Natural Treatments For Migraines

The best natural treatments for migraines

I’ve discussed my journey with vestibular migraine under “My Story”, but I haven’t really talked about the natural treatments I’m using for daily migraine prevention. This is where having a blog gets a little uncomfortable for me. I talk openly in my closed migraine groups about these things, but it’s much different to share it with everyone and their dog (or cat). I figure the best part of sharing something so personal is the potential for it to help one reader. I also want people to know that recovering from migraines is sometimes possible without medication. Sometimes it’s not possible. Either way is ok and completely dependent on the individual. It’s often rooted in the goals you’re trying to accomplish in your migraine journey.

I am currently 32 and feeling the urge to start a family. Of course being from the south, I feel like I’m the last person in the world to not have children. Perhaps this is because younger people I went to high school with are on their 2nd or 3rd child! Unlike a lot of my friends, I met my husband in my late twenties. It was completely worth the wait. My best friend and I used to joke we should write a book called “Will Date for Food” with all of our horrible dating stories. Perhaps I’ll share them on here one day if anyone needs a good laugh. Anyway even though we met a little bit later, we wanted to enjoy the time we had with just the two of us. We love to travel and made that a priority. I can’t even say I’m 100% ready to have children because I do love our freedom to travel so much. I also like my sleep. But alas I figure if this is something we want in life, we need to get going before I’m considered “geriatric”…which is just crazy they consider anyone over 35 a high-risk patient. I realize people have children over this age all the time, but considering I don’t have the best luck with my health, I do worry something could go wrong.

This presented a big question when it came to my migraines. I would now consider myself more episodic than chronic, with a good handle on my illness. Considering I went from never driving or leaving the house to being able to work out 6 days a week, I’m pretty proud of my progress. While I know it may never go away, I have found some great tools to manage it. But throwing pregnancy into the mix is like setting fire to all your progress, and waiting around to see if it all burns to the ground. I had lengthy conversations with my neuro-otologist and my OB-GYN in preparation for what may lie ahead. I kept being told it’s the rule of 3’s – 1/3 feel better, 1/3 feel worse, and 1/3 of people stay the same. It’s a risk. At the same time it’s a great reward, but there are some steps you need to take to prepare. Depending on the severity of your migraines, you should discuss with your OB-GYN the risks of medicating while pregnant. Mine was very open about the risk of medicating while pregnant, but for some of her patients that experience life-threatening conditions like seizures, it’s important for their own health to continue medication. For me, the best option was to quit anything I was on and use natural treatments for my migraines.

I’ve been incredibly lucky that I’ve done well without medication for the majority of my vestibular migraine journey (I’ve currently added in timolol malate eye drops). Even the weaning process wasn’t horrible, although I did experience some pretty significant side effects from getting off birth control. A few of them were a constant low level of dizziness when I previously had breaks, extreme fatigue, HORRIBLE cramps, and an increase in headaches (yes, headaches are not migraines). It was tough for a month or two, but eventually evened out back to a good baseline. I really buckled down on the supplements below and the HYH diet during that time.

Here’s what I’ve now been doing daily to keep my vestibular migraine episodes under control. Please consult with your doctor before you begin taking any new supplements. These were specifically approved for me by my OB-GYN and neurologist before I began taking them.

The Heal Your Headache Diet – Obviously I wouldn’t have a page devoted to recipes if it didn’t work for me, but during my time weaning off my medications it definitely helped me keep my vestibular symptoms more stable. I was trying to re-introduce avocado during my first month off birth control, and was finding random results so I decided to table re-introducing trigger foods for a while until everything stabilized.

Magnesium – I take about 640mg of magnesium glycinate a day. I used to take Migrelief (found here), which was a combination of magnesium oxide and citrate, CoQ10, and B2, the most highly recommended migraine cocktail. For some reason (probably the expense of CoQ10), they quit carrying that version and only carry the kind with Feverfew. I tried it and I don’t have as great of results, so I switched to taking everything separately. Some people say this is better as combination supplements can have more fillers and less expensive ingredients. I personally liked having all 3 in one pill since it was easier to remember to take, but in the words of the great Rolling Stones – you can’t always get what you want.
Another positive to separate pills is that they are typically filled with better ingredients/more pure, and are more highly effective. The naturopathic doctor I most recently visited said it’s significantly more effective to take individual supplements over combined pills.
One thing that I learned from my Migraine Strong group is that there are different types of magnesium that are better for different things. Many brands, like the Calm drink you see all over instagram, contain magnesium citrate. If you’ve ever taken magnesium and had an upset stomach after, chances are you’re taking the citrate or oxide version. It has a laxative effect on many people. Taking high amounts of it, like the levels needed for migraine treatment, can cause gastrointestinal distress. Brands like Calm and Migrelief like to use it not only because it’s fairly well absorbed, but also because it’s cheap. Oh and there’s also this fun little fact about Calm containing arsenic floating around out there. Granted there’s been arsenic found in several popular wines, so maybe take that with a grain of salt.
There are a few other versions that are good for those with magnesium deficiency and chronic illness. Malate is said to be good for people with fibromyalgia or CFS. For people taking high doses, magnesium glycinate is really great since it is bonded to the amino acid glycine as opposed to citrate which is bonded to citric acid. Glycine itself supports digestive and mental health, as well as having natural relaxing properties. This makes it an optimum form of magnesium for those with migraines or neurological issues.

Another good option is magnesium threonate, which studies have shown is good for mental clarity, memory, and overall brain health. This one can be a lot more expensive and difficult to find. Pure Encapsulations makes a clean kind called CogniMag. I have ordered the 3 below and found all have great results. I have been taking the CogniMag for 2 months now and it has helped SO much with brain fog. You can read about it more here. I find Metagenics makes me a little more sleepy, but more relaxed than Pure Encapsulations. Because of this, I like to take it at night before bed.

Because your body can only absorb so much magnesium orally, I like to supplement with topical treatments like Ancient Minerals magnesium chloride bath salts and spray. I actually really want to try this version with melatonin in it. If you browse their products they have a few that are for sensitive skin, as sometimes magnesium applied topically can cause itching and redness. 

Vitamin B2 – My neuro-otologist told me this is one of the best vitamins you can take for migraine prevention and has been scientifically proven that it works, even for children. Like magnesium, chronic migraineurs may be B2 deficient. What’s really interesting to me is B2 deficiency has side effects of digestive problems. I had struggled with digestive problems before my migraines began, which I attributed to stress, but any issues I had have since cleared after starting the supplements and diet. Studies have shown that B2 can cut the number of headache days, as well as reduce the length and severity of migraine. It’s also relatively low cost and has minimal risk of side effects, although it does interact with certain medications (like some tricyclic anti-depressents) so check with your doctor first. The only downside is it’s tough to find a capsule without gelatin in it, and some of the foods it’s found in are migraine triggers like soy, almonds, and yogurt.…what a cruel world this is, right? 400mg a day is recommended for migraine patients. I like Bluebonnet’s B2, which doesn’t have a lot of fillers or gelatin, and can be found at Whole Foods or Amazon. Here’s another good article.

CoQ10 & Feverfew – This helps the cells in your body produce energy, and is an antioxidant as well. You body produces it naturally, but it can also be depleted by certain medications or just be low in general. Studies have shown it can reduce the frequency of migraines. It’s great for those who struggle with the brain fog, memory problems, and mental clarity that comes from migraines. This has a few more side effects to worry about, like dizziness and rashes. Feverfew is another good one to add and is less expensive than CoQ10. Personally I got better results from CoQ10 than Feverfew, but I may have to let go of both supplements once pregnant as they’re not recommended.

Maca – While on the topic of brain fog and mental clarity, maca has been a huge help for me. Maca is a root vegetable from Peru that’s abundant in several vitamins and minerals which support the endocrine system. While it’s mainly known for it’s ability to help balance hormones and improve sexual dysfunction, it’s energizing properties can also help with memory. As I was transitioning off birth control and my hormones were trying to regulate, I put about 1/2 tsp of powder in my smoothie every morning. It really helped my hormonal migraines clear in about 2 weeks. The fact that it promotes fertility is a nice bonus! It can be tough to digest, especially if you’re not used to it. I suggest keeping doses low at less than 1 teaspoon, or trying gelatinized maca which is supposed to be more gentle on the stomach. Gelatinized refers to the process and does not mean that it contains the migraine trigger “gelatin” that’s derived from animals.

Vitamin D3 – My neuro explained to me that some who have migraine also have a vitamin D deficiency. It’s not only important for having strong bones, but can also help lower inflammation. High doses of vitamin D can be harmful for some people, and I will need to dial back my dose if pregnant. I was taking 5,000 IU’s from Pure Encapsulations when I was deficient, but I recently switched to 2000 IU’s of Pure Encapsulations since my levels had normalized. UK friends, here is the same product

Ginger/Turmeric – I tried to take Gaia Ginger Supreme as a daily preventative, but my stomach just couldn’t handle it and I got acid reflux about 7 out of 10 times. It did help if I took it in the morning or at lunch with a meal, as opposed to in the evenings. I still like to keep the bottle handy if I’m in any pain as it’s a pretty good abortive. UK friends here is the link

Ginger Turmeric Tea

Ginger Turmeric Tea Recipe – My husband’s coworker is a pretty big health nut and got us into make our own ginger turmeric tea, which is much easier on the stomach. You use a turmeric root about the size of your pinky finger and ginger root half the size of what you used for the turmeric. Microplane both into a steeping container. Steep in hot water for 7-10 minutes. You can strain out the little bits and pieces if you’d like. Add a tiny bit of black pepper, which aids in the absorption of the anti-inflammatory curcumin in turmeric, and a little bit of honey to taste.

  • Massage Therapy and Chiropractic – I did try out acupuncture for a few weeks, and I can’t say I had overwhelmingly noticeable results. For me, it wasn’t worth the cost to keep up. I noticed a much larger difference by scheduling a massage therapy session at least 1-2 times a month. While it’s expensive, I feel like it’s worth it in my cost/benefit analysis. It relaxes my neck muscles, promotes healing and mental clarity, allows me to fully relax, and is an all-natural treatment. I consider it my “preventative medication”. My biggest recommendation is to find a massage therapist that you connect with. When looking for one, ask if they see patients with migraines and if they perform reflexology. My therapist is a jack-of-all-trades and she performs acupressure, reflexology, deep-tissue, and occasionally cupping during my session. I’m planning to do a post with some pictures of my session, but I just get so relaxed I keep forgetting! I have the same recommendation for chiropractic care. Do your research. Call around and ask if the chiropractor is experienced with migraines. Some neurology clinics even have chiropractic care available as an affiliate or on-staff. My chiropractor had migraines that began after a car accident, so she devoted a lot of time to researching and learning about how to treat them naturally. You’ll want to be cautious of chiropractors that do neck adjustments. It can cause other health issues like stroke if they don’t know what they’re doing.
  • Prenatal Vitamins – My OB-GYN gave me a few multi-vitamins to test out so I can find one I like that works well with my migraines. While I’m still testing, I thought I would share (the one!) that doesn’t contain maltodextrin or gelatin – CitraNatal Bloom. Who knew it would be so difficult to find vitamins without these? This review seems helpful if you’re looking for one that can be found over-the-counter. I’ve also recently started taking Pure Encapsulations Pre-Natal vitamins, which I’ve been a fan of so far. I swear they don’t pay me to to advertise for them. They just have really great products! You’ll see their supplements in many naturopathic clinics.

Let me know if you have other natural treatments that have worked well for you!

Please note the links above are affiliate links, but they are also everything I actually use daily (except for some of the UK only brands). I’m not sponsored or paid by any of these brands. Thank you for supporting the ways I keep The Dizzy Cook up and running without ads. 

Natural Migraine Treatments

Alicia was diagnosed with Chronic Vestibular Migraine in 2016 and has been able to successfully manage her symptoms through medication, supplements, lifestyle changes, and the Heal Your Headache Diet by Dr. David Buchholz from Johns Hopkins. She's the owner of The Dizzy Cook.

43 comments

  1. Jill Goff

    Wonderful information and I am learning so much from you! I have found that I find most of my vestibular migraine knowledge on the Internet from webpages like yours. I have been suffering since my mid 30’s and now in my mid 50’s it took over 15 years to get diagnosed. I feel like my brain has been permanently broken but I refuse to give up! I am now back to work full time after years of bed ridden episodes that would last anywhere from a day to several months. Life as I knew it was over! Your recipes are informative and helpful! The supplements are also helping me! Thank you for being such a great resource.

    Reply

    1. Alicia

      Jill, that’s so awesome to hear. I work really hard to stay up to date on VM research and treatments so I’m thrilled it’s been helpful. That’s amazing you’re back to working full time! What an inspiration you are to this community! I know you will just continue to improve and can’t wait to hear another update about your progress. 🙂

      Reply

  2. Amy McNally

    Thank you for this Alicia. I finally found a good new doc, but he suggested I try the suggestions from the support groups as he deals more with the other meds. This can be all so confusing, but you really break it down in a personalized way! Don’t know what I would do without your posts. Maybe I should share your site with the doc next time for other patients????

    Reply

    1. Alicia

      Amy that would be awesome for you to mention it! That’s actually how I ended up talking with Dr. Cho, who helped me with this post. His patients kept mentioning the site and now he just sends them here for help with the diet. 🙂

      Reply

  3. Morgan Johnston

    Hey, you mention a smoothie, can you tell me what you put in it? I always have a morning smoothie with avocado and banana but I’m learning that these may not be helpful ingredients.
    Thanks
    Morgan

    Reply

    1. Alicia

      Hey Morgan – this link has my 3 favorites.

      Reply

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