What Is a Migraine and How Can I Get Rid of It Naturally?

Updated on April 12, 2018
Healthyannie profile image

I love health and passionately believe we should do more to look after our health. Natural remedies are often as effective as conventional.

A person suffering from a migraine.
A person suffering from a migraine. | Source

Every year billions of dollars are spent on treating migraine headaches. Painkillers, which are meant to treat the condition, are often over-prescribed and can make the headaches worse. They can also cause them to return more frequently. With so many people suffering from, and spending money on, the condition, it's important that we understand what causes the pain and how to lessen the pain for the lowest price possible.

This article will cover the most commonly asked questions regarding migraine headaches:

  • How can you get rid of a migraine naturally?
  • Can you reduce the frequency of these headaches by watching what you eat?
  • What is a migraine headache?
  • What are the symptoms?
  • What are the causes?
  • How do you diagnose a migraine headache?

How Can You Get Rid of Migraine Headaches Naturally?

After the initial migraine attack, you may want to manage your migraine naturally. There is a lot of good solid evidence available which seem to suggest that using natural cures to treat migraine headaches may be better. Painkillers actually interfere with the nervous system and can make a migraine headache worse, or increase the frequency of attacks.

If you suffer from migraines headaches, there are a number of natural ways to get rid of a migraine headache fast. These are the ones which I have tried and tested myself.

What Are The Best Natural Treatments for Migraine Headaches?

  • Acupuncture: At the first sign of symptoms visit an acupuncturist. There are many people who suffer from frequent attacks and they all recommend acupuncture treatments on a regular basis.
  • St Johns Wort: This can help to ease the pain of migraine attacks.
  • Chamomile tea: Chamomile tea is great when you are suffering a migraine headache. It eases the pain of a headache and it also helps to settle the stomach.
  • Willow bark: This is a supplement based on white willow bark is a good alternative to conventional painkillers as they help to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Lavender: There are now some excellent lavender quick fixes available. You can buy lavender migraine sticks which consist of a roll filled with lavender essential oil. Apply to the temples at first sign or if you are experiencing a full-blown migraine keep it by your bedside.
  • Ginkgo Biloba: This is great for better microcirculation, which is important when dealing with migraine headaches.
  • Sleep: Sleep is one of the best remedies for migraine headaches. I always recommend to get some rest and try to go to sleep. Sleeping away your migraine, or a headache for that matter, reduces stress on the brain and relaxes the nervous system.

Reduce Your Headaches by Focusing on Sulfites, Tyramine, and Nitrates

  1. Sulfites: Sulfites are preservatives used in food production and work by releasing a gas called sulfur dioxide. This gas can be an irritant and can also reduce the amount of oxygen the lungs can "take up." Less oxygen in the blood does naturally affect our brains. This is a very common food additive, and if you are sensitive to sulfur dioxide it can cause other problems. such as digestive distress.

    Names and numbers that you will find sulfite additives under:

    E220 Sulphur dioxide
    E221 Sodium sulfite
    E222 Sodium hydrogen sulfite
    E223 Sodium metabisulphite
    E224 Potassium metabisulphite
    E226 Calcium sulfite
    E227 Calcium hydrogen sulfite
    E228 Potassium hydrogen sulfite
    E150b Caustic sulfite caramel
    E150d Sulphite ammonia caramel

    I give this list to all migraine sufferers who talk to me about migraine headaches, and I recommend they keep it in their wallets so they can check it when going food shopping.
  2. Tyramine: This is a monoamine compound found in cheese, especially aged cheeses or flavored. Once again it is a preservative which can play havoc with blood pressure and heart rate. Vegetables and fruit contain tyramine if they are not fresh, and so does Soya and Teriyaki sauces. I even think that some migraine should be called Tyramine migraines as this is the cause of lot migraines and headaches. Ginseng incidentally contains tyramine, and a migraine sufferer should never use Ginseng.
  3. Nitrates: Sodium nitrate is a natural salt found in meats and bottled water. Hot dogs contain a lot of sodium nitrate. It can cause migraine headaches, and as it is contained in mineral water, especially sparkling water, migraine headaches from nitrates are becoming more common. I know we should drink more water but, please, unjunk your bottled water.

Avoiding fast food will help you to lower your risk of migraine attacks.
Avoiding fast food will help you to lower your risk of migraine attacks.

What Is a Migraine Headache?

Migraine headaches affect millions of people around the world. They begin when the blood vessels in the brain become enlarged. This causes a release of chemicals from the brain's nerve fibers. These nerve fibers normally wrap themselves around the larger arteries of the brain, but as the nerves are forced to stretch they start to release chemicals. Subsequently, the chemicals which are released are responsible for intense pain, inflammation, and may even cause the artery to enlarge.

An attack will activate the body's nervous system. This causes symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Your first migraine headache can be a very frightening experience and many people will rush to the emergency room believing they are seriously ill.

A migraine attack can last anywhere from four to 72 hours. Some people may experience frequent attacks. Other people may only experience a singular attack.

What Type of Migraine Do You Have?

  • Retinal migraines: These are a retinal disease, often accompanied by a migraine headache, and typically affects only one eye. It is caused by ischemia, or vascular spasm, in or behind the affected eye.
  • Hemiplegic migraines: This is a rare type of migraine headaches. Its symptoms mimic those common to stroke. For example, muscle weakness can be so extreme that it causes a temporary paralysis on one side of your body. Doctors call this "hemiplegia."
  • Vertebrobasilar migraines: These are headaches that start in the lower part of the brain—the brainstem. They cause symptoms such as dizziness, double vision, and bad coordination. These changes, which are called an "aura," can happen about 10 minutes to 45 minutes before your head begins to hurt.

Trick To Get Rid of Retinal Migraines

I suffer from ocular migraines and a doctor taught me how to get rid of them. Stand in front of a mirror and stare straight into it for a few minutes. Blink a couple of times. You may find that your migraine has gone. I did not believe it at first, but it really works!

What Are the Symptoms of Migraines?

Migraine headaches can be very difficult to deal with and cause a whole range of symptoms. Some of these symptoms are unusual and if you have not experienced one before, you will become very concerned.

It is very important to recognize early symptoms so that you can limit a migraine and perhaps stop it in its track.

Symptoms of a Migraine Attack:

  • Light sensitivity: This is often an early symptom which goes ignored. You find that your eyes seem to become more sensitive to bright light such as sunlight or a computer screen. You want to look away as the light seems to hurt "behind the eyes."
  • Cold feet and hands: These can also be early warning signs.
  • Craving for salty or sugary food: This is your brain sending you warning signals saying that it is experiencing some type of distress. This can start up to a day before the actual attack.
  • Feeling sleepy: Feeling unexpectedly sleepy or tired can be a symptom of developing a migraine headache.
  • Loss of balance: You may feel you are losing your balance and need to hang on to something for support.
  • Flashing: You might experience flashing bright colored lights appearing in a zig-zag pattern.
  • A black hole: The onset of a migraine can give you a blind spot in your visual field. It is called a Scotoma, but a friend of mine refers to it as a "black hole." I believe it's an apt description, so I have "borrowed" the phrase from her.
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea: Both can be symptoms and are likely to stay with you for the duration of the attack. They are caused by the nervous system.
  • Noise: All noises will irritate you and seem to cause intense pain.
  • Depression: During an attack, you are likely to feel depressed and weepy. Migraine attacks are almost always accompanied by extreme fatigue, excess yawning, and extreme irritability.

What Can Cause These Headaches?

Migraines vary a great deal from person to person but there are some common denominators. It can be just one thing that triggers it or many factors can play a role.

Here are some of the factors that can trigger migraines:

  • Hormones: Hormones seem to play a big part for women and there are many women who suffer pre-menstrual migraine headaches.
  • Stress: Long-term stress or sudden stress can also be a trigger.
  • Diet: Some sufferers complain they get migraine headaches after eating certain types of food. Chocolates, sweet snacks, cheese, and other dairy products seem to be the most common culprits, but coffee is also known to be a trigger. Many of these foods are high in sulfites, tyramine, and nitrates which are all known to be associated with migraines.
  • Smoking: Smoking is a major trigger, and if you do smoke you should consider stopping. All migraine sufferers that I know who have given up smoking do not have migraine headaches anymore.

How Do You Diagnose Migraines?

Doctors normally diagnose migraines by listening to the patient's symptoms and noticing clear visual symptoms such as vomiting or dizziness. They can start in childhood or early adulthood, but can also occur later in life. Sometimes family history indicates the diagnosis. In extreme cases, after excluding other problems, doctors will refer patients for a CT or MRI scan.

How to Reduce the Frequency of Migraines by Watching How You Live

The best way forward is to find out why you are experiencing migraine headaches. Keeping a food diary for a month is a good idea, checking up on side effects of medication is also important. Don't forget that environment plays a large role. Consider taking a vitamin B supplement. Many say that it works well. Remember that changes in lifestyle can trigger health problems. Pay close attention to your body and your environment, and you may be able to reduce the severity and frequency of your migraines.

Common kitchen herbs which can help to reduce and treat migraine attacks

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 Annie Messeri


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      boiling (with lid to cover) eucalyptus leaves in water and then inhaling the steam

      can help in relieving migraine headache.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Thanks! I've been hunting to find whether carbonated water is the culprit for some unpleasant morning headaches. I take plain or lightly flavoured (no sugar) when having a BBQ with friends & drink that instead of soft drink or alcohol. Once again this morning, I feel dehydrated with a headache, even though I drank lots of (carbonated) water at yesterday's BBQ. So I guess that one sausage & lots of carbonated water have given me too many nitrates. Thank you so much for solving this for me!

    • Healthyannie profile imageAUTHOR

      Annie Messeri 

      7 years ago from Spain

      Has your mom tried acupuncture? Also you might have access to Chinese Rheumatism plasters, and Dragon´s blood resin. Put the resin on the plasters and stick the plasters to the temples. This is a great treatment but hard to find in Europe. Chrystanthemum tea works as well as Chamomile tea just in case you can´t find chamomile tea in Singapore. It has the same active ingredient as chamomile. Take care of your mum. Annie

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      My mum has these symptoms. Terrible migraine for many years. WIll share this with her! Thanks for this great hub. I think she would really enjoy the Camomile Tea!! WIll get her started on that! Sharing!

    • Healthyannie profile imageAUTHOR

      Annie Messeri 

      7 years ago from Spain

      Thank you for reading my hub. If you need advise please get in touch.

      I would be more than happy to help. Best of health Annie

    • girishpuri profile image

      Girish puri 

      7 years ago from NCR , INDIA

      very much helpful, my wife has started these symptoms, i m afraid, any how, a great help, thanks.

    • Healthyannie profile imageAUTHOR

      Annie Messeri 

      7 years ago from Spain

      I am glad you find the hub useful. Migraines are very common and many people do not recognize the symptoms.

      A bit of advise; start by checking one additive at the time. For instance one month look out for tyramine.

      Also be careful with artificial sweeteners as they can also cause problems. Replacing diet drinks with natural fruit juices is a good idea. Take care of your body and your body will take care of you. Annie

    • Healthyannie profile imageAUTHOR

      Annie Messeri 

      7 years ago from Spain

      Hi. The reason you may find your painkillers don't work anymore is quite simply because your local GP may have over prescribed them to you. Start by keeping a food diary and take a daily supplement of Gingko Biloba 6000 mg.

      It is safe to take two per day, and see a chiropractor and ask him/her to check your neck. I find that a lot of people who develop migraine in their teens have neck problems which can be caused by small skeletal problems when we grow. You might just need to be "realigned" as I call it. Let me know how you get on. Take

      care. Annie

    • Healthyannie profile imageAUTHOR

      Annie Messeri 

      7 years ago from Spain

      Thank you for stopping by. Migraines are very common. Take care Annie

    • Healthyannie profile imageAUTHOR

      Annie Messeri 

      7 years ago from Spain

      Good luck with finding out what triggers your migraines. I notice it says San Francisco and Mumbai next to your

      user name. Do you travel a lot? Airplanes and small changes in pressure can cause migraines. If so take Willow bark supplement when you travel, don't drink alcohol in flight and check your blood pressure. Good health. Annie

    • Healthyannie profile imageAUTHOR

      Annie Messeri 

      7 years ago from Spain

      Thank you for your vote and for dropping by. Best of health. Annie

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 

      7 years ago from New Jersey

      I love all the information you provide. The list at the end of triggers and things to watch out for is most useful. It provides some clues as to what might be setting off my attacks.

    • livingsta profile image


      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Gosh, such a useful hub, this is for me. I suffer from migraines a lot, and it has been since my teens. This hub really helps. Thank you for all the information shared here. I was looking for natural remedies, because painkillers don't help anymore.

      Thank you so much. Voted up, useful and sharing!!!!!!

    • dwachira profile image

      Danson Wachira 

      7 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Thanks for this information, i should check on these signs to be aware of an attack, i hope many can read this and be aware of. Voted up and useful.

    • Anishpat profile image

      Anish Patel 

      7 years ago from San Francisco + Mumbai

      Hi Healthyannie,

      This is very informative and one of the best hubs I have read on this topic. I suffer from two to three (sometimes more) migraines per month with auras and intense pain and have tried everything but nothing seems to work. In the past I have also kept a food diary but still can't seem to nail all the triggers down. While I have researched a lot about migraines and triggers I did not know about the role of sulphites, tyramine and nitrates. I will try to exclude them from my diet from now on.

      Thanks for such an informative hub. Vote up and useful.

    • learner365 profile image

      Saadia A 

      7 years ago

      Thank you for sharing the information. I can very well imagine how bad a migraine can get as i have experienced the symptoms . Sudden stress triggers it for me and tea or sleep have been mostly helpful in my case. I will try the other natural remedies that you have mentioned in your Hub.

      Thank you again for sharing.Voted up and useful!!!!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very informative. I will take note on the symptoms. I do hope I will not have a severe one.

      Voted up and more!


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