Tips for combating migraines

Migraines are an especially unpleasant type of headache. What can help besides painkillers? Here you will find help in the form of drug-free complementary medicine treatments.


Daniela Schori

Most headache sufferers reach straight for the painkillers. If the headache is severe, and if drugs are not taken on a long-term basis, medication is certainly appropriate for pain relief. However, if drugs are taken too often, i.e. more than ten days per month, the body becomes accustomed to them, which means that the dose needs to be constantly increased. In addition, the long-term use of painkillers (over months) may cause health problems. Here you can learn how to beat bad headache pain and nausea without medication.

Our ten tips for combating migraines

The best way to prevent an attack is to have a regular daily routine. Take care to maintain a stable schedule for sleep and mealtimes. You can use the following trusted treatments and natural remedies to alleviate pain and nausea as an alternative or as a supplement to medications:

In the event of an attack, apply peppermint oil to the pain points on your forehead or temples. The menthol will improve blood flow and activate the cold sensors in the skin, helping to relax your muscles and scalp. Studies have demonstrated the positive effect of peppermint oil. However, make sure to use a natural essential oil, not a synthetic product. Only natural versions contain the relevant active ingredients.

An ice-cold flannel placed on the forehead, temples or neck can alleviate headache. A special gel mask for the eyes, pre-chilled in the freezer, can also come in handy during an attack. Wear it for one minute, take a break, then repeat three times. If you like, you can also briefly run cold water over your head or wrists. Treading water in accordance with the precepts of Kneipp therapy can help prevent migraine attacks. Water also helps internally: you should drink at least two litres per day. Headaches are often triggered by dehydration. Some patients benefit from heat in the event of a migraine. Float in warm water, at a temperature of up to 38°C, for 15 minutes. The relaxing effect is enhanced by adding rosemary. Alternating warm and cold showers are also recommended to combat migraines.

This well-known household remedy is considered a “natural” aspirin. White willow bark alleviates pain and inflammation. Other herbs used to combat migraines include butterbur and feverfew. You can find these herbal preparations in well-stocked pharmacies.

Take time to relax regularly. Stress is a migraine trigger. Relaxation and breathing exercises can help you stay balanced and reduce your sensitivity to pain. Autogenic training, progressive muscle relaxation, breath meditation and yoga are useful for this.

In the event of acute, pounding headaches, some people, depending on their constitution, may be helped by Belladonna D6 (five globules per hour), for example. For migraines with flickering vision, Haplopappus D3 (five globules three times a day) may be effective. Consult a specialist to determine which treatment is best for you.

Vanilla helps alleviate headaches and is also worth a try in the case of migraines: mix a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract in two decilitres of water or tea.

Ginger, a trusted household remedy for combating nausea, may also work wonders against a headache if taken early enough. For this, finely grate a centimetre of peeled ginger root and drink it in fruit juice.

Strong blood sugar fluctuations, such as provoked by sugary drinks and sweets, may trigger headaches. You should therefore eat regularly, and ideally consume whole-grain products, which keep your blood sugar levels stable for longer. A wholefood diet, rich in magnesium, serves to relax the muscles and calm the nerves.

At the first signs of a migraine attack, retreat to a darkened room and allow yourself to rest. Avoid unnecessary stimuli such as light and noise.

Schuessler salts are highly diluted mineral salts that are said to stimulate the body’s self-healing powers. For acute tension headaches, try Schuessler salt No. 7 (magnesium phosphate): dissolve ten tablets in a glass of hot water and drink it in small sips.

Combating migraines with acupuncture, homeopathy and other complementary medicine treatments

You can obtain expert assistance from recognised therapists in complementary medicine. Most treatments are also appropriate for children. Naturopaths provide holistic treatment. For chronic migraines, they work with plant-based remedies, homeopathy and detoxification methods such as cupping. Treatment also takes nutrition and lifestyle into account. Other suitable treatment methods include the following:

  • Medical massage: Medical masseurs release tense musculature and work on connective tissue and reflex zones (reflexology).
  • Osteopathy and craniosacral therapy: Therapists balance the various structures within the body, release blockages and stimulate the movement of cerebrospinal fluids.
  • Kneipp-Behandlungen: Additional info can be found in the Kneipp-Lexikon (in German only)
  • Neural therapy: Doctors apply targeted local anaesthesia, using a fine needle to inject a low-dose anaesthetic (Procaine) at the affected site in the body. This method, also incidentally employed by dentists, serves to promote circulation and release blockages.
  • Acupuncture/TCM: Therapists trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) use acupuncture to combat migraines. They combine this therapy with herbal remedies, heat treatments and the Chinese massage technique known as An-Mo/Tui-Na.

Preventing attacks

Despite intensive research, there is still no cure for migraines. Around 10% of the Swiss population suffers from recurrent, stabbing-pulsating pain in the left or right side of the head. Three times as many women are affected as men. Children also get migraines. In addition to pain, sufferers may experience nausea and vomiting, or even in some cases an aura, involving visual and auditory distortions, before the actual pain begins. However, the attacks caused by this chronic disease can often be alleviated or avoided using preventive measures. “Trigger factors” play an important role here. These vary among individual patients, but frequently include stress, emotional pressure, certain foods and consumables, the weather, changes in one’s daily rhythm and, for women, hormonal fluctuations as part of their monthly cycle. By being aware of their individual triggers, sufferers can attempt to prevent migraines. For this, you might try keeping a headache diary (in German only).

When should I see a doctor?

If the problem persists, clarify the situation with a doctor so as to rule out any more serious illness as the cause of the recurrent headaches. They may also be caused by a visual impairment or unbalanced stresses in the jaw. Your attending physician or therapist will work with you to find the best possible treatment. Children with migraines or chronic headaches should always be taken to see a doctor.

Further information


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