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Migraine headaches are recurrent episodic headaches accompanied by nausea and/or vomiting and photophobia. According to the IHS classification at least two of the following features must also be present: unilateral location, pulsating quality, moderate to severe intensity, and aggravated by physical activity.
The pathogenesis of migraine is thought to be composed of three phases. The first phase begins in the brainstem. The second phase involves vasomotor activation (constriction and dilation) of arteries both inside and outside the brain. The third phase starts with activation of the brain's head and face pain processing center and the subsequent release of neuropeptides. Pain can be generated during any one of these phases. Most studies of the etiology of migraine pain now focus on disturbances in serotonergic mechanisms as the primary cause.
In migraines with an aura, previously called "classic migraines," focal neurological symptoms usually precede the headache and may last up to about 20 minutes. Auras are often visual; they may include visual field deficits, a scintillating scotoma (a luminous patch with irregular outline in the visual field), or a fortification spectrum (a dark patch with zigzag outline). Other neurological auras, such as aphasia and hemiplegia, occur occasionally. When the aura fades, the headache usually begins.
Migraines without an aura, previously called "common migraines," have the features of classic migraines, such as throbbing pain, nausea, vomiting, photophobia, and phonophobia, but no aura.
Perimenstrual headaches occur either two to three days before onset of menses or during the first days of flow. They are frequently severe, usually without aura, and are accompanied by nausea and vomiting. It is hypothesized that they are related to fluctuations in estrogen and serotonin levels. Many women consider them as part of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and may fail to report them.
Focus primarily on what triggers the migraine. Often there is a "let-down" trigger; for example, the headache starts Saturday morning following a stressful week. Sometimes it is necessary to readjust your lifestyle and find better ways to manage stress.
Diet may be a factor in the occurance of migraines. The most common triggers are chocolate, alcohol, and aged cheeses. Keep a diary of foods eaten and avoid foods associated with the onset of migraine. Eat at regularly scheduled intervals; a drop in blood sugar level may trigger a headache.
Physical activity, including aerobic exercise for 30 minutes three to five times a week, helps to reduce stress.
Red Flag Symptoms for Dangerous Headaches
Migraine prevention: feverfew, thyme, basil, dandelion root, marjoram, vervain
Onset of migraine: passiflora, chamomile, lemon balm
During migraine attack: chamomile, peppermint, rosemary, vervain, passiflora
Herbal teas are a simple way of introducing therapeutic herbs and plants into our regular diet.
Rosemary is a powerful and aromatic herb that relieves congestion headaches, caused by prolonged mental activity. It has antibacterial properties, and its woody aroma stimulates the mind and encourages renewed concentration. Due to its strong properties, it should be avoided during pregnancy, as well as by people who have seizures.
Vervain is an important herb that relieves stress-related headaches and migraines. It calms the nervous system, relaxes the muscles and helps to promote sleep. Because vervain is also a good digestive tonic, it helps to prevent headaches and migraines caused by sluggish digestion.
Feverfew helps to alleviate migraines and improves blood circulation to the brain. It is used as a preventive measure and should be taken in a tea two or three times a day.
Dandelion root helps to eliminate toxins from the body and is excellent for digestive disturbances. This herb is useful as a preventative treatment for migraines cause by sluggish digestion and an over-toxic system.
Passiflora is often used to promote sleep and is one of the most relaxing herbs for the nervous system. It brings a state of calm to an anxious and worried mind. Passiflora prevents and treats headaches and migraines caused by stress and tension. It should be avoided suring pregnancy.
Chamomile has many healing properties. It helps to relieve tension and irritability and promotes sleep and relaxation. It treats headaches that are caused by over excitability.
Lemonbalm is a wonderful smelling herb relieves the pain and discomfort associated with a migraine attack. It also has a pleasant lemon taste and settles digestive upsets. It's also very easy to grow in your garden.
Peppermint helps the liver to work more efficiently by helping to break down fatty or oily foods in the digestive process. Its minty fragrance lifts the spirits and the refreshing properties of this herb help to bring about a feeling of alertness and vigour.
Ginger has a wide-range of digestive benefits and it promotes bloodflow to the extremities which makes it a very valuable remedy.
Recipe for a tea infusion for relief of migraines brought about by nervous anxiety:
Take half a flat teaspoon of each of the following herbs: vervain, chamomile, thyme, and basil. Infuse them in a cup of hot water for five minutes. Strain, and drink immediately. Sweeten with honey.
Recipe of Chinese herbs which can be used for a migraine attack. It helps to detoxify the the liver, assist in efficient digestion and bring the body into balance.
Take a teaspoon of each of the following herbs: vervain, dandelion root, ginger root, marshmallow root, motherwort, and centaury. Add them to 1 liter (1-3/4 pints) of water, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes on a low heat. Strain, and drink 1 cup before each meal. Keep the leftovers refrigerated and heat as required. Sweeten with honey.