My take on migraines, with product recommendations at the end of post.
Migraines are a debilitating affliction that effects millions of people, and my experience is that the numbers are increasing. Some people get some symptomatic relief from prescription medications, which may be helpful to some degree, often with some unpleasant side effects to go along with it. Usually even with treatment through medications, most people still suffer.
Twenty years ago I spent 5 days a week, in bed, with horrible migraines that rendered me completely helpless. The other two days of the week were spent feeling bruised and hungover. I had to quit my high paying job at a computer company in Silicon Valley and was barely able to care for my then 2 year old daughter. I sought the help of medical doctors and was subjected to test after test after test with no answers – well I occasionally got the answer that it was all in my head, which is such a defeating thing to hear, when you are already feeling powerless. I had other “mystery illness” symptoms as well, such as increasing food and environmental sensitivities. Weary from telling my story again and again to doctor after doctor, I turned to holistic care in the form of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine. Thus began my path into the healing arts.
I’ve learned a lot about migraines through my own suffering and healing. I’ve learned tricks that work. I’ve learned the emotional components. I’ve learned how to support the underlying root causes of them. I stopped having migraines about 8 years ago. I had been having a gradual decrease in them through the support I was doing. And it was when I became aware of the emotional component, that they pretty much ceased all together. I now maybe get one a year, and it’s usually mild in comparison to those I had 20 years ago.
Some tricks I learned to deal with migraines……………
Many migraines begin in the digestion. Migraine sufferers can often feel the early symptoms coming on well before the pain sets in. (Did you know that not all migraines have pain? Many of them don’t. I highly recommend reading Oliver Sacks’ book on Migraines for more insight into this.)
For digestive migraines you can quickly alkalize the body. Ways that this can be done are:
- eating Ume plum or Ume plum paste
- drinking 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda mixed in a glass of warm water
- using a product called Tri-Salts, which does the same thing as baking soda, but tastes a bit less foul
- drinking a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar in a glass of water (you can add some cayenne and ginger as well)
Some migraines aren’t necessarily identifiable as having digestive beginnings. Sometimes, if caught in the very early stages, drinking a cup of strong coffee may be helpful.
Migraines, like many other chronic conditions are a pattern. And like many chronic patterns, their beginnings started in the adrenals. Adrenal fatigue and exhaustion are at the root of so many health issues. I recommend adrenal support to anyone over the age of 30, women of any age who have had children, and anyone that encounters daily stress. In this day and age, this is pretty much most adults.
Supporting the adrenals, while also supporting digestion and symptom relief can lessen the frequency and severity of migraines. Over time it is possible to have them cease all together.
I mentioned the emotional components of migraines. And while many people may be more interested in learning natural ways to treat migraines with herbs, I would be doing a disservice if I were not to share this aspect of my insight and experience. And perhaps by doing so, it may resonate with some.
I am trained in the holistic healing arts, and several of the schools of thought I work with, teach that there is always an emotional component to any physical ailment. Usually the physical ailment manifests because there is an emotion that is trying to be expressed, but we are, for whatever reason, unwilling to allow ourselves to feel it. So we experience it physically.
My personal insight to this came about 9 years ago during a weekend retreat workshop I was helping host. My migraines had lessened to the point then that I was only getting them during times of more extreme stress. I had a hold on the symptom treatment and had gotten pretty good at stopping them in their tracks. But I would still get them once every few months and when I did, they knocked me on my butt for several days. I remember coming home from the first long workshop day and washing dishes. As I was standing over the sink, I thought to myself “I am so mad that I have this damn headache!” and lamenting how much more I would enjoy the workshop if I weren’t in this severe pain to the point that I was wondering if I could even finish the workshop. I said to myself again “I am so fucking angry!”….and then it was like a lightbulb went off. Angry! I was angry. And all of the knowledge I had compiled about emotional components to physical manifestations suddenly made sense to me. I was angry. My migraines were my physical expression of my anger…………because I rarely actually got angry. I got annoyed, frustrated, irritated…..I called it whatever I could manage to call it but not anger…..never anger. Anger wasn’t something I expressed very well. My experience had primarily been that if I got angry, someone else got angry at me for being angry…..likely something I learned way back in my childhood. All of a sudden, I realized how my migraines had served me. How much easier it had been for me to have a headache than to express anger. When you have a headache, people are usually nice to you. They care for you. They do things like keep the noise down, bring you blankets, and ice packs, and make you cups of cozy tea. When you are angry, on the other hand, they don’t do this. I could see this all with clarity and realized that I had grown tired of the migraines. I could see how they were useful to me at one time, but really, I had better things to do than to be plagued with them.
And the weird thing…..was that after that realization, they disappeared. Just like that. In the past few years, I’ve had a handful of migraines, most of them around my hormonal cycle, and a lack of tending to my increased need for rest at this time.
Now I am not suggesting that everyones or anyone else’s migraines are rooted in anger. I am only me, so cannot speak for anyone else. However I can say with 100% confidence, that I believe there is always an emotional underlying component. And what’s interesting is that I have found in myself and in my clients, that it usually is not going to present itself when we go looking for it. It’s something that usually pops up one day seemingly out of the blue and we go “ah ha! there you are….” or “I knew it all along!”. Because that’s the thing. We usually do know it all along, at least on some level. And when we are wiling to open to that level, which can be really really hard, profound shifts and healing can happen.
My professional recommendations are to
- support the adrenals. Sage Moon Apothecary makes a lovely adrenal tonic called Adapt, filled with helpful and nourishing adaptogenic herbs. It is easily digestible as it comes in a syrup form, and is quite tasty.
- support the liver. This can be done through various methods. Milk Thistle is a wonderful herb for this. Golden Milk Electuary is another excellent product that I make that is supportive of the liver and helpful for pain relief as well.
- treat the symptoms as fast as you can. I recommend using natural support such as Golden Milk Electuary, or any of the methods I mentioned above for alkalizing. If you choose to take an over the counter or prescription medication, do so. You need symptom relief from the horrible pain that migraines can cause and shouldn’t feel negative about whatever method works for you. Regardless of your symptom treatment of choice – it is still incredibly important to continue supporting the adrenals and the liver.
- emotional support. have you ever just posed the question to your body….what is this migraine about? (asking what instead of why will usually bring more useful information). Ask and notice what comes up. Is it a person? An experience? A memory? An emotion? Or maybe its a sudden physical feeling in another body part. It’s all information and I’ve learned time and time again, that we don’t need to know the why’s. Simply being aware of what comes up is often enough to begin to expand our awareness towards shifting patterns.
- and these are probably all well. known……..but it is also important to be hydrated, get proper rest, and have digestive support, which could be done in a myriad of ways from implementing ferments, probiotics, etc.
There is help and healing from migraines. I have been down that very difficult road and know that it can be turned around. My experience with them was actually a blessing – I can say that now. It is what lead me down my path as herbalist and healer, and now allows me to reach out and help others. That means everything.
Sage Moon Apothecary Products that may help with migraine symptoms and healing
Migraine Oil – symptomatic pain treatment (there is also a nut free version)