A migraine attack can hijack your day—or even your week. This headache disorder causes intense, throbbing pain that can make mundane daily activities (such as work) impossible to perform.
Sometimes it feels like all you can do is lie in a dark, quiet room and wait for the migraine to pass.
And while that can help, you want pain relief as soon as possible.
Thankfully, some home remedies can help manage this disorder.
In this article, I’ll outline the most popular at-home migraine remedies and explain which options have evidence that they may help.
Keep in mind, it may take some trial and error to find the right treatment plan for you.
Also, if you’re experiencing migraine symptoms for the first time (including a moderate to severe headache, nausea, or sensitivity to bright lights and sound), contact your healthcare provider for an official diagnosis and to discuss other migraine treatment options.
Avoid Triggering Foods
It’s unclear exactly what causes migraine.
However, certain foods can trigger symptoms in some people.
Common food triggers for migraine include:
- Aged cheeses
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG), found in some processed foods and Asian cuisines
- Some fruits and nuts
- Fermented or pickled foods
- Cured or processed meats
If you suspect certain foods may trigger your migraine headaches, keep a diary of what you eat and when you experience attacks.
If you’re able to identify a trigger food or foods, avoiding those foods may help.
Drinking water and staying hydrated can help prevent both non-migraine and migraine-related headaches.
And if migraine symptoms have already begun, staying hydrated may help prevent symptoms from worsening.
In general, it’s best to drink water regularly throughout the day, rather than drinking too much water too quickly, which can cause an upset stomach.
If you’re in an especially hot environment or exerting yourself physically, it may also be a good idea to drink more water than usual if you’re prone to migraines.
You’ll know you’re hydrated when your urine is a pale straw color. Darker urine indicates that your kidneys are concentrating your urine because you’re dehydrated.
Get a Good Night’s Rest
People who experience migraines are more likely to have sleep disturbances.
Unfortunately, poor sleep can also trigger migraines.
Therefore, doing whatever you can to get adequate sleep may help prevent and relieve migraines.
Try to stick to a sleep schedule (even on weekends), make your bedroom as dark and quiet as possible, only use your bed for sleep and sex, stay off of screens (like phones, tablets, and laptops) before bed, and be mindful about your caffeine intake.
Stress management helps support general health, and it may also help alleviate migraine headache pain and its impact on daily life.
In one small study, people with migraine were split into two groups: One learned mindfulness-based stress reduction (MSBR) techniques while the other received education about headaches.
Although both groups showed about the same reduction in migraine frequency, the MSBR group reported improved disability, quality of life, self-efficacy, pain catastrophizing, and depression.
If stress is a migraine trigger, talk to your healthcare provider for guidance on effective stress management and mindfulness techniques such as breathwork, yoga, journaling, and spending time in nature.
Cold therapy—which can include using cold compresses or ice packs—is a common at-home remedy for migraine, yet researchers aren’t sure why this helps.
One theory is that the cold constricts blood vessels and slows nerve signals so your brain doesn’t register the pain as much.
There are a few ways to try cold therapy: One small study found that using an ice band around the neck may be particularly effective for some people, while another small study found that applying a cold compress to the head at the onset of migraine headache symptoms may help.
Research is limited on the effectiveness of essential oils as a migraine treatment.
However, early evidence suggests that peppermint and lavender oil may help reduce symptom severity and frequency in some people.
In one clinical trial, people used nose drops when they felt a migraine coming on.
The drops contained either lidocaine (a pain reliever) or peppermint oil, or were a placebo and had no treatment.
People who received either the lidocaine or peppermint oil treatment reported a reduction in headache severity when compared with the placebo group.
Though promising, more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of peppermint oil as a migraine remedy.
One small study found that inhaling lavender oil for 15 minutes may decrease the severity of migraines.
However, more quality research is needed to determine the effectiveness of lavender oil in treating or preventing migraine symptoms.
Feverfew is a plant native to parts of western Asia and the Balkans that has been used as a folk remedy for many ailments, including fevers, arthritis, and headaches.
Though no serious side effects have been reported with feverfew use, clinical studies and systematic reviews have found mixed results in regard to its efficacy at treating migraine.
Butterbur is a plant shrub native to Europe and parts of Asia and North America. It has been used medicinally to treat several conditions including urinary tract symptoms, indigestion, headaches, and hay fever.
In 2012, the American Academy of Neurology promoted butterbur as a preventive treatment of migraine, but they rescinded this recommendation in 2015 due to concerns about possible liver toxicity.
To ensure safe use, talk to your healthcare provider before taking butterbur root or extract.
Ginger is used as an herbal remedy for many conditions, including indigestion and inflammation. But only limited evidence suggests it may help alleviate symptoms of migraine.
One meta-analysis suggests that ginger may be an effective treatment for reducing migraine pain and related symptoms, including nausea and vomiting.
Acupuncture & Massages
Although they are known better for helping release tension and pain throughout the body, some evidence suggests that acupuncture and massage may be effective nonpharmacological treatment options for migraine, whether used alone or together.
Specifically, massage may help reduce migraine frequency and sleep quality. And acupuncture may help decrease migraine frequency and the use of painkillers.
However, as with other natural remedies listed here, more research is necessary to prove the effectiveness of these therapies.
People who experience migraines may have lower blood levels of the mineral magnesium compared to other people. So taking supplemental magnesium oxide may help prevent migraine headache attacks.
Still, the evidence shows it’s only possibly effective, so talk to your doctor before trying this.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish like salmon and tuna and, in lower levels, in plant foods such as walnuts and hemp seeds.
One meta-analysis suggests that increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake may help reduce the duration of a migraine attack by more than three hours.
Unfortunately, the evidence did not suggest that omega-3 fatty acids helped to reduce the severity or number of migraines.
Get Vitamin B12 Level Checked
Research indicates that vitamin B12 deficiency may be an underlying cause for migraine, so consider getting your levels checked. If your B12 is low, talk to your provider about taking a supplement.
Some studies show that taking B12 along with other nutrients (such as folic acid and vitamin B6) may help prevent migraine and reduce symptoms.
Yoga is a common stress-reduction technique, and one survey indicates that regular yoga practice may also help people experience fewer migraines and reduce migraine severity.
More research is needed, however, to determine the efficacy of this treatment for migraines.
Biofeedback is a complementary therapy that has high levels of evidence for migraine prevention.
With biofeedback, you learn how to regulate your body’s response to pain through breathing, skin temperature, and other techniques.
How K Health Can Help
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K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
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