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6 Herbs to Manage Headaches & Migraines

Updated: Apr 16

There are many natural ways to deal with migraines without using harmful over-the-counter or prescription medications. There's something for everyone, from essential oils to homeopathy and even alternative therapies like chiropractic care, acupuncture, and more. For now, let's focus on herbs.

fresh chamomile and lavender are great herbs for migraine control

Roughly 35 million Americans experience migraine headaches, myself included. Approximately 43% of women and 18% of men will experience migraines in their lifetime. Additionally, about 25% of migraine patients experience aura with their migraine. These numbers make migraines the third most prevalent and sixth most-disabling illness worldwide (1).


A migraine is an intense throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on one side of the head. Migraines are frequently accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Many migraine sufferers will experience intolerable sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines can last for hours to days. The pain can be so severe that it interferes with daily activities, including work or school assignments. Migraines may also interfere with the ability to sleep (2).


Some risk factors for migraines include (3):


  • Sex: Women have migraines three times more often than men.

  • Age: Most people start having migraine headaches between ages 10 and 40. But many women find that their migraines improve or go away after age 50.

  • Family history: Four out of five people with migraines have other family members who get them. If one parent has a history of these types of headaches, their child is 50% more likely to get them. If both parents have them, the risk jumps to 75%.

  • Other medical conditions: Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, sleep disorders, and epilepsy can raise your odds.


In my experience, no mainstream migraine treatment lasted long-term, but getting a daith piercing and natural alternatives like herbs and essential oils have been quite successful.

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If you're looking for something beyond herbal solutions, check out A Guide to Headaches & Migraines, a downloadable guide I co-wrote dedicated to helping determine why you have a headache or migraine. This guide is the key to finding the right natural remedy to address the root cause of your head discomforts. We review the six most common types of headaches and the six most common types of migraines, what causes them, and natural remedies for each. Once you know how to match remedies with the type of headache or migraine, you’ll find an effective solution.


Chamomile

Chamomile, also known as Matricaria recutita, is a small daisy-like flower of the German chamomile. The disc-shaped blossom of chamomile has many small flowers with little white petals, a yellow center, and featherlike leaves (4). Chamomile is a traditional medicinal herb native to Western Europe, India, and Asia (5).


Chamomile is an antiseptic, often used as a tonic in many herbal remedies, and is made from English, Roman, or German chamomile (6). Chamomile essential oil is used for its pacifying properties. Chamomile's ability to relax theChamomile'soothe muscles can be beneficial in relieving tension headaches. Chamomile can also help alleviate anxiety and insomnia symptoms, which are common causes of migraine headaches (7).


Additionally, chamomile has anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing properties making it an excellent option for headaches and migraines. One study found that a chamomile gel could reduce migraine pain (8).


Check out my chamomile herbal profile to learn more.


Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus, also known as Eucalyptus globulus Labill, is a tree native to Australia that ​​can grow as tall as 330 feet and is easily identified by its strongly-scented leaves (9). Eucalyptus has been used in many traditional medicine systems, including Chinese, Indian (Ayurvedic), Greek, and European. Today, eucalyptus oil appears in many over-the-counter medications (10).


Eucalyptus essential oil can be beneficial for headaches, especially if sinus issues cause them. This essential oil will open up the nasal passages, clear the sinuses, and alleviate sinus tension that causes headaches. One study found that combining peppermint and eucalyptus essential oils with ethanol provided relaxing effects on the muscles and the mind, which ultimately could help soothe headaches (11).


Researchers have documented eucalyptus essential oil exhibiting anti-inflammatory effects when treating respiratory conditions. This essential oil indicated antibacterial, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties that alleviate sinus pressure induced by an inflammatory response (12). Additionally, eucalyptus essential oil has pain-reducing and relaxing effects, benefiting people suffering from tension headaches (13).


Ginger

Ginger is sometimes called common ginger, cooking ginger, canton, stem ginger, canton ginger, or its botanical name, Zingiber officinale (14). Ginger plants are famous for their highly scented and tasty roots, but their most identifiable feature grows underground. With that said, a ginger plant can be identified by its hairy stems, brown or purple (although some species can be a deep red or even green) leaves of three that grow from the plant's base, and greenish, greenish flowers, sometimes tipped with purple, held on pine-cone-shaped spikes (15).


In studies, 250 mg of ginger was as effective as sumatriptan in reducing migraine pain. Ginger also poses fewer side effects than sumatriptan, making it a safer alternative (16). Ginger works similarly to a class of prescription medications called triptans, which increases serotonin, a chemical messenger involved with migraine attacks, which is believed to help stop migraine by reducing inflammation and restricting blood vessels. I use Earthley's Ginger Root Capsules for this very reason.


Check out my ginger herbal profile to learn more.

herbs for migraine control

Lavender

Lavender, also known as Lavandula angustifolia, is a beautiful herbaceous perennial with purple clusters of flower buds (calyx) with green-grey leaves between 2-3 feet tall. This gorgeous plant is native to Europe (17). Lavender has been used for medicinal purposes as an herb; some people even cook with it.


Due to the pain-relieving and numbing effect lavender can have, lavender and its oil are an effective way to combat inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked with many diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, asthma, and certain cancers (18). Additionally, many studies have investigated the effects of lavender as a migraine preventative (19).


Inflammation may also result in headaches and migraines. Studies have found that breathing in the scent of lavender essential oil can help the acute management of migraine attacks. One study found that people reported a significant reduction in pain after only 15 minutes of inhaling lavender oil (20). In a study of 129 headache-attack participants, 92 responded entirely or partially to lavender (21). I love using Earthley's Good Night Lotion because the magnesium is super beneficial, but even more so in the original and blue bliss formulas because they have lavender ingredients.


Check out my lavender herbal profile to learn more.


Peppermint

Peppermint, also known as Mentha piperita, is a part of the mint family known as Lamiaceae. This herb is a hybrid between Watermint (Mentha aquatica) and Spearmint (Mentha spicita) (22). Peppermint can grow up to three feet tall and two feet wide at maturity. Typically peppermint has smooth, red stems with broad and oval tooth-like leaves that may be hairy (23). This aromatic perennial herb has a strong, sweet odor and a warm, pungent taste with a cooling aftertaste. The peppermint plant's fresh leaves are often used in culinary arts, while the flowers are dried and used to flavor foods. Peppermint is also widely known for its many medicinal properties, primarily in the form of oil.


Peppermint, in plant and essential oil form, has excellent benefits for headaches and migraines sufferers. Peppermint's ability to relieve Peppermint'ss of headaches is likely due to the menthol in peppermint oil. Menthol increases the blood's flow and provides a cooling sensation that assists in easing pain (24). Peppermint may help relieve tension headaches and migraines due to its ability to act as a muscle relaxant and pain reliever. Peppermint also provides a cooling sensation (25).


In one clinical study of 35 people with migraines, when participants applied peppermint oil to the forehead and temples, the pain was reduced significantly after two hours, compared to a placebo oil (26). In another study of 41 people, when participants applied peppermint oil topically to the forehead, they found it to be as effective for headaches as 1,000 mg of acetaminophen (27). I highly recommend Earthley's Pain Potion, which helps reduce pain and inflammation thanks to its peppermint ingredients.


Check out my peppermint herbal profile to learn more.


Rosemary

Rosemary, also known as Rosmarinus officinalis, is a beautiful evergreen shrub with 1-inch long, needle-like leaves with clusters of white/pale blue flowers that blossom during winter and spring native to the Mediterranean (28). Rosemary has been used for medicinal purposes in the Mediterranean region for many years and has since been cultivated worldwide (29).


Rosemary is in the mint family, so it's no surprise that, like peppermint, rosemary may help relieve headaches and migraines (30). Rosemary is a potent anti-inflammatory with analgesic (pain-relieving) properties. Studies have found rosemary to be "a worthy source" for reducing inflammation and pain, boosting memory, and remedying anxiety (31).


One study found evidence that ingesting rosemary water positively impacted cognitive and cerebrovascular effects in healthy individuals (32). Additionally, folk medicine has used rosemary to alleviate several diseases, including headache, dysmenorrhea, stomachache, epilepsy, rheumatic pain, spasms, nervous agitation, improvement of memory, hysteria, and depression, as well as physical and mental fatigue (33).


Check out my rosemary herbal profile to learn more.


⚠️ Warning: The Holistic Hipppie is not a functional medicine practitioner. The FDA has not evaluated these statements. This content is not medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or replace medical guidance. The Holistic Hipppie assumes no liability for the application of the information discussed.


What's your go-to herbal solution for migraine control?

Sarena-Rae Santos

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