Tag Archives: pain

Migraine and Herbal Medicine

Whilst most of us have experienced headache at some point in our lives, migraines are (thankfully) a rarer occurrence. Unfortunately some of us are more prone to them than others, with some people suffering from them on a regular basis.

What is there to be done?

First, let’s start by having a closer look at what is a migraine and how it occurs.

Migraine is usually portrayed as ‘the ultimate headache’ but, whilst some certainly experience excruciating pain, it can actually be painless!

What are the most common characteristics of a migraine attack?

  • Slurring or loss of speech
  • Distorted sight with kaleidoscopic visions or shooting stars
  • Short term memory loss or paralysis
  • Nausea
  • Tenderness of neck and scalp

Migraine attacks can come with or without preceding aura and, if left untreated, can last as long as 3 days at a time!

What is the cause of a migraine?

Although it was thought for a long time that migraines are a direct result of spams of the blood vessels which are supplying oxygen to the brain, it appears to be not strictly the case. The newest suspect is the trigeminal nerve which also happens to be the largest pain pathway in our heads.

Migraines can be initiated by fluctuations of hormones, especially oestrogen, which explains why they occur more frequently in women than in men. Other concomitant factors can include diet which is rich in alcohol and sugars (and foods containing tyramine), as well as changes to the sleep pattern or the barometric pressure. Serotonin is thought to play a role as well, since its levels seem to drop during the migraine episode.

As you can see, migraine is not a result of a one single factor, but rather a combination of an existing tendency coupled with more-or-less avoidable triggers.

Conventional medicine relies mainly on the use of painkillers and antiseizure medications but these do not come without their side effects.

In Herbal Medicine, the most commonly used herbs are:

  • Cayenne, especially when taken at the start of the migraine
  • Dong Quai- for prevention of migraines, especially if associated with PMS
  • Feverfew- as a preventive measure
  • Ginkgo- for prevention, through enhancement of circulation within the brain
  • Quercetin- especially when the migraine if a result of a food allergy
  • Tilden Flower- if associated with high blood pressure

In holistic mode to treatment, there is no question of one approach being appropriate for all of the cases. Although all migraines share some common characteristics upon which they can be diagnosed and given a name, everyone can experience them and be affected by them to a different degree. It’s important to take into consideration your symptoms and underlying health conditions to find the most appropriate treatment which will be tailored to your own personal experience.

If you suffer from migraines, you will obtain the best results of natural treatments if you consult a professional who will be able to guide you through all of the available choices.

Devil’s Claw in Herbal Medicine

Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) comes from the Pedaliaceae family, just like sesame.

Devil’s Claw has been extensively used in South African folk medicine in the form of an ointment for injuries and skin disorders, as well as internally as a dried root powder.

The root of Devil’s Claw has anti-inflammatory as well as pain reducing properties, if taken in an appropriate form, i.e. in enteric coating.

Prolonged contact of the Devil’s Claw with stomach acid decreases its healing potential significantly as it’s the intestinal bacteria which are responsible for activation of the pain-relieving chemicals found within this herb.

It is thus understandable that Devil’s Claw will not bring optimal results if taken close to the antibiotic treatment, which would have disturbed the bacterial flora of the bowels.

The most common uses of Devil’s Claw include:

  • Arthritis
  • Bladder and kidney issues
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Discomforts of pregnancy
  • Gallbladder and liver problems
  • Gout
  • Tendinitis
  • Osteoarthritis


In the above scenarios, it works very well when combined with other anti-inflammatory herbs, such as Willow bark.

Devil’s Claw boosts circulation and improves appetite by stimulation of gastric juices. This property makes it an unsuitable option for people suffering with peptic or duodenal ulcers as well as those currently taking blood thinners or antiarrhythmic medications.

If you are unsure whether Devil’s Claw would be a suitable option for you, please consult a herbalist.