- Sharp, debilitating headache, felt on one side of the head or face, or all over the head, and described as throbbing
- Nausea and vomiting
- Strong aversion to bright light or loud noise
- About 60 per cent of sufferers experience some symptoms in the hours or days before the headache occurs (this is called a ‘prodrome’). These symptoms may include mood alterations, sensitivity to light or smells, fatigue, gastrointestinal disturbance and increased thirst
- The term ‘aura’ is used to describe visual disturbances (such as flashes of light) that may be experienced in the 20 minutes immediately before the migraine (these occur in about one in five cases)
- Many patients also experience symptoms after the headache has passed. These may range from fatigue and irritability to euphoria
When to See a Doctor
- If you experience the symptoms above, consult your doctor who can arrange the necessary investigations to determine the cause, and rule out other causes.
- If you have more than three or four attacks in a month, you may need long-term medical treatment.
- If your headache was caused by an injury or trauma to the head.
- If your headache is accompanied by a rash, fever, stiff neck or numbness of a limb.
- If the headache has different characteristics to your normal symptoms, and especially if it is more severe than normal.
- If the headache is very severe, and comes on extremely quickly (under 5 minutes).
Causes of Migraines
Most migraines occur for no apparent reason. The condition can run in families, and may be related to blood flow in the brain and/or abnormalities in serotonin metabolism. Sufferers can often pinpoint trigger factors. Some foods, for example, can set off a migraine. The four ‘Cs’ – citrus, cheese, chocolate and coffee – as well as red wine, peanuts and fried food are all known to be common culprits.
Other causes include bright lights, loud noises, a change in the weather, stress, tiredness and hormonal changes. An attack is more likely just before the menstrual period, or when the sufferer is relaxing after a stressful day. Natural therapists associate migraines with liver dysfunction, and consequently your medical herbalist may recommend a detoxification program as part of your treatment plan (see Detoxification, p. 229).
Herbal Migraine Remedies
Herbs can help to prevent migraines, but once a migraine has begun, it will run its course.For long-term preventive treatment
FEVERFEW Tablets, capsules, 50-200 mg dried herb equivalent, standardised to contain 200-600 mcg parthenolide per daily dose.For migraines that accompany the onset of periods
CHASTE TREE Tablets, capsules, up to 1 g dried fruit equivalent, three times a day, or according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- Follow a balanced diet, avoiding known trigger foods.
- Practise relaxation exercises.
- Drink lots of water, especially before, during and after exercise.