managing migraine

Migraine is a one-sided throbbing headache caused by constriction and dilation of blood vessels in the brain. The pain is actually caused by the dilation. It also often involves 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 can precipitate it too. There are two types of migraine – common and classical. Nausea and vomiting can attend both.

Some people experience such intense migraine that neither herb nor over-the-counter medicines can help. Prescription medications can be discussed with your GP.

Common type – persists for a few hours to a few days. Movement and noise seem to intensify the experience.

Classical type – can persist for days rather than hours, often preceded by an ‘aura’ – a visual precursor – blurred vision, flashing lights, a blind spot and sensitivity to light. I find with my own migraines that the signal is olfactory – I smell a sulphurous odour that nobody else can detect.

Try some Garden treatments. Getting a mindful moment outside is beneficial. You can also harvest the garden for some cures. Rosemary taken internally regulates blood pressure, including intracranial pressure, and can ease the symptoms of migraine. Feverfew, as the name suggests, can help address fevers, but it is also the standard herb for headaches of all hues – the phytoconstituents in its leaves are analgesic and, especially beneficial for migraines, act to slowly relax blood vessels and ease blood flow. The foliage can be taken in a salad or sandwich, or as a tea or tincture.

Meadowsweet is an analgesic and chamomile is calming. Linden tea is sedative and slightly analgesic and has an ethnobotanical history with migraine. The anti-inflammatories and antispasmodics listed under cluster headaches in the book (page 154) are also remedial for migraine tension in head and neck muscles.

Aromatherapeutically, lavender, lemon balm, rosemary and peppermint can be sniffed direct from the
garden, utilised as steam baths or, if of the essential sort, used in massage blends. I personally find lavender most effective.

Try some Kitchen support. Foods can trigger migraine in some sufferers, including any food with the amino acid tyrosine/tyramine, e.g. 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 the intake of these foods on a weekly basis and avoid altogether during episodes.

Some foods can diminish migraine patterns – for example migraines are associated with decreased levels of serotonin. To increase the production of serotonin we can avail of the amino acid 5-HTP, which is produced naturally when we eat tryptophanrich foods such as potato, pumpkin flesh and seeds, sunflower
seeds and poultry such as turkey or chicken. Other serotonin boosters include kiwi fruit, bananas, sour cherries, pineapples and plums, tomatoes, turnip, dark green veg and seaweed.

Holistic gardener remedy recipe – Linden, Lemon Balm and Feverfew Iced Tea or Tincture

When life gives you lemons make lemonade. When life or the garden gives you a headache, reach for the lemon balm, linden and feverfew.

To make an iced tea – simply make as you would a hot tea but on a jug rather than cup scale, using equal parts of the chopped foliage of each plant. Allow to cool for 30 minutes to fully extract the plant phytochemicals. Strain the solids away and then chill the liquid in the fridge. Once chilled, sip throughout the day for the duration of the symptoms.

To make a tincture – fill a jam or mason jar as much as you can (halfway or to the top) with a ratio of equal parts of each herb – chopped – then fill the jar with vodka to immerse the foliage. Lid, label and sit in a sunny place for four weeks. Give it a good shake every few days. Finally strain away the 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 a ½ teaspoon in some water on the half hour for the duration of the symptoms.

Extract from Natural Cures for common ailments – Fiann O Nualláin – Mercier press (2016)

About The Holistic Gardener

author of wellness books, columnist, keynote speaker.
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