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Is it time to try a natural remedy for your migraines?

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New research and new treatment approaches are helping many women.

I know a thing or two about migraines. While pregnant with my son, Gabriel, I had migraines so bad, that it felt like an ice pick was imbedded in my brain. I remember spending days lying in the dark, wondering how I would handle them once I had other babies to look after, too, and not only myself to worry about.

Some 37 million Americans are said to suffer from migraines each year, but they are more common in women — about 18 percent of women (and 6 percent of men) live with the pulsating, throbbing pain of migraines, often accompanied by a whole host of other symptoms like nausea, light and sound sensitivity, and changes in vision. Unfortunately, it might be migraine’s greater impact on women’s health that has left sufferers in the dust for so long; after all, there is evidence to suggest that women’s pain is taken less seriously by healthcare practitioners.

In trying to get a handle on my migraines over the years (and in seeking to avoid long-term medication), I have sought help from an acupuncturist, a chiropractor, and a mind-body health specialist. Each have helped in their own way, but I’ve never been without a migraine for very long. That is precisely why a recent article exploring herbal medicines as treatments for migraines caught my attention, and why the evidence it describes for “natural” migraine prevention might offer some new hope and options to sufferers like me.

Understandably, many migraine sufferers – including myself – are reluctant to go on the heavy-duty medication often prescribed because of horrible side effects like nausea and difficulty thinking. That’s why the idea that familiar spices like ginger, cayenne, and turmeric (along with some lesser known items like butterbur root, feverfew, bushy matgrass (and even cannabis) could help in the fight against migraines.

But can you simply open your spice cabinet the next time you have a migraine? Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. The severity of migraine requires a professional (like a certified naturopath or herbalist) for treatment, and naturopathic doctor Eric Yarnell, who was quoted in the herbal treatment article, advises against people attempting their own at-home remedies.

There are a couple things you can do right now, however, to be more proactive about your pain:

Be mindful of what seems to trigger your migraine.

This can be key in determining the proper herbal treatment under the guidance of a trained professional. For example, if someone’s migraines seem to stem from food allergies, which one might discover by keeping a food and migraine diary, Yarnell states that they “might benefit from herbs targeting inflammation: zingiber (or ginger) for acute migraines and curcuma (turmeric) or petasites (butterbur) for migraines prevention.”

Share your migraine story.

While migraines still remain an ill-understood condition, creative solutions and alternatives for the debilitating pain provide hope that this reality might soon change. A campaign called “Speak Your Migraine” encourages migraine sufferers to share their stories in an attempt to raise migraine awareness – and to help other patients realize that it is a real condition and not “all in their heads,” so to speak.

Try mindfulness.

This writer uses a simple technique to challenge her migraines that could work for you.

Find a doctor.

The American Association of Naturopathic Physician’s members directory can help you find a specialist near you so you can begin to explore natural treatments.

As women, we are so often the advocates for others that sometimes we might forget that we need to advocate for ourselves, too – and this is especially true in healthcare. So, when it comes to a problem like migraine (which disproportionately effects women) if you or someone you love suffers from this painful, disruptive condition, don’t be afraid to speak up and seek help – and especially don’t be afraid to research safe alternative solutions for your pain, and bring them up with your doctor.

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