If you’re one of the millions of Americans who suffer from migraine attacks, you know that the pain can be unbearable. Symptoms can include sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and intense pressure. For many people, migraines are a chronic condition that is triggered by food and other stimuli.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to prevent migraines and lessen their impact. Before you reach for over-the-counter medications, try these natural remedies for migraines to alleviate pain and prevent headache triggers.
The Best Home Remedies For Migraine Pain
1. Avoid Food Triggers
The human diet has long been connected with ailments and prevention of diseases. In terms of headache pain, certain foods may trigger the onset of a headache or make an existing migraine worse. Foods that contain MSG, histamine, or nitrates such as deli meats, sausage, and red wine may cause headaches (1). That’s because these foods can cause vasodilation in blood vessels—essentially these compounds cause blood vessels to widen thus reducing blood pressure (2).
Make sure to limit your consumption of caffeine as well. While some research shows caffeine may help ease migraine pain, too much caffeine can actually trigger more intense migraine symptoms (3).
If you suffer from headaches regularly, keeping a food journal may help you identify potential headache triggers. You can also try an elimination diet when you single out one food at a time to see what may trigger your headaches.
2. Essential Oils
Research shows that aromatherapy may be an effective way to deal with pain from migraines and joint pain. Clinical research has shown that lavender essential oil and peppermint essential oil are particularly powerful when it comes to migraine relief.
One such study published in European Neurology found that lavender oil alleviated pain from severe headaches more quickly than placebo (4).
A German study found that local application of peppermint oil helped to alleviate tension headaches. The small study consisted of 164 headache attacks in 41 individuals. Researchers found that peppermint oil was as effective as paracetamol—a pain reliever known commonly as Tylenol—in treating acute headache pain (5).
Another study found that peppermint oil may help to prevent migraines with few side effects. The randomized, triple-blind, placebo-controlled study consisted of 35 participants with 118 migraine attacks between March 2007 to March 2008. Researchers found that peppermint oil significantly inhibited migraine attacks and reduced the severity of migraine headaches (6).
Most research points to the anti-inflammatory properties of essential oils when it comes to pain relief benefits. These oils help relieve pain by improving blood flow and preventing changes to blood pressure.
Acupressure—a popular natural treatment—may be an effective migraine treatment. Acupressure involves applying firm yet gentle pressure on pressure points to alleviate aches and pains and prevent disease.
A Chinese systematic review published in Pain Management Nursing found acupressure to be an effective treatment in headache relief. The review examined 15 studies, which were analyzed and shown to demonstrate the benefits of acupressure on migraines. Researchers found that applying pressure to specific points helped to reduce migraine frequency, the severity of pain, and symptoms including nausea, low back pain, and menstrual disruption (7).
4. Cold Compress
A cold compress can help decrease inflammation and pressure, which can cause pounding headaches. Simply run a towel under a cool stream of water or place in the freezer for 15 minutes. Apply the cool compress to your forehead or temples and rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Reapply as needed until pain dissipates.
5. Drink Plenty of Fluids
Headaches are frequently caused by dehydration (8). Not drinking enough water can also exacerbate symptoms of chronic migraines. Try to drink plenty of water throughout the day to prevent headaches. You can also alternate water with green tea or herbal teas if you want a little extra flavor. Many teas can help to reduce inflammation and prevent tension headaches.
6. Try B-Vitamins
B vitamins are water-soluble vitamins that are responsible for producing energy and controlling the body’s metabolism. They are frequently found in foods including whole grains, dairy, seeds and nuts, and fruits.
Studies show that B vitamins including vitamin B2 and B12 may help to alleviate headache pain (9). Researchers found that these vitamins help to increase the synthesis of certain chemicals including riboflavin, which limits headache pain.
7. Exercise Regularly
Regular exercise is vital to human health. It helps keep the body running at top form and prevents a host of diseases from cardiovascular problems to mental decline. Getting plenty of exercise may also help to decrease migraines.
One study published in Current Pain and Headache Reports chronicled the effects of exercise on migraine in 92,566 participants. Researchers found that exercise helps to modulate receptors and neurons, which can trigger or inhibit migraines and headache pain (10). Researchers also found that people with low levels of exercise tended to have higher rates of headache pain.
Treat Migraines Naturally
Migraines are a common condition that causes symptoms including headache pain, nausea, and aura. Fortunately for migraine sufferers, there are several ways to treat and prevent migraines. For severe or chronic migraines, prescription drugs may be necessary.
For minor to moderate migraines, there are several migraine remedies that may help alleviate symptoms. Try drinking more water or applying a dab of peppermint oil each day to prevent migraines. You can also learn to avoid foods that trigger your headaches and supplement with B vitamins to reduce symptoms.