A natural approach
What is Natural Medicine?
Every major civilisation throughout history has relied on plants for their healing and therapeutic qualities.
Migraine Treatment: Migraine remains second among the world’s causes of disability, and first among young women (findings from Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2019).
The characteristics and symptoms of migraine were recognised as far back as the second century AD. Research into migraine has put forward several scientific physiological explanations of the illness, but the symptoms remain largely as described by the ancient physicians.
Symptoms of the common migraine are a violent throbbing pain in the temple, unilateral but often spreading to the opposite side; the headache is accompanied by feelings of nausea, and for some patients vomiting occurs. Other symptoms are highly variable from person to person but include weakness and tingling in one or both arms, lethargy, drowsiness, bowel disturbance, mood swings and feelings of dread. Migraine treatment for this range of symptoms is always a challenge.
A specific feature of classic migraine is the aura - a visual disturbance with flashing lights and impaired vision; this kind of migraine does not always produce a headache but has a number of disturbing features including hallucinations loss of vision and numbness in the face and tongue. The duration of a migraine attack can be anything from a few hours to several days, the degree of pain experienced and the variety of symptoms are specific to each individual. This makes migraine treatment complex and it can take time to find the right approach.
Migraine has a tendency to run in families. However, it is known that environmental or lifestyle factors also play a role. These factors may potentiate the predisposition such as age and, for woman, hormone fluctuations during the menstrual cycle and in menopause.
Triggers for migraine are very individual but may include:
• Lack of food or sleep
• Stress, anxiety, exhaustion
• Flickering lights, TV screens etc.
• Specific foods
• Hormonal fluctuation
• Prescription medication
• Some specific foods although this depends on the individual
Poor liver function, low acid levels, sluggish digestion and also bowel disorders are all likely to contribute to migraine attacks.
Conventional (allopathic) migraine treatment consists of powerful chemical pharmaceutical drugs for symptomatic relief of pain, control of the inflammatory processes, nausea and also drugs that increase serotonin levels in the blood. There are prophylactic treatments to prevent attacks such as epilepsy medication - all these different drugs can have unpleasant side effects, and may cause other problems for patients.
The complexities of migraine require a broad approach and plant medicines are well placed to contribute to migraine treatment and the relief of this debilitating condition. The Natural Medicine Practitioner will try to identify the trigger factors with the patient, use plant medicine to support and restore the nervous system; also to help reduce stress and anxiety, provide symptomatic relief of pain and nausea; improve liver function and the digestive processes.
Migraine treatments vary from one patient to another, what works for one may not work for someone else. Current research has yet to identify its cause. However, once all the factors are evaluated it should be possible to identify triggers and treat the underlying symptoms, reduce the number of attacks and provide symptomatic and pain relief for migraine attacks when they occur. Currently there are no cures for migraine, but the condition can be managed effectively and natural medicine has a part to play in treatment options.
T. J. Steiner, L. J. Stovner, R. Jensen, D. Uluduz & Z. Katsarava on behalf of Lifting The Burden: the Global Campaign against Headache. Migraine remains second among the world’s causes of disability, and first among young women: findings from GBD 2019. The Journal of Headache and Pain volume 21, Article number: 137 (2020) https://doi.org/10.1186/s10194-020-01208-0 [Accessed 01/06/2022]
Charles, A Prof. 2018 The pathophysiology of migraine: implications for clinical management. The Lancet Neurology Volume 17, Issue 2, February 2018, Pages 174-182 Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/S1474-4422(17)30435-0
Yao-Yao Chen, Juan Li, Min Chen, Ling Yue, Tian-Wei She & Hui Zheng Acupuncture versus propranolol in migraine prophylaxis: an indirect treatment comparison meta-analysis. Journal of Neurology volume 267, pages14–25 (2020) Available from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00415-019-09510-x [Accessed 25th May 2022]
Negro, A, Martelletti P. 2019. Gepants for the treatment of migraine
Pages 555-567. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1080/13543784.2019.1618830 [Accessed 25th May 2022]
Mayo Clinic. Migraine. available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/symptoms-causes/syc-20360201 [Accessed 3rd June 2022]