Nearly everyone gets headaches, but migraines are a different beast. They generate intense, throbbing pain, usually behind one eye, and often cause light sensitivity, nausea, and blurred vision. Triggers include hormonal changes, stress, and certain foods, and an episode can span anywhere from four hours to three debilitating days. Prescription drugs, although effective, may induce dizziness and fatigue. Try these holistic tips to head on migraines naturally.

Holistic allergist, Marc Arnold, MA, Allergy Elimination Center, Boulder, Colorado

  • Identify allergies. If you have frequent migraines, try an avoidance diet to pinpoint possible triggers, such as caffeine, chocolate, dairy, wheat, nightshades, alcohol, and monosodium glutamate (MSG). For example, for one to two weeks, don’t eat chocolate. If you continue to have migraines, chocolate is not your trigger. 
  • Apply pressure. Similar to acupuncture, noninvasive acupressure focuses on invisible energy lines in the body called meridians. Many revere acupressure for migraine relief because it can unblock meridians and may release pain-relieving endorphins. When you have a migraine, try squeezing the soft, muscle “web” of your hand with your opposite thumb and forefinger for one minute, four times per day.
  • Control stress. Chronic stress from grief, anger, or relationship trouble manifests physically and can trigger migraines. Tame stress by talking with friends or exercising. Also consider the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT; emofree.com), a type of acupressure that involves tapping your meridians to allow energy to freely flow.

Naturopathic doctor, Lindsey Duncan, ND, drlindsey.com, Austin, Texas

  • Improve blood flow. One reason migraines occur is because blood vessels in the brain erratically dilate and constrict. Cayenne (Capsicum annuum) regulates blood pressure and circulation throughout the entire body. Supplement with 450 mg cayenne with breakfast and dinner each day. Also, gently inverting your head can increase blood flow to the brain.
  • Boost B vitamins. B vitamins feed the brain and nervous system because they convert food into fuel. They function synergistically as a group, so supplement with B vitamins derived from whole foods. For migraine prevention, take 2 ounces liquid B vitamins in the morning and 2 ounces at lunch.
  • Detox your liver. If your liver can’t filter migraine triggers—like allergens and chemicals—migraines are more likely. Follow a cleansing plan: Avoid artificial sweeteners, and shun fatty, processed foods like fast food, beef, and dairy. Instead opt for raw or gently cooked foods such as bitter, steamed collard greens. Squeeze fresh organic lemon juice over salads—it’s a known liver purifier.

Herbalist, Dean G. Morris, MH, Nebo Health, Springville, Utah

  • Take butterbur. This herb reduces inflammation in brain blood vessels, relieving pressure on surrounding nerves. A standard dose is 50 mg butterbur root extract daily; make sure it’s guaranteed free of a toxic substance called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). If you sense a migraine about to occur, take 150 mg.
  • Up your AKBA. If you’re prone to joint pain or stiffness, consider taking AKBA, boswellia’s main active ingredient. Joint pain indicates your body may be overproducing MMP3, an enzyme that breaks down collagen. Collagen is also found in your brain, where it holds blood vessels in place. If collagen degrades, blood vessels can lose tone, causing migraines; AKBA helps maintain collagen. Take 50–100 mg boswellia extract per day. (Look for supplements containing 20 percent AKBA).
  • Try turmeric. Inflammation in the brain is a known migraine trigger. Curcuminoids, the main compound in the spice turmeric, is lauded for its anti-inflammatory properties. Consider taking 500 mg turmeric per day. Look for supplements with Meriva Phytosome, a proprietary capsule coating that increases curcuminoid absorption by 29 times.