Nicole A. McCarthy, MD MSc
Nicole A. McCarthy, MD MSc
The Dreaded Migraines
October 20. 2021
According to the Migraine Research Foundation, migraine is a seriously incapacitating neurological disease and the third most prevalent in the world, affecting 39 million individuals in the United States and 1 billion worldwide. Astounding numbers that comprise men, women, and children.
The Foundation also indicates in their website that about 90% of migraine patients have a history of migraines in their families, and that migraines are most common between the ages of 18 and 44; numbers indicate that more women than men are affected.
They also estimate that every 10 seconds, in the United States alone, an individual is treated in a hospital’s emergency room due to headache and approximately 1.2 million visits are for acute migraine attacks. The Foundation studies have found that more than 4 million adults experience chronic daily migraine, showing some fifteen migraine days per month.
The numbers of children experiencing this debilitating disease is troubling, to say the least, as migraines go often undiagnosed in children. As per the foundation, boys are affected more than girls before puberty but during adolescence, the risk of migraine and its severity rises in girls. They go on to say that 10% of school-age children suffer from migraine, and up to 28% of adolescents between the ages of 15-19 are affected by it.
Migraine patients could suffer their first attack before the age of twelve and there have been cases in babies as early as eighteen months. The Foundation reports that in a recent study, infant colic was found to be associated with childhood migraine.
Migraines can be chronic or episodic and could progress through four stages: prodrome (announcement), aura (different symptoms), attack (pain onset) and post-drome. Not all individuals experience all stages.
Migraines can be triggered by smells, stress, hormonal changes, food, bright/flashing/sudden lights, sleep issues, hunger, dehydration, alcohol, weather changes, schedule changes, specific foods, menstruation, mouth clenching, teeth grinding while sleeping, or an unexpected situation.
Before the migraine occurs (prodrome), sometimes even days before its onset, individuals report temporary loss of vision, auras (reversible symptoms of the nervous system), flashlight lights, or zig-zag lines and shapes, frequent yawning, neck stiffness, food cravings,
constipation, difficulty to speak, numbness in the face or one side of the body, pins and needles sensation in any limb, mood changes that could go from depression to euphoria, increased urination, bloating and fluid retention.
All of these will increase gradually and could last from minutes to an hour or more.
Migraines are described as an intense pounding or throbbing pain located in one part of the head, accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound, exercise, nausea, vomiting and could last from four to seventy-two hours.
After a migraine episode (post-drome), the individual might feel exhausted, confused, and weakened and even euphoric for up to twenty-four hours.
At the moment, there is no cure for migraine as its sources, causes and process are not fully understood. The best-known methods are prevention and symptoms relief during the attacks. There are several ways to prevent these attacks: Lifestyle changes, natural remedies and approved, traditional medicine.
Here we are going to talk about lifestyle changes and natural remedies.
WHAT TO DO:
For all types:
- Rest with your eyes closed in a quiet, darkened room
- Place a cool cloth or ice pack on your forehead
- Hydrate intentionally
- Use an electronic device (biofeedback) that teaches you to control your heartbeat, blood pressure, and muscle tension
- Rub the temples with a few drops of neat essential lavender oil
- Hot linden (Tillia cordata) tea: In a teapot put three heaping teaspoonfuls of dry linden and pour three cups of water. Let it steep for 10 minutes. Drink the three cups through the day. From the Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine by Andrew Chevallier
- 7 strands of parsley and the juice of three limes, put in blender for two minutes; sieve if you want. Drink and relax.
For digestive migraines:
- Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) or pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium): Make an infusion using either one handful of fresh leaves, or one leveled teaspoon of dry leaves and put in a teapot, add three ¾ of a cup of boiling water and drink throughout the day. From the Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine by Andrew Chevallier.
WHAT TO DO, CONT.
For tension and nervous exhaustion migraines:
- Vervain (Vervena oficinallis) tea: Using one heaping teaspoonful of vervain per cup, follow instructions above and drink 2.5 cups a day.
- Vervain (vervaena oficinallis) tincture: Either bought or you can make it as per instructions in our “How To” section. Mix ½ teaspoon in one cup of water and drink three times a day.
- Valerian (Valeriana oficinalis): Follow same instructions as with Vervain. Do not take both tea and tincture. Choose either one. Do not use in infants or if you are pregnant. From the Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine by Andrew Chevallier
- Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus) decocted tincture: Put fresh or dried pieces of bark in a small saucepan and add enough water to just allow them to float. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat letting it simmer for ten minutes. Leave to cool and then strain the liquid, putting the bark on the side. Measure it and add an equal amount of vodka 40%, add the bark that you put aside and put in a dark glass jar. If you have access to ripe guelder rose berries, add a few. Put the jar in cool, dark place and shake it every day. At the end of the month, strain off the liquid, put it in dark glass bottles and label. Take ½ a teaspoonful in water two to three times a day. For acute conditions, add 3 tsp to a glass of water and sip frequently. This tincture can also be used as liniment to rub aching muscles. Consult your doctor before giving to infants or if you are pregnant. From The Backyard Medicine, Second Edition by By Julie Brutton-Seal and Mathew Seal
- Relaxation techniques
- Biofeedback mechanisms
- Keep a log of personal triggers and avoid those triggers
- Take scheduled meals
- Identify culprit medications and consult your physician about your alternatives
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule
- Lose weight if necessary
- Hormone therapy if appropriate
- Some foods that trigger migraines are wine, grapes, chocolate, red meats, MSG, aspartame, some aged cheeses
- Magnesium rich foods could help: Avocado, dark leafy greens, tuna and other omega -3 fatty acids as well.
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Photography by: Aaron Blanco, Alex Iby, Anthony Tran, Noah Busher, Towfiqu Barbhuiya @ Unsplash