name originates from the fact that the leaves used to be used to wrap butter in the days of yore.
Like the other herbs on this list, butterbur has long been used medicinally. During medieval times, it was used to treat fever and plague. Not long after, it became a popular remedy for wounds, asthma and cough.
Today, it is used to treat everything from headache to upset stomach.
A couple of studies have focused on butterbur as a treatment for migraines in children.
In this study, similar strong results were found for reductions in migraine attack frequency.
Indeed, the NIH reports that the studies on butterbur have been so high in quality that both the American Headache Society and the American Academy of Neurology have decided to endorse this herb as a treatment.
Safety Note: Butterbur is safe if it is processed properly.
But the raw form contains chemicals referred to as “pyrrolizidine alkaloids,” sometimes simply called “PAs.” If you consume these chemicals, they are toxic, and can damage your liver.
For this reason, you need to make sure you are buying only butterbur which has been correctly processed so that all PAs have been removed.
4. Ginger Extract
Here is one which you are probably familiar with and may even have in your own kitchen right now. Ginger extract comes from ginger root, which is commonly used in cooking.
Ginger is used for many different medicinal applications. It is possibly effective for treating painful menstruation, morning sickness, osteoarthritis, vertigo, and nausea and vomiting following surgery or resulting from HIV treatment.
It is used as a home remedy for many other conditions as well, but there is not yet a lot of research to back those other uses up.
How can ginger help you treat your migraines?
In this double-blind study, patients were treated with either a placebo or a combination of feverfew and ginger. The supplement combo was given during acute mild migraine attacks to see if it would prevent them from escalating into moderate or severe headaches.
It was found that the combined supplement “appears as safe and effective as a first-line abortive treatment.” Furthermore, ginger seems to be side-effect free.
5. Chaste Tree Berry Extract
One herb which I personally have had fabulous results with is chaste tree berry, also called Vitex.
This extract comes from a tree which is endemic to the Mediterranean. As the name implies, some people believe it is able to suppress libido (I have definitely not found that to be the case; if anything, my experiences have been the opposite).
There is not yet a strong scientific understanding of chaste tree berry extract or how it works.
But it is usually taken either for PMS or for estrogen dominance, and is believed to help balance out hormone production, likely through action as a dopamine agonist.
One of the reasons why migraines are more common among women than men is that they can be triggered by rising and falling levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body. If those levels are out of balance, that can lead to a slew of unpleasant symptoms, headache being just one of them.
So if you do have menstrual migraines (whether they occur before, during or after your period), you may find that Vitex helps you to get them under control, along with the other symptoms of hormonal imbalance which you may be experiencing.
Here is a study which was conducted on women who suffered from PMS and migraines. 100 participants were treated for a 3 month period. 66 reported dramatic improvements in PMS symptoms, and 26 reported mild improvements.
Only 8 reported no change. 42% of those participating said that their migraine frequency dropped by more than 50% (which is around what I can report from my own use). As of right now, evidence points towards Vitex being safe for long-term use.
I admit that there is not a huge pile of support yet for the effectiveness of Vitex, but I can tell you from personal experience that it can be life-changing if your headaches are hormonal in nature.
I believe I noticed a change within just a couple of days of starting, and the improvements only continued to grow with time.
Magnesium is an important mineral which has a number of positive effects in the body, at least one of which may be relieving headache pain.
To start with, there are studies which indicate that magnesium may be effective as a migraine treatment.
But it is also possible that magnesium may be able to help relax tense muscles, possibly alleviating the pain of tension headaches as well.
Many people who suffer from migraines may also suffer from tension headaches and vice versa. For my part, I can say that one can regularly lead to the other.
When I have a migraine, I tense up because of the pain, and then I end up with a tension headache on top of my migraine.
And if I have a tension headache, I get stressed, which can produce a migraine.
It is a vicious cycle.
So magnesium is a great supplement for those who suffer from either type of headache, but especially for those who have both. Magnesium can potentially treat both types of pain simultaneously, which may help you feel better fast.
7. Vitamin D
There are some indications that certain types of headaches may be associated with vitamin D deficiency. Researchers are still not sure whether these correlations are enough to establish causality, but they are certainly worth looking into.
That means that it may very well be worth taking more vitamin D in an effort to rein in your own migraines and tension headaches.
Vitamin D deficiency is very common, especially in regions like the Pacific Northwest, which do not get a lot of sunlight during the winter months (I live in this part of the world, and multiple doctors have told me that most of their patients are not getting enough vitamin D).
Research has found that taking vitamin D can result in a “dramatic reduction in the frequency and duration” of migraines. It also appears that vitamin D plus calcium is useful in treating menstrual migraine.
So now you have a couple of reasons to consider adding more vitamin D to your diet. If you are deficient, that may be playing into your headaches, and the evidence right now supports vitamin D as a treatment for alleviating head pain.
8. Vitamin B
As it turns out, vitamin D is not the only nutrient which is helpful for treating migraines. B vitamins, in particular vitamin B12, may also be helpful in managing your headaches.
This study looked at the role played by coenzyme Q10, magnesium, riboflavin, and vitamin B12 in fighting migraines. The study concluded that, “Among the molecules analyzed in this chapter, vitamin B12 seems to exert a prominent role in migraine therapy.”
The researchers found a number of different mechanisms that could feasibly be involved with its effectiveness.
Vitamin B12 has quite a few other benefits as well. Taking vitamin B12 along with vitamin B6 and folic acid may help to reduce your chances of heart disease. Vitamin B12 also is able to reduce homocysteine levels, which scientists hypothesize may work to prevent or treat dementia.
So adding vitamin B12 either on its own or in conjunction with other B vitamins can help to enhance your health in a number of ways while potentially reducing your migraine pain.
What to Look for In High-Quality Herbal Migraine Supplements
Now that you know some of the herbs, vitamins and minerals which can be used to treat migraines at home safely and naturally, what should you look for in terms of the supplements you buy to ensure that you are only getting the highest quality? Here are a few recommendations to guide you in the buying process:
A strong brand name
The supplements market is scarcely regulated, which means that you need to do your homework before you pick a product. Go with a brand which has excellent reviews and a strong reputation.
Part of the reason to take herbal supplements instead of medications is to get away from artificial ingredients. So choose a product which is 100% natural and wholesome.
No fillers or additives
Pick up a few supplement bottles at the supermarket and check the ingredients lists on the back sometime. You will find that an astounding number of seemingly natural products contain dozens of weird additives for no necessary reason.
Buy a migraine supplement which is pure and not contaminated by these pointless fillers.
A useful dosage for your needs
Dosages for herbal remedies can range quite widely. You may find that a smaller dosage suffices just fine for your needs where someone else might need to take more—or you might discover the opposite.
Vegetarian capsules which are allergen-free
Shop for supplements which do not contain ingredients to which you are allergic. If this is non-applicable for you, you do not need to worry about it. Just remember if you are shopping for a product which others in your household might use that you need to think about their needs as well.
Formulas containing a blend of ingredients
You can shop for products which only contain a single ingredient, but if you really want to pack a serious punch against migraines, you might want to buy a product which contains a blend of herbs, vitamins and minerals.
This can be very cost-effective, especially if you intend to take more than one herb for headaches anyway. The cost of buying each separately would certainly add up to more than the cost of buying a combined formula.
I suggest purchasing a supplement which contains a special ingredient called BioPerine®, which is a proprietary extract from the black pepper plant. This impressive substance can increase the bioavailability of other ingredients included in a supplement by up to 2,000%.
That way none of that migraine-fighting goodness goes to waste.
A good value
The least expensive product is not always the one which is the best value. The best value means the most bang for your buck. So check both the amount of the herb you are getting in each capsule and the number of capsules contained in each bottle.
Using this information, you can do the math and see if you really are getting the best deal.
Strict quality control standards
This is essential since there is a lack of regulation in the market and supplement quality can vary tremendously. Shop for supplements which are manufactured in cGMP certified labs according to the standards set forth by the FDA.
This will help to ensure that you are getting a high quality product which contains exactly what it says it does on the label.
This is not a must, but it is certainly nice to have, especially if you are shopping online. Different herbs will be more or less effective for different migraineurs. So you may not know for sure which herbs will be best for you in the beginning.
Then again, this is another reason to think about a product which contains several herbs in one formula.
Any Precautions for Taking Herbal Supplements To Treat Migraines?
On the whole, taking herbs to treat migraines should be safe and side-effect free for most users. I would recommend the following however:
- Research the specific herbs you are planning to take to make sure that they will not interfere with other conditions or medications.
- Make sure that you follow all the recommendations above and are shopping from a reputable brand. Herbal supplements are only safe when they contain what they say they do.
- Keep in mind that certain supplements may be better geared toward some types of migraines than others, depending on the cause. Consider keeping a headache journal both before and after you start treatment so that you can gather data on what is working for you and what is not. For example, if your migraines are triggered by bright light and have nothing to do with your hormones, Vitex might not be all that effective. Some people also complain it makes their symptoms worse—possibly because their hormonal profile is the opposite of that which Vitex is used to treat. On the other hand, if your migraines are tied to low progesterone with respect to estrogen, Vitex could massively transform your life for the better. Either way, keeping notes will help you pursue the best herbal treatment for your condition.
In most cases, you do not need to be overly cautious when using new herbal medications, but it always pays to stay safe.
If you do have any questions, you can always chat with your healthcare provider before starting a new treatment. As to vitamins, you should be good to go so long as you do not exceed the upper limits.
Where to Find Herbal Supplements for Migraines
Where can you shop for the best herbal supplements for migraines? Well, if you just want to stock up on B12 or D vitamins on their own, you can probably find some good deals at your local pharmacy. You can also purchase individual herbal treatments online.
It’s time to stop masking your symptoms and start treating the root imbalances in your body with healthy, safe ingredients which provide long-term relief.
Give it a try, and keep reading our blog for more tips and tricks for managing your migraine pain!