Migraine is a one-sided throbbing headache caused by constriction and dilation of blood vessels in the brain. The pain is actually the dilation part. Often with referred eye pain. For a lot of us it’s a hereditary condition but it can develop without a family history. It can be triggered by fluctuations in light levels, noise levels and even temperature. Stress and hormonal fluxes precipitate it too. There are two types of migraine – common and classical. Nausea and vomiting can attend both.
Common – persists for a few hours to a few days. Movement and noise seem to intensify the experience.
Classical – can persist for days rather than hours, often preceded by an ‘aura’ – a visual precursor – a blurred vision, flashing lights, a bind spot, sensitivity to light. I find with my own migraines that the signal is olfactory – I smell a sulphurous odour that nobody else can detect.
Garden treatments – feverfew as the name suggests can help address fevers but it is also the standard herb for headaches of all hues – the phyto-constituents in its leaves are analgesic but especially beneficial for migraines they act to slowly relax blood vessels – and ease blood flow back more gently. The foliage can be taken in with a salad or sandwich or as tea or tincture. Meadow sweet is an analgesic and chamomile is calming. The anti-inflamatories and antispasmodics like fennel, hawthorn and passionflower are also remedial to migraine tension in head and neck muscles.
Aromatherapeutically lavender, lemon balm, rosemary and peppermint can be sniffed direct from the garden, utilized as steam baths or if of the essential sort used in massage blends. I personal find lavender most effective.
Kitchen support. There are foods that trigger migraine in some sufferers – they include any food with the amino acid tyrosine/tyramine – that includes cheese, eggs, bananas, oranges, tomatoes, spinach, soy sauce and – sit down for the next two –wine and chocolate. Tyrosine/tyramine regulates blood pressure, impacts upon constriction and dilation and signals the brain to release more norepinephrine which in itself can trigger a headache. Lessen their intake on a weekly basis and avoid altogether during episodes.
Of course there are foods that we can select to diminish migraine patterns, for example migraines are associated with decreased levels of serotonin – so to increase the production of serotonin we can avail of an amino acid 5-HTP which is produced naturally when we eat tryptophan rich foods such as potato, pumpkin flesh and seeds, sunflower seeds, dairy proteins and poultry such as turkey or chicken. Other serotonin boosters include kiwi fruit, bananas, sour cherries, pineapples and plums, tomatoes, turnip and dark veg greens and seaweed.
Lemon balm and feverfew tincture/ iced tea.
When life gives you lemons – make lemonade. When life or the garden gives you a headache reach for the lemon balm and also the feverfew
To make an iced tea – simply make as you would a hot tea – but on a jug rather than cup scale – use equal parts of chopped foliage of each plant and allow to cool on counter for 30minutes to fully extract plant phytochemicals, strain solids away and then chill liquid in fridge. Once chilled it can sipped throughout the day for duration of symptoms.
To make a Tincture – simply fill a jam or mason jar as much as you can (half way or to the top) with a ratio of equal parts chopped lemon balm to chopped feverfew – then fill jar with vodka to immerse the foliage . Lid, label and sit in a sunny place for 4 weeks. Give it a good shake every few days. Finally strain away solids and store in a dark glass bottle in a cool, dark place. Tinctures can last indefinitely but I generally review after three years. The dosage is as ½ teaspoon in some water, on the half hour for duration of symptoms