Headaches are part of our fast moving life today. Some are minor but others such as Migraine are severe and badly disturb our lives. According to stats 6 mn Americans suffer from migraine and in every 10 seconds there is one person going into emergency room because of migraine. Migraine is more common in women than in men.
Let us understand about migraine a bit.
Migraine is a severe vascular headache experienced by millions all over the world. Women are three times more susceptible to migraines than men. People between the ages of 15 – 55 are more prone to migraines, with over 70% having a family history of the condition (indicating that it is an inherited disease).
There are various factors that can cause a migraine to occur like erratic eating patterns, certain medications used to dilate blood vessels, alteration in sleep patterns, sunlight, excessive exposure to fluorescent or bright lights, excessive TV viewing or noise, stress, depression, certain foods, daily use of headache medications and more.
About 1/5th of migraine sufferers get a prior warning of an attack like visual disturbances, tingling of the face or arm etc. Migraines usually affect one side of the head. It is often characterized by nausea or vomiting, throbbing pulse, intense pain, sensitivity to sound or light etc. The attacks can last from 4-72 hours and even longer in severe cases.
Turmeric for Migraine
Doctors usually diagnose a migraine based on symptoms and history. There are many conventional medications that are used to treat migraines. When I started searching if turmeric can help in migraine, I realized that there is not much research on the benefits of turmeric to treat a migraine.
Curcumin, the chemical compound in turmeric, is a potent antioxidant and has been used in Chinese and Indian medicine for centuries to treat anti-inflammatory conditions. Studies have shown that the antioxidant properties of curcumin are able to reduce COX-2 – an inflammatory enzyme. This has benefited the treatment of several inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
There are many nutritional remedies that can benefit migraines. Many doctors may prefer to use them, for when used for long periods, they cause fewer or no side effects, user dependency or rebound headaches like some over-the-counter or prescription medications. Since most migraines affect the right or left side, some studies have been conducted on which nutritional supplements will benefit which type of migraine. For example, calcium, cat’s claw or iron may benefit those with left-side migraines and magnesium, turmeric or zinc may benefit those with right-side migraines.
Usually, migraine sufferers may need to use a trial and error method to determine which supplement benefits them. ½ teaspoon or more of turmeric powder is said to help those with a left-side migraine. One reason a person may contract a migraine is due to a viral infection. In this case, using vitamin supplements like A and C will help both the headache and viral infection. However, sometimes the headache may worsen and this is where turmeric helps for it has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect that when combined with the vitamins can treat both the migraine and viral infection.
Depending on the type of migraine, different herbal remedies can ease the symptoms – e.g. chamomile tea, cinnamon in hot milk or tea can ease tension caused due to a migraine, give better sleep and ease a migraine. Similarly, those with a viral infection can inhale the steam of hot water and turmeric. This can relieve blocked noses and ease symptoms of migraine.
Another benefit of turmeric for headaches / migraine is that it is a natural pain reliever. Thus, rather than taking other painkillers which have severe side effects, if possible taking turmeric may be better. One limitation may be that turmeric may not provide relief as fast as other painkillers do.
Usually anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin and NSAIDs are prescribed for a migraine. Laboratory studies and clinical research have found that turmeric and the phenolics compounds in it have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. This is similar to steroid medications like indomethacin. Hence, it has been suggested that turmeric could be used as a supportive treatment for a migraine.
Turmeric is available as capsules, tablets, liquid extract or tincture. It is sometimes combined with bromelain to improve its anti-inflammatory effects and absorption levels. The dosage of turmeric supplements depends on the medical condition. The recommended daily dosage of standardized curcumin powder is 400-600mg thrice daily. Please note this dose is not specific to migraine.
Turmeric consumed within the recommended dosage does not cause any side effects. Long term and high doses can cause nausea, dizziness, diarrhea or indigestion. Those with gall bladder problems must consult their doctor for turmeric could worsen the condition. Those who need to undergo surgery must avoid turmeric for it could slow blood clotting. Turmeric supplements could stimulate the uterus or cause menstrual bleeding. Hence, pregnant and breastfeeding women must avoid it. Check with your doctor before taking turmeric supplements for it could interact with certain drugs.