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Natural Migraine Treatments That Work

With over two decades of experience in medicine, Melissa Flagg writes patient education articles, keeping you informed about your health.

Read on for some alternative, pharmaceutical-free migraine treatments.

Read on for some alternative, pharmaceutical-free migraine treatments.

Alternatives to Pharmaceuticals

Migraines are devastating headaches, and those who suffer from them have an amazing tolerance for pain. Fortunately for many migraineurs, there are some pharmaceutical medications that are actually very good at alleviating them such as the triptan class of medications (which are vasoconstrictors). But for all the migraineurs whose pain is alleviated by medication, there are just as many who can’t find relief with pharmaceuticals.

Migraineurs, myself included, will try just about anything once if there is a chance it will alleviate the pain. However, most of us forget to go back to basics and take a look at our nutrition which could be the cause of the headaches in the first place. This can also be the reason pharmaceuticals don’t work on everyone with migraines.


Migraineurs have extremely sensitive brains. They are extremely sensitive to excitotoxins which are essentially chemical poisons that overstimulate brain cells. They cause cells in the brain to fire rapidly and repeatedly until they become exhausted and die. Interestingly, those with epilepsy also have extremely sensitive brain cells.

There are a number of different excitotoxins, and many of them are used as additives in foods. Some of the most common excitotoxins include:

  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
  • Aspartame
  • Aspartate
  • Glutamate
  • Gelatin

The antidote (for lack of a better term) to excitotoxins is actually antioxidants that block the toxic effects of these chemical poisons, albeit indirectly. Excess excitotoxins such as glutamate allow free radicals to accumulate which can cause damage to nerve cells. Free radicals are essentially cellular trash and antioxidants prevent this accumulation by removing this cellular debris.

How does this prevent migraines? By not allowing free radicals to build up, damage to nerve cells is prevented as is inflammation which is the primary culprit of migraines. Avoiding these toxins is the best treatment, but sometimes they are in our foods and we don’t even know it despite how well we read the labels. Taking antioxidant supplements such as vitamin C and vitamin E can help prevent damage from those toxins that manage to slip by unnoticed.

Diagnosing Migraines

Diagnosing a migraine headache isn’t easy. There are a number of different types of headaches:

  • Cluster Headaches
  • Tension Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Medication Overuse Headaches
  • Chronic Daily Headache
  • Familial Hemiplegic Migraine
  • Basilar Migraine
  • Abdominal Migraine

Many of these headaches have similar symptoms and distinguishing them can be very difficult. Unfortunately, the diagnosis can make all the difference in the treatment.

Headache/Migraine Types


Tension Headache

Usually mild constant pressure, like a band around the head

Cluster Headache

Excruciating pain of short duration, usually located around one red eye, nasal discharge

Medication Over use Headache

Daily headache, often tension-type, occuring in the mornings; caused by frequent use of painkillers

Chronic Daily Headache

Daily, often tension-type headache, similar to medication overuse headache

Common Migraine

Intense, throbiing one-sided headache; nausea and vomiting; photophobia, increased sensitivity to sound, smell or movement; can last from four hours to several days

Clasical Migraine with Aura

Warning signs (aura) occur before a migraine attack starts, such as visual disturbances, stiffness or tingling, poor balance

Familial Hemiplegic Migraine

Form of migraine with stroke-like symptoms; linked to genetics and runs in families

Basilar Migraine

A rare, dangerous form of migraine caused by brain stem dysfunction, with similar symptoms to hemiplegic migraine

Abdominal Migraine

Migraine in the gut, with vomiting, cramps, and nausea; occurs in children and less commonly in adults

Take Notes

The most difficult part of diagnosing migraines (or any headache) is the symptoms. Because they vary widely among individuals, symptoms can be the definitive factor in making the diagnosis.

This is when a headache journal comes in very handy. Writing down when you get a headache and everything associated with it can go a long way to helping your doctor diagnose and treat you.

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There are plenty of programs available for the PC, iPad, iPhone, tablets, and Androids that can help you keep track of your headaches as well as all the symptoms associated with them (as they say, there’s an app for that!). When you go to your doctor’s appointment, take your headache journal with you. Your doctor may find a pattern that you hadn’t noticed.

Dangerous Headache Symptoms


Headache that is similar to many previous attacks



Worst headache ever



Severe pain in one without a history of cluster headaches



A headache that initially occurs later in life (over the age of 40 or so) with no previous headache history



Blurred vision, red eye, seeing rainbows around bright lights



Tingling or numbness in an arm or leg, especially one-sided



Migraine with increased temperature or rash



Moderate to severe headache in a child



Change in unusual migraine symptoms, such as tender scalp, or red, watery eye



Natural Migraine Prevention

The best way to treat a migraine is to prevent it in the first place. Surprisingly, this is much more difficult than aborting a migraine attack in progress. This is because most prophylactics take time to work.

Feverfew is the perfect example. It can take up to four months for feverfew to take effect. It’s difficult to continue taking a prophylactic when you have no idea if it’s working or not, which is why most prophylactics fail. This is the case with both natural and pharmaceutical prophylactic methods.

Please check with your physician if you are currently on any medications for possible drug interactions, if you have preexisting health conditions that need to be addressed, or are pregnant or nursing before trying a new product or supplement.

Natural Remedies

That said, there are quite a few natural treatments for migraines including:

  • Feverfew
  • Butterbur
  • Melatonin
  • Riboflavin
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium
  • Curcumin
  • Boswellia
  • Fish Oil
Feverfew is well-known for its ability to prevent migraines.

Feverfew is well-known for its ability to prevent migraines.

Some of the above can also be used to abort an attack, however. While feverfew alone won’t abort an attack, when coupled with ginger, it can be very effective in stopping a migraine in its tracks.

Magnesium is another surprising migraine attack treatment. Migraines are sometimes the result of magnesium deficiency and taking magnesium supplements can help prevent attacks caused by such a deficiency. However, there is evidence to suggest that an infusion of 1,000 mg of magnesium sulfate by direct injection will abort a migraine even in patients without a magnesium deficiency.

Finding this type of treatment can prove to be impossible, however. Most doctors won’t provide the treatment because of the lack of scientific evidence supporting it despite the fact that there have been several small studies done on treatment with magnesium.

People who have a zinc deficiency will benefit from taking a zinc supplement daily. A supplement of 15 to 25mg is sufficient. Unfortunately, zinc isn’t as effective as magnesium in aborting a migraine.

Fish oil and Boswellia are beneficial because of their effects on inflammation. Curcumin, a derivative of turmeric also has very powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

Prevention With Nutrition

Our body chemistry is the result of a symphony of enzymatic reactions. Why the medical community attempts to treat various illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes, migraines and other conditions with a single medication is beyond me. Not one cell in the body is made up of a drug. However, there are about 24 different nutrients that can be found in our cells. So it makes sense that nutrition would be able to prevent (and sometimes abort) a migraine attack.

One such nutritional method is the Gerson Diet. Dr. Max Gerson suffered from migraines, and after researching diet and nutrition, he became headache free by avoiding various foods and incorporating nutrient-rich foods into his diet. The Gerson Diet involves raw, vegan foods, fresh organic juices, and absolutely NO processed foods, or animal products.

The Gerson Diet was so effective in treating various illnesses that it has become a well-known treatment for cancer that is actually illegal in the United States (it is illegal to treat cancer with anything other than chemotherapy or radiation here in the United States).

Vitamin Supplementation

Just about any vitamin deficiency can cause headaches of some kind, including migraines. Some vitamin deficiencies are more common than others including:

  • Vitamin A
  • Riboflavin
  • Pyridoxine
  • Vitamin C
  • Niacin
  • B12
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K

The B vitamins, riboflavin, pyridoxine, niacin, and B12, are involved in the production of cellular energy and the synthesis of neurotransmitters, specifically serotonin. Low serotonin levels are thought to be a major cause of migraines because of the vasodilation low levels can cause. Vitamin C, E, and D are all powerful antioxidants that can help prevent inflammation and the buildup of free radicals.

Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that can help prevent migraines.

Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that can help prevent migraines.

Avoid Processed Foods

Minimizing processed foods in the diet, especially those with MSG and aspartame, can go a long way to preventing migraines. Adding in a diet rich in nutrients and vitamins such as the Gerson Diet can help alleviate migraines completely. Exercise is a very important part of this equation as well, however. The endorphins released are the body’s natural painkillers and help to maintain the health of the cardiovascular system. Since migraines are vascular events, this too can help prevent them.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2012 Mel Flagg COA OSC


Lyn from England on November 29, 2017:

Nicely done, as a sufferer, I was advised Feverfew by consultant for Familial Hemiplegic Migraine and it does seem to help, but then I forget to take it for a few days..... It does help though with both that and classic migraine. Actually, if I take one at the very first symptoms it seems to help as well.

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on December 06, 2013:

@Marie Flint, Thank you! For some people, the high protein/animal diet is necessary, veganism truly isn't for everyone. It happened to help in my case, and for that I'm ever so grateful! Does she have her migraines under control now?

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on November 01, 2013:

You did an excellent job in researching and organizing this hub. My elder daughter suffers from migraines. She's avid about sticking to her high, animal protein diet, though.

Stacy Harris from Hemet, Ca on January 18, 2013:

I get really bad headaches. I am not sure if they are migraines or not as I have never seen a doctor for them, but they sometimes have me sensitive to lights and sounds. Usually Excedrine Migraine does the trick but lately even that seems to be on the week side if I don't catch it fast enough. Great informative article!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on January 12, 2013:

@B. Leekley Thanks so much for the share! and thank you for reading!! I'm glad you found it useful!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on January 12, 2013:

@kohuether, I've had a migraine for the past week (which is why it has taken me so long to answer my comments) and nothing has worked, although I think that's because of neck compression. But the vitamin C has limited the frequency of my headaches. I might try the feverfew again since it worked so well the last time!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on January 12, 2013:

@Carter06 thank you so much! I have a couple more to add to this list, but they need more research first. Hopefully I'll find something for everyone! Thanks for sharing!!!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on January 12, 2013:

@ I AM Rosa You're welcome!! Let me know if that actually helps!! I'm going to start taking the Cal Mag D supplement as well!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on January 12, 2013:

@Tillsontitan Thank you!! I never had any success with CoQ10, but then again most of mine are related to a neck injury. But the vitamin C did help actually. I'm hoping this hub will help some patients limit, or discontinue the meds they're taking for their migraines. Pharmaceuticals just aren't healthy for the body, even if they are necessary!

Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on January 11, 2013:

Up, Useful, and Interesting; shared with followers and on social networking sites, and bookmarked. Good information to know. Thanks.

Katherine Olga Tsoukalas from New Hampshire on January 02, 2013:

This hub is great! I had a migraine today. Mine was caused by a combination of the weather (it snowed - this always happens when it snows) and paint fumes. I just took ibuprofin and didn't try anything natural. I've heard good things about feverfew, though.

Mary from Cronulla NSW on January 02, 2013:

This is an excellent article D of M...and one sure to be helpful for daughter suffers debillitating migraines and needs to read this, am sure it will be useful to her...thanks so much for all your research and clear well laid out info...Shared, tweeted & lots of votes...cheers

Rosa Marchisella from Canada on January 02, 2013:

YIKES! That means I should be taking about 4 of the Cal Mag +D tablets daily instead of 2. I'll up the dosage and see if that helps. Thanks :-)

Mary Craig from New York on January 02, 2013:

You did a tremendous job here DOM! How detailed and informative. I like the way you provided lists with explanations and covered so much. My grandson found success with CoQ10 thankfully. I'm sure a lot of people can benefit from this hub, that's why I'm sharing it!

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on January 02, 2013:

@ I Am Rosa Oh I'm so sorry! My first trimester, my migraines were horrible!! I was lucky though, they subsided in the second trimester. I don't think I could have handled them for the entire 9 months! Make sure you take plenty of vitamin C! Most pregnant women have very low levels of vit C and need to take over 2,000mg so that the baby isn't deficient as well.

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on January 02, 2013:

@Stephanie Thank you! I know what you meant too, I was lucky enough to have a doctor who finally diagnosed mine, but it took quite a while. And it can be agony waiting for the right diagnosis and treatment!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on January 02, 2013:

@Janine I actually just ordered some magnesium after writing this article because that may actually be part of my problem. I know I'm really low on potassium all the time, so I could easily be low on magnesium as well. Glad to know it actually works!! :D

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on January 02, 2013:

@Phoenix Happy New Year! I hope this helps your daughter alleviate some of her migraines, I know it helped me quite a bit. The vitamin C especially! :)

Rosa Marchisella from Canada on January 01, 2013:

Excellent info. I haven't have migraines in a few years, but with this pregnancy, they've returned and there is very little I can take while pregnant. Pinned, shared and voted up :-)

Stephanie Bradberry from New Jersey on January 01, 2013:

This is an extensive and well composed and outline overview of details pertaining to migraines. The information is excellent for those who are not sure if they have migraines and those that have been diagnosed with migraines. I wish this was around all the years I suffered from them and no doctor diagnosed it. Well written!

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on January 01, 2013:

Thanks for sharing, because as you know I suffer from migraines during that tine of the month. I found that my migraines were lessened at night. Ironically, I take magnesium supplements in the early evening. So, it would appear that it was helping and didn't even realize it. So, I appreciate you explaining all this here. Great article and have voted up, as well as tweeted!!

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on January 01, 2013:

This is wonderful. My daughter suffers from migraines terribly. She has tried all the medications going and still struggles to find a balance. I will definitely be forwarding this to her ASAP.

Happy New Year.

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