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How to Manage Migraines Naturally: Magnesium - Feverfew - Butterbur - Ginger
December 21, 2007 10:41 AM
Before you can understand how to manage migraines naturally, it is necessary to understand exactly what they are and how certain treatments could work. It is not generally known that the word ‘migraine’ means ‘half the head’ because it frequently hurts only on the right or the left of the head of sufferer. Some people with migraines do feel pain on both sides at once, although this is not generally the case.
A migraine occurs in stages which are activated by fluctuations in the hormone content of the blood. The ‘aura’, when you see spots and flashing lights in front of your eyes, is the first stage of a migraine attack, and during this time the blood vessels in your neck and head are contracting. You could also find it difficult to concentrate and your fingers could feel cold. At this point they do not have the headache that starts when the blood vessels begin to dilate.
Rather than the contracted blood vessels slowly returning to normal, your hormones have an excessively strong reaction, and cause them to dilate rapidly and become much wider than they should be leading to a severe headache due to pressure on the nerves. Different hormones can be involves with each attack, and the range of effective natural treatments reflect this fact. During this period, your brain could swell slightly, your muscles can tense up and other things can happen to the chemical and hormonal balance of your body. That is why some herbal treatments work for some but not for others, and different people find different treatments effective for them. What works for you might not work for somebody else if their migraine has a different cause. Basically, though, migraines occur in two phases, one being associated with an excess of hormones and the other with a shortage.
It is not easy to live with a migraine since it can be completely debilitating. Some just have a severe headache, while others are affected for days at a time. The headache can become before and after the onset of the Shimmering lights and other optical effects that are generated by the brain. It would certainly be useful if those prone to migraines had one or more of the possible natural remedies to hand since there is rarely time to seek to seek professional medical help once the migraine begins, and through the use of natural remedies a potentially bad attack could be nipped in the bud, and at least its effect on you reduced.
Magnesium is common in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and cabbage, whole grains, nuts and seeds. It is an essential mineral for human biochemistry, and is also needed with calcium for healthy bone development and maintenance.
Magnesium is a muscle relaxant, and relaxes the muscles of the blood vessels helping them to relax their dilatancy that cause the migraine pain. It is also useful to help the immune function, reduces blood pressure (by the same blood vessel relaxing mechanism) and also the rhythm of your heart. Magnesium therefore provides you with many health benefits, and though the western diet is not generally deficient in magnesium, some areas can be and a magnesium-containing supplement will not do you harm.
However, particularly high dose of magnesium can lead to nausea, diarrhea, low blood pressure and many other unpleasant side effects, so do not take more than the RDA (recommended daily allowance) in your supplement. Many studies have confirmed its effectiveness in reducing the symptoms of migraine, but not all studies have been successful. However, the condition is so debilitating to so many people, that it should be tried although not in excess. Make sure, however, that your doctor is informed since it could interfere with other medication you are taking for your migraine.
Riboflavin, vitamin B-2, is also believed to useful in reducing the duration and frequency of migraine attacks, working in much the same way as magnesium. It is known that there are many cases of people who suffer from vitamin B-2 deficiency also suffering from migraines, and a riboflavin supplement is also worth trying if you are a consistent victim of this condition.
Feverfew is the best known of the herbal remedies for migraine, and has been used for centuries in the treatment of fevers, headache, migraine and other painful conditions such as arthritis. The active ingredient is parthenolide, an anti-inflammatory that is also an anti-hyperalgesic, and that would explain its effect on reducing the pain. It also blocks lipolysaccharide-induced osteolysis by suppressing the activity of a eukaryotic transcription factor protein known as NF-kappaB that can cause a number of immune response problems, including inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, hence its use to relieve that condition.
Its effect on migraines could be explained by this activity in repressing the inflammatory response to certain stimuli that could be brought about by hormonal activity. Because it must be taken for a few weeks before the actual problem arises in order to be effective against it, feverfew is not effective to treat an existing attack, but to prevent future attacks. Double blind studies have proved its effectiveness in many tests, but not in all. However, if you take feverfew as a regular supplement in you diet, you might never have to try magnesium or vitamin B-2 supplements.
Some people swear by the leaves of feverfew, eating one per day which is easy way to take it. It is important, however, that you do so regularly, since it can take for up to 6 – 8 weeks for you to notice a reduction in your attacks. Don’t give up after 5 or 6 weeks, but continue, since the results will be well worth it. If you stop for a week or two you will have to start all over again. You might get a sore mouth and perhaps mouth ulcers to start with, but these will eventually go once your body is used to it.
You are probably best not to take if you are pregnant since it could cause you to abort. Otherwise, however, it has been shown to be effective in many severe cases. Feverfew is bitter, and can be used as a tea with other herbs, such as rosemary, lavender and sage. If you are taking warfarin, aspirin or other blood-thinning drugs, see your doctor first, and the same is true of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). If you are taking these for arthritis, the feverfew itself might be more effective!
If you are taking feverfew as a supplement using commercially available dried leaf then the recommended dosage is around 125mg of the dried leaf. It should contain at least 0.2% of parthenolide (0.25mg/daily), although other studies have indicated that a total of 0.7 mg parthenolide a day should be taken (100mg at 0.7%). Parthenolide is unstable so don’t take it after its sell by or best by date.
Butterbur is also useful in the treatment of migraines. The active ingredient here is petasin, a sesquiterpene ester that also has anti-inflammatory properties, all though it works in a different manner to feverfew. Here, it inhibits the activities of leukotriene generation in neutrophils and eosinophils, which indicates that it also possesses anti-allergenic properties that could help asthmatics that also suffer from migraines. It does not prevent the release of histamine, but does appear to reduce smooth muscle spasm.
You should never take the raw herb, only the extract, because it contains alkaloids that can harm you. The butterbur extract, however, is a perfectly safe supplement and found effective by many people in the treatment of migraine.
If your migraine is at the front of the head, then you should try ginger. Unlike feverfew, ginger works on a migraine as it is occurring, and improvement can be achieved for a bad migraine within half an hour. In fact if, like many people, you can feel a migraine coming on, half a teaspoon of freshly ground ginger can stop the pain before it starts.
Many herbal treatments for migraine include a combination of some of the above remedies, and many people swear by them. However, migraine treatment is very personal, and you should use what works best for you. If you are also taking other medical treatments however, please make sure that you refer to your physician before using any others, and that includes herbal remedies or supplements.