by Eugenia Provence, Eprovence.aol.com
What are migraines? A whole variety of headaches associated with vascular constriction and dilation make up the unpleasant world of migraines. The two most common are classic migraine and common migraine. They may first appear in childhood, but usually in the late teens or early twenties. More women than men are subject to them, and they frequently end after menopause.
Classic migraines start with warning signs (called the aura by medical folks). Before the headache begins, you may temporarily lose some of your vision, see flashing lights and feel very strange altogether, maybe even feeling a burning sensation or muscle weakness.
The pain usually begins on one side of the head, but can spread. The headache may take hours to develop and several days before it goes, leaving a desire to sleep (replacing the desire to die!). You may experience nausea and sensitivity to light and noise.
I've had only one of this kind and never want another. I thought I was losing my vision (along with my wits and my lunch). Other symptoms may include muscle numbness, tingling, scalp tenderness, dizziness, dry mouth, tremors, sweating and chilliness.
Common migraines don't begin so dramatically, but a few hours or days before onset, you may feel tired, depressed (or paradoxically) have a burst of energy, be anxious or feel hyper. The common migraine may begin more slowly and last longer than the classic type. Except for the aura, the symptoms are the same.
What causes migraines? The exact range of mechanisms producing migraines isn't well understood, but is believed to be an upset in serotonin metabolism that causes dilation of cerebral arteries, followed by vascular spasm in extra-cranial blood vessels.
Migraine triggers are as varied as the individuals afflicted by them. About 70% of sufferers have family histories of migraine.
Food triggers are common, and can be nearly anything. Some of the most frequent food triggers are anything aged, canned, cured, pickled or processed or that contain tyramine or nitrites. Aged cheese, bananas, caffeine, chicken livers, MSG, alcohol (especially red wine,) yeast products (including bread), chocolate, red meat, shellfish are common, but the list is extensive and individual. Try eliminating these first. If that doesn't work, see if you are sensitive to citrus, lentils, nuts, any kind of green beans or peas, vinegar or yogurt.
Stress, strong emotional reactions and fatigue may be triggers, in addition to compounding the symptoms. Weather or altitude changes may contribute to them. There's a hormonal trigger for some women, causing migraines prior to or during menstruation or when using birth control pills or estrogen replacement therapy. There seems to be an association with sluggish liver function from eating too much fatty food or heavy drinking.
How can they be prevented or treated? If you can catagorize your migraines as being related to physical stress or emotional upheaval, stress reduction techniques, meditation and biofeedback have been found to be helpful, as have acupuncture and bodywork. Chiropractic or Osteopathic treatment may help if there is a structual problem in the neck. Again, it's very individual and complex issue, and you may need the assistance of a professional conventional or complementary practioner.
- To ease pain, David Hoffmann suggests that at the first sign of attack equal parts of Black Willow, Meadowsweet, Passion Flower, Valerian and Wood Betony may be helpful.
- For migraine associated with stress, use equal parts of Hawthorne berries, Lime Flowers, Wood Betony, Skullcap and Crampbark.
- Nervine tonics, such as Oats and Skullcap are appropriate long-term therapy, accompanied by Siberian Ginseng as an adaptogen.
- Massage Lavender oil into the temples at first sign of an attack.
- If the migraine is accompanied by nausea or vomiting, Chamomile, Meadowsweet or Peppermint may help.
- If migraine is associated with hormonal problems, long-term treatment should include herbs to try to balance the hormonal system. Vitex, Black Cohosh, or Wild Yam may be useful.
- European herbalists emphasize the importance of liver support in migraine treatment. Herbs like Burdock, Dandelion root or Milk Thistle would be ideal.
The following delicious Migraine Tea from Ana Nez Heatherly of Gatesville, Texas, appears in the July 1995 Mother Earth News. She prepares a cold infusion of:
6 parts Rosemary leaves 4 parts Peppermint leaves
4 parts Lemon Balm leaves 4 parts Sweet Violet
3 parts Feverfew 1/2 part sweet Violet Flowers
Please also check the entry 2.9, Feverfew and migraine; and then you could search the net for the Natural Migraine Treatment FAQ by Catherine Woodgold <an588.freenet.carleton.ca> - archive name: medicine/migraine/natural-cures.
Update 10Apr2011 My take on migraines is:
1) it's a magnesium deficiency. Do large doses of magnesium plus B vitamins daily. (80 - 85 % of migraine sufferers)
2) it's an aspartame / sodium glutamate / benzoate allergy. Ditch all foods containing those. (15-10 % of migraine sufferers)
3) it's one or the other food you're rabidly allergic to, and you know it because you get a migraine every time you eat said food. Ditch said food. (The remaining 5 % of migraine sufferers.