Solve the Mystery of Migraines
Imagine an excruciating headache that manifests as a spectacular light show, pulsating and exploding in sync with the pain in your skull. Or perhaps it’s an incessant stabbing coupled with nausea and narrowed vision.
These are classic symptoms of a migraine—a debilitating pain so vivid it can only be understood by fellow sufferers.
Migraines strike about 10 percent of the population, yet there’s no single biological reason that they occur. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the prevalence of migraines has increased nearly 60 percent since the late 1980s—an increase many attribute to poor nutrition, environmental pollution and increased allergic reactions. Women, age 25 to 44, suffer the most, often experiencing migraines during ovulation or just before, during or after a menstrual period.
Migraines seem to have a strong genetic link and they often occur in families. The typical migraine lasts from one to 72 hours and usually hits about once a month. Among my patients who suffer from migraines, most see shimmering lights, feel pins and needles or have difficulty thinking and speaking. They also experience the classic aura—seeing lights just before the migraine hits.
While no one really knows the biological causes that trigger migraines, many scientists believe that they might result from a sequence of chemical changes that cause the brain's blood vessels to constrict, then dilate. This results in a throbbing pain. While the constriction/dilation cycle does play a role, a more recent theory has been proposed. This new hypothesis holds that migraines are primarily an inflammatory disorder initiated by fluctuations of serotonin, a naturally occurring neurotransmitter that influences pain mediation, sleep, mood, digestion, cardiovascular function and temperature control.
Whatever the cause, the good news is that you don’t need to suffer. Here’s what I recommend to my patients with recurring migraine misery:
Magnesium—one of the most promising nutrients in headache research is a mineral naturally found in soybeans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fish. Necessary for healthy nerves and blood vessels, magnesium is thought to help prevent blood vessel spasms and regulate pain receptors. In a recent three-month trial of 40 people who suffer from migraines without aura, those taking 600 mg. of magnesium daily had fewer migraines. The migraines they did experience were also less severe. On further examination, the researchers conducting the study found that those taking magnesium also experienced increased blood flow in the brain.
Essential Fatty Acids— Essential fatty acids also show promise for migraine relief. A 1997 study showed that gamma-linolenic (GLA) and alpha-linolenic (ALA) fatty acid supplements reduced the severity, frequency and duration of migraine attacks by 86 percent. During the six-month study, 22 percent of the 168 patients no longer had migraine attacks, and 90 percent experienced less nausea and vomiting.
Gingko Biloba— While ginkgo has the reputation as a brain boosting herb, it also eases migraine pain thanks to its Ginkgolide B content. According to a recent trial of 50 women suffering from migraine with aura, those taking a combination of 60 mg. of ginkgo, 11 mg. of CoQ10 and 8 mg. of vitamin B2 twice a day experienced significantly fewer migraines. The duration of those they did experience also decreased. But, best of all, up to 42 percent of the participants saw their migraines completely disappear after four months of ongoing treatment.
Feverfew— This herb has traditionally been used in Europe for both headache and migraine relief. Feverfew slows the production of inflammatory substances and helps maintain proper blood vessel tone. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, standardized feverfew reduced the number and severity of migraine attacks and the incidence of vomiting. It’s also an excellent preventive if taken routinely—not just when a migraine starts. For best results, I tell my patients that this herb isn’t a “quick fix.” Feverfew works best if it's taken for at least two months.
Migraines can be triggered by different things. For some it’s the weather. Others find that certain foods like red wine or chocolate can bring on an attack. Stress, certain smells, and hormonal fluctuations can also cause a migraine.
And, just as triggers and symptoms can vary among sufferers, so can the effectiveness of various remedies. While you may need to experiment to see what works for you, I’ve found that these four natural remedies are a good starting point to reducing migraine frequency, duration and severity.
Chen CF. Gene response of human monocytic cells for the detection of antimigraine activity of feverfew extracts. Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. 2007;85:1108-1115.
D'Andrea G. Efficacy of Ginkgolide B in the prophylaxis of migraine with aura. Neurological Science. 2009;30 Suppl 1:S121-124.
Köseoglu E. The effects of magnesium prophylaxis in migraine without aura. Magnesium Research. 2008;21:101-108.
About the author
Dr. David Blyweiss is well-known across the world for his major advancements in alternative medicine.
He's traveled much of the world working closely with specialists to identify new plant life and natural products for possible human benefit.
In addition he has been successfully helping alternative medicine companies develop cutting-edge nutritional supplements for over 11 years. He's currently in private practice in Florida, serves on the advisory board for Advanced Natural Medicine, and is the senior supplement advisor at The Uniscience Group.