Can Herbal Teas Help With Migraines?

Migraines can be life altering for those who suffer from them. Symptoms left untreated are often so debilitating that they interfere with everyday activities. Moreover, migraines are chronic neurological disorders for which there is no cure, only treatment.

The experience of every migraine sufferer is unique. They are triggered by different things, cause a range of symptoms, and respond to treatment differently. There is no single remedy to ward them off or treat symptoms when they occur. You need a multi-layered approach to curb their effects. Some might eat berries to reduce their stress while others might meditate around outdoor ivy plants. 

Finding a treatment regimen that may work for you to reduce the frequency and severity of migraines isn’t easy. In fact, for some people, relief is elusive. But they will try just about anything in a search for something that helps.

Even people who have been prescribed migraine treatment may look for complementary ways to alleviate them. Might something as easy as drinking the right cup of herbal tea be the answer?

The Anatomy of a Migraine

Migraines are caused by a neurological malfunction. Faulty electrical signals and inflammation inhibit the ability of neurotransmitters to carry the proper chemicals to other neurons or muscles.

Think of it as a breakdown in communication that is supposed to tell you how to respond to something. Imagine too many people trying to use a Wi-Fi signal, causing it to be sketchy. As a result, your email is never delivered. The same kind of miscommunication can happen in your brain.

In the case of a migraine, the result is severe-to-debilitating headache pain, usually accompanied by other symptoms. Those might include sensitivity to light and sound and visual disturbances caused by aura. You might also have problems with speech, thought, and movement, as well as nausea or vomiting.

Triggers and Treatment

No one knows exactly what triggers their migraines. Over time, though, you might notice certain things that seem to precede them. Those could include such things as changes in barometric pressure, certain foods, alcohol, stress, and more.

Triggers can be unpredictable. Maybe you drank alcohol before your last migraine, but drinking alcohol today didn’t trigger another episode. That doesn’t mean alcohol isn’t a trigger, but it might be when combined with certain other things. Triggers may require a perfect storm of certain factors to precipitate a migraine. So you will need to find the perfect combination of factors to treat it.

There are prescription medications that work for some people some, most, or all the time. Even if a medication can’t prevent one from occurring, it may be able to nip the symptoms in the bud. When you suffer from migraines, you’ll take any relief you can get. The list of non-pharmaceutical remedies is a long one. Although there is only anecdotal evidence of the effectiveness of any of them, they may be worth a try.

Some swear by acupuncture, Botox injections, or daith piercing to relieve migraine pain. Others rely on darkness, quiet, heat or cold, relaxation techniques, or yoga. Still others have found changes to their lifestyle reduce stress, or that dietary changes and improved sleep habits help. Some sufferers believe in the power of herbal tea.

The Case for Herbal Tea

Triggers and symptoms may be the reasons some believe herbal teas help reduce the frequency or severity of their migraines. Despite the lack of clinical trials and hard scientific evidence of efficacy, many people purport the power of certain herbs.

Let’s begin with stress, commonly believed to be a migraine trigger. Lavender, chamomile, ginger, and peppermint are all anecdotally reported to relieve stress. They are also all available as herbal teas.

Inflammation is also a factor in migraine triggers and pain. Chamomile and ginger can help reduce inflammation. Some studies show the curcumin in turmeric curbs inflammation at the neurotransmitter level, a critical factor in migraine pathology.

Ginger, clove, and lavender have analgesic properties that can reduce pain. Ginger is supposed to help you sleep, digest food, and boost your immunity. And peppermint is said to relieve nausea. (Think of that minty, albeit chalky, flavor of Pepto-Bismol.)

Does drinking herbal teas made of these ingredients help your migraines? As with most remedies, the jury is still out. However, that’s true even of most pharmaceutical remedies.

Among the medications prescribed for migraines are those created to treat other illnesses that have proven to help some patients. Beta blockers, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants are all prescribed to help prevent migraine frequency. But they were all formulated to treat other conditions.

Your doctor may prescribe anti-nausea medications to treat that symptom, but it may do nothing to treat the migraine itself. In fact, only the recently developed monoclonal antibody erenumab is designed specifically for migraine prevention.

Could Herbals Be Your Cup of Tea?

Medical research has come a very long way in determining how migraines occur. However, science hasn’t discovered a single cure for what ails migraine sufferers. Until it does, those who have migraines will explore their options for remedies that seem to work for them.

For 60,000 years or so, people have used herbal remedies to treat illness and disease. It’s true that the efficacy of herbs may be largely anecdotal. But those who have found relief using them are true believers.

Not even pharmaceutical intervention works for every migraine sufferer. Moreover, not every pharmaceutical intervention is without side effects. It’s no wonder some sufferers will try herbal tea to see if it helps their prevention and treatment regimen.

Of course, you should not use any herbal remedies without consulting your doctor first. Some herbs interact with prescription medications or render them ineffective. That’s particularly true with beta blockers.

If you get the go-ahead from your doctor, there’s no reason to not try herbal tea. You may find out that drinking some lavender tea every night before bedtime reduces your stress. That, in turn, may help you sleep and may reduce the frequency of your migraines.

For most chronic health conditions, what remedies work for some don’t work for all. New remedies are worth a try as long as your doctor says it’s safe. It’s the only way you’ll find out if herbal teas are or aren’t your cup of migraine-fighting tea.

Juliana Chen

Juliana Chen, with a Doctor of Medicine degree from Johns Hopkins University, has dedicated 16 years to advancing health education and wellness strategies. She joined our team as a freelancer in 2021, bringing her extensive knowledge in preventive medicine and healthy living. In her writing, she has also shared her expertise in nutrition, mental health, and disease prevention. Juliana’s prior roles include practicing physician and public health researcher. She is a certified yoga instructor and advocates for holistic health approaches in her spare time.

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