Herbs for Headaches

tasymoJuly 22, 2007

Hello Everyone

Didn't get much response on the Herb forum, so I'll give it a try here.

This is a pic of a Planter I'm putting together for a friend who suffers from Migraines and "hormonal headaches". It has Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), Rosemary (Rosemarinus Officinalis), Valerian (Centranthus ruber) and Lavender (Lavundula Angustifolia) in it now, and I'm waiting on a baby Virginian Scullcap I just ordered from Richters. Yes, I do realize these plants will quickly outgrow the container (The Feverfew has already doubled in size since I planted it two weeks ago!) My friend is an excellent gardener and will happily transplant these Herbs in her gardens. I'm wondering first of all, are there any other "must have" herbs I missed? Also, do any of you have favored recipes for using any or all of these Herbs? Any help you can give me is much appreciated! Thanks, Kathy

Here is a link that might be useful:

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Dear Kathy,
There's an herb widely used by women in Asia called Angelica Sinensis. Use the Radix/Root. It is the best herb to treat anything "hormonal". It is called Dang Gui, Dong Kuai, amongst others. It can be found dried in any natural health food store and probably the plant can be found at an online store. I study Chinese herbs and would also like to know where you find a nice healthy plant if you do!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2007 at 4:13PM
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Thanks Steph!
I found it at Crimson Sage.com
I have not ordered from them as yet, but they came highly recommended by Herbalbetty on the Herb Forum. Kathy

    Bookmark   July 25, 2007 at 6:14PM
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Dong gwai has been shown to be dangerous and even fatal in some instances and has been banned from many places. If you care about your friend, send her to a licensed medical doctor and away from word-of-mouth, testimonial based alternatives.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 6:17PM
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Lucy, what are your sources on toxicity of this herb? I can't find much more than a rare case report suggesting the possibility of it causing bleeding, especially in people already taking blood thinners.

It doesn't seem to be used much for headache (the link below describes it being taken for headaches supposedly due to "blood deficiency").

Here is a link that might be useful: Dong quai

    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 9:04PM
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I have nothing in front of me but a very 'tuned-in' memory of the scandal from a few years ago. I say tuned in because I've spent years and years working in the neurology and n-surg. depts of teaching hospitals and so if I see someone talking about headaches, I pay attention. But I also do that when my memory is tweaked by letters like these written by well-meaning people who just haven't heard or done research on things recommended by others somewhere. I agree that there are many herbal/natural/alternative things out there beneficial to some people for certain conditions, without greatly harming anyone, but D.G. is not one of them unfortunately. It may address certain symptoms, and some people will get away with taking it sometimes, but as that's unpredictable, the price is too high!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2007 at 5:30AM
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My Goodness! Just about ANYTHING can be toxic in high does, even water! I've heard plenty of stories of folks who have medical complications due to the MISUSE of over the counter medications- including death! Yes Folks, I am very aware of possible problems associated with Medicinal Herb use or mis-use. Any plant that is effective has the potential to be toxic. That is the very nature of medicine, Herbal or otherwise! That is why I'm asking questions! Thank you, Lucy, for the warning, though what you had to say appears just as "word of mouth" as any other response I've recieved. My friend see's her Dr. regularly. Like most people I know who suffer from migraines, the Dr. has no answers. Different things work for different people. This is simply an effort on my part, to provide my Friend with some options she hasn't explored. She is an avid gardener, and if she chooses not to use the herbs medicinally, she will still have some interesting plants. She is also a very smart Lady who is not reckless with her health. Rest assured she will research these herbs even more than I have. My thanks to all who have responded! Kathy

    Bookmark   July 27, 2007 at 7:07AM
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well depending on how far you want to go, just brew something for her yourself, here is a list of helpful herbs

feverfew (don't use during pregnancy)
ginkgo biloba extract
willow bark
wormwood ( don't use during pregnancy and not for long term use)

Have fun and enjoy the process, if you decide to make something, probably a simple infusion would be great! ( infusion of peppermint especially )

    Bookmark   August 13, 2007 at 1:56AM
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As a migraine sufferer myself, I always recommend pennyroyal. Especially for menstral migraines. Like feverfew, it should NOT be taken by pregnant women or women trying to get pregnant. (And it tastes better than feverfew.) However, it always helped not only with the headaches, but also helped "jumpstart" my period (which tended to help aleviate the cramping quicker also).

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 3:52PM
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Thanks, Harvesthunt! I'm wondering if Pennyroyal would be helpful for Pre-Menopausal and Menopausal issues, since my Sisters and I have all reached that point in our lives. I also put together a "Menopause Planter" with Motherwort, St. John's Wort, Lady's Mantle, and Purple Sage.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2007 at 11:33AM
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Judy_B_ON(Ontario 5B)

Adverse reactions including death have been reported with pennyroyal. Do not provide it for your friends.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pennyroyal

    Bookmark   August 25, 2007 at 11:56PM
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Thanks for the info Judy b, but this is once again a clear demonstration of how proper preparation and dosage is key to safely using any medication, be it Herbal or otherwise.

"The oil of pennyroyal is VERY concentrated. It has been estimated by University of Illinois pharmacognosist Norman Farnsworth, PhD (a leading researcher on herbal emmenagogues and abortifacients) that one would have to drink 50-75 gallons of pennyroyal tea to equal a fatal dosage of pennyroyal oil. The tea poses little to no fatality hazard."

Using Pennyroyal oil instead of drinking a cup of Pennyroyal tea appears to be similar to taking an entire bottle of Tylenol instead of the recommended dosage. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that most people interested in using Herbal medicine are probably inclined to be MORE cautious about what they put into thier bodies as well as MORE aware of possible side effects. It amazes me how many people blithley consume over-the-counter medications without ever knowing what they are taking, or even reading the instructions or cautions!

    Bookmark   August 26, 2007 at 10:57AM
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"...it seems to me that most people interested in using Herbal medicine are probably inclined to be MORE cautious about what they put into thier bodies as well as MORE aware of possible side effects."

I get a different impression - namely that too many people assume herbal drugs are safe because they're "natural". Take this statement by a poster planning to use a "herbal enhancement" product sold on Ebay:

"I figure with the natural ingredients it should be okay."

At least with over-the-counter drugs there are clear warnings about common side effects, and reliable standards of manufacture. You can't say the same thing about most herbal supplements, so warnings from fellow posters are welcome.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2007 at 9:27PM
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Well, you probably don't want to put it in the planter, but kudzu (root) is very good for migraine and other neurovascular headaches. The original research said it was primarily for menstrual migraines (it is a rich source of phytoestrogen), but research since then has indicated that kudzu root has a marked influence on serotonin.

It can also lower blood pressure and probably shouldn't be mixed with other hypertension drugs.


Due diligence and personal informed decisions are independent of whether one goes natural or pharmaceutical. Lots of people just take whatever the doctor gives them and then have side effects. The same is true of many people who go with with herbs or vitamins. No one has as much at stake when it comes to your health as you.

Here is a link that might be useful: Kudzu and Cluster Headaches

    Bookmark   August 28, 2007 at 10:39AM
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Dehydration can cause headaches. My first couse of action, when I get a headache, is to first try a big glass of water. Most of the time my headache vanishes in a short time.

I have tried aroma therapy, both wintergreen or lavender. I think they were helpful, if stess caused the headache.

I had daily migraines for a long time, when I was a teen. I think extreme stress from my family environment at that time was the culprit. As an adult, I have rarely suffered a migraine.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2007 at 1:07PM
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Hmmmm, I don't think I'll be adding Kudzu, although our Michigan Winters would probably take care of it trying to take over! I may suggest She try a suppliment though. I'm pretty sure dehydration isn't the problem, as I seldom see my Friend without her bottled water at hand. I'm fascinated with all the varied possibilites you all have come up with. Mother Earth truly does provide!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2007 at 4:19PM
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I am also a sufferer of migraines. I get a very severe one once every couple of years. They can last for weeks and so far I have had no success with modern medicine at all. The only thing that has worked for me has been chiropractic adjustment combined with an acupressure treatment on the skull. However due to job loss and the economy a trip to the chiropractor is simply not in the budget at this time. This last migraine I've suffered lasted a nearly a month and has still not entirely gone away. The pain has reduced but I am still suffering aspects of a migraine (light sensitivity, nausea, ringing, etc), it's been nearly 3 months now since it all started. I've been trying to find herbal suggestions to try when I recently discovered an article linked to the Australian herbalism forum regarding Feverfew and migraines. The article was apparently a review of more than 300 double blind studies on the use of Feverfew vs placebo for the prevention of migraines. The conclusion of the review was inconclusive as to Feverfews efficacy for migraine prevention. It was also found to be non-harmful. I'll go back and get the link to the article and post it here for you.


    Bookmark   February 24, 2009 at 5:42AM
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Okay here is the link to the article I mentioned above.


    Bookmark   February 24, 2009 at 5:45AM
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Male migraine suffers who I have given my freshly harvested feverfew leaves to eat raw daily have told me that it did help them prevent onset of migraines. These are adult individuals who otherwise take to darkened rooms for extended periods & are chronic sufferers.
Of course, they may have been only experiencing a placebo effect. Yet, the success factor is also possibly due to the leaves' freshness.
Distinct from migraine, the role of blood sugar precipitating headaches has not been mentioned in this thread. It seems that glucose metabolism is a commonly over looked trigger.
In the instance of low circulating blood sugar to the brain an acute headache can develop. At onset (onset usage is critical) of this condition caffeine, in combination with "sugar" is the most effective.
"Sugar" alone does not seem to be able to reverse the headache course quickly. If you consider chocolate as the sugar source it's action will be even slower, due to it's fat content metabolism.
As politically incorrect as it sounds: cola soft drinks are available almost instantly world wide & are usefull to prevent the full blown development of this type of headache.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2009 at 12:50PM
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Really Gringo? Sugar? I never heard that. I usually just take a few pain pills when I feel it coming on and it goes away. Very non-herbal of me, and it works great!!

I also drink a ton of water with my pills. But I never thought of it having hypoglycemic/caffeine origins.

Do you think this would be because of withdrawals?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2009 at 1:04PM
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Hi silversword,
Let me be clear (this is not relevant to migraines):
I was discussing a low blood sugar state inducing a headache - this is a glucose deficiency in the brain, which requires a priority of metabolic energy to function.
The remedial catalyst is the caffeine - this is what apparently jump starts the brain chemistry to avoid the further development of pain in this type of headache. Purely speculating this is more like a hormonal speed, so it may be an adaptive response.
A source of sugar, which would seem to be all that is needed, has more of a secondary action role. Ingesting some form of sugar takes time to metabolize, circulate & reach the brain cells in the required quantity.
Practically put, you don't want to let this type of headache lock in it's neurological pain message, because allowed to get acute it will not just back off merely because the patient starts pumping up their blood sugar. In other words, the duration of the headache seems to be long lasting because the signal persists even though the brain belatedly got glucose.
This is where the immediacy of drinking dissolved caffeine & sugar in a cola soft drink when first headache sensation occurs will stop an acute one due to low blood sugar.
The usefulness of pain pills in this type of headache would be for when it is no longer acute, but decidedly established, since medication will take time to work. What types of pain pills for a low blood sugar induced headache is not my field.
As for the duration of this type of headache it can last well beyond the re-establishment of optimal brain glucose & this means insidious pain of up to 6 - 8 hours. Maybe someone else can explain why the receptors don't act like on/off switches.
What this means for other types of headaches I am not sure.
Your question about withdrawals is unclear to me; water intake, regular caffeine consumption & pain pills were all mentioned.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2009 at 4:31PM
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Hi Gringo, thanks for the clarification. I meant by withdrawals, that some people I know who drink mass quantity of soda get headaches when they don't get their "fix". Then once they drink it the headache leaves...

    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 10:12AM
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Hi silversword,
Soda pop addicts could induce hypoglemia in a sea of plenty. The insulin hormone re-set on a hair trigger by their pattern of sugar intake can push circulating glucose into body tissue leaving the brain deprived.
My initial observation comes from poor laborers who skip breakfast & then let eating lunch go for too long. A noon-ish dose of cola pop keeps them from working with a pounding head all afternoon.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 12:02PM
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The number of triggers for migraines is legion; hypoglycemia can be a trigger, though not a very common one.

Caffeine is used in migraine treatment, generally not in sweetened soda but as part of a pain pill combination. Caffeine is thought to help by constricting the blood vessels in the brain that cause pain.

Caffeine, of course, can be a trigger for migraines as well. If overused (for instance, as a treatment) you can get rebound headaches.

So if the suspected cause of a migraine is not eating for a long period (skipping a meal at least), the answer is eating more regularly and not depending on a caffeinated soda as a pick-me-up to take care of the migraine.

Here is a link that might be useful: More on caffeine and migraine triggers

    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 12:15PM
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Migraines are easier to avoid than to treat after the fact. Until I understood what my triggers are I had them many times a year. My triggers are missing breakfast, pork (I can eat a bit of bacon), red wine (DH's home brew is OK), undue stress (learn to let go or meditate), lack of caffeine in the am, dehydration, certain smells such as diesel fumes and perfumes (I can use essential oils).

I like coffee so always have a couple of cups in the am. I have also found that green tea works but I like coffee better.

I'm sure other's triggers will be different but if they can be identified and avoided it certainly is easier than trying to live with migraines.

I found a simple solution which works almost all the time. At the first sign of a headache, which for me is an aura, sip a glass of water with 1/2 teaspoon soda bicarb added. Repeat if ineffective. Avoided hours of pain for me once I discovered this. I seldom get an aura altho will get one when I can't avoid diesel or heavy perfume on someone else.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 2:58PM
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Just some notes:
Feverfew is indicated as an ongoing preventative therapy for migraines-- since it grows so prolifically, it isn't hard to have on hand. Use fresh leaves whenever possible, the volatile oils dissipate quickly on drying. Using it as a preventative means using it continually (tincture or standard infusion) to decrease the frequency of migraines-- not simply relying on it at the onset of migraines.

Pennyroyal is FATAL is essential oil doses of less than 1/2 oz. That is not something you want to learn yourself-- trust that others did, the hard way. Since there are other, safer & gentler herbs available, why mess with it? It is also a very effective abortifacient, so don't consider it if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 10:14PM
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"I seldom see my Friend without her bottled water at hand"

Is it possible she is borderline water intoxicated? Worked with a woman that drank too much water that her body started loosing too many minerals and one of her main problems was headaches. She was ordered to stop drinking as much water and horror on horrors put salt on all of her food for a week.

I was aware of the salt problem because my father had a low salt seizure and started talking childhood German.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 11:32PM
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