Learn more about the home remedies that can help manage migraine symptoms, provide relief and prepare for attacks.
Treatment and medication prescribed by your doctor can go a long way in keeping your most severe migraine symptoms under control. But did you know there are home remedies you can use to help manage migraine symptoms and lessen the frequency of migraine attacks? While these home remedies do not cure migraine, some evidence suggests they can also help provide relief.
A simple web search can result in an overwhelming amount of information, but use caution with any home remedy you come across on the internet. And remember, you should always talk to your doctor about any migraine treatment. Read on as we review some commonly used home remedies.
What are some ways to help with migraine?
In addition to medication and other medical treatments, there are a variety of remedies and lifestyle habits you can use at home to help manage symptoms and attacks.
- Scalp Massages. Applying pressure to muscles can help with relieving tension and stress, which are common migraine triggers. Massages can also help promote blood circulation, which can help relieve pain. However, scalp massages may be uncomfortable for people who are sensitive to touch.
- Sleep. Too much or too little sleep can cause migraine attacks. In order to avoid an attack, or making migraine symptoms worse, it’s important to practice good sleep habits. This includes going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, avoiding screens before sleeping and spending enough time in natural light during the day. Naps can also help with migraine. If you feel an incoming attack or are experiencing one, it may help to lay down and sleep for a little while.
- Exercise. It is not recommended to exercise while experiencing a migraine attack or if you feel unwell. However, exercise has proven to have benefits with lessening migraine symptoms and attacks. Light-impact exercises, such as walking and yoga, can help make a positive difference. Some people find that exercise can abort an acute attack.
- Compresses. Cold compresses have proven to help with migraine attacks. Keep a cold compress or a bag of ice handy to press against your temple or neck when you feel an attack approaching or if your symptoms are difficult to manage. Some people prefer warm compresses over cold. When using compresses, do not leave them on for longer than 15 minutes and don’t fall asleep with heating pads on—doing so can be unsafe.
- Hydration. Dehydration is a common cause of headaches and is thought to be a trigger for migraine attacks. Have water available at all times and try to drink the recommended eight glasses per day.
- Dim the lights. Sensitivity to light is a common symptom of migraine. This is called photophobia. Keeping the lights low in your living space or office can help lower the chances of experiencing an attack. You can also consider using blackout curtains during the day, wearing sunglasses when outdoors, using daylight-spectrum fluorescent bulbs and adding anti-glare screens to your computer.
- Maybe: Essential oils. While essential oils smell nice and can help you feel relaxed, there is no scientific evidence that suggests scented oils can provide relief from migraine. If you find that the smell of your favorite essential oil reduces stress, it may be helpful to use them. But be aware, some people have heightened smell sensitivity during an attack and others note strong smells may trigger attacks.
These are remedies that you can use at home to help manage migraine symptoms and attacks. In addition to these remedies, you can also consider alternative treatments, such as acupuncture and nerve stimulation devices.
Be sure to include your doctor in the conversation and never alter your treatment plan without consulting them.
What is the fastest way to ease migraine symptoms/attacks?
Everyone’s treatment plan is different, but if you feel a migraine attack coming on or your symptoms are getting difficult to manage there are a few strategies that can help.
- Go into a dark room. As previously mentioned, bright lights are often a trigger for migraine attacks. If your symptoms are getting worse or if you feel an attack coming on, try to find a dark room where you can rest until the symptoms or attack stops. Studies have found that a specific spectrum of green light can alleviate an attack.
- Block out noise. Loud and/or consistent noises can cause or worsen migraine attacks. If a noise has triggered an attack or is worsening symptoms, try to find a quiet place away from people and other external sounds.
- Avoid strong smells. Osmophobia, a sensitivity to strong smells, is a common migraine symptom. It’s best to try to avoid perfumes, pungent foods, gasoline, and chemical odors, as these scents can trigger a migraine attack or cause an attack to worsen.
- NSAIDs. Over-the-counter Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) can help with relieving the pain experienced from migraine symptoms and attacks. Ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin are common pain relievers for migraine, but it’s important to talk to your doctor before using these medications.
- Lower the temperature, and stay cool. Overheating can cause migraines, so if you’re experiencing an attack or feel an attack coming on, try to keep the temperature down. Air conditioning units and fans can help with staying cool.
Keep a migraine diary on which of the above help with your symptoms and attacks and mention them to your doctor.
What are some foods/drinks to help with migraine?
While migraine cannot be cured, there are certain foods and drinks that are believed to help with managing symptoms and lessening the effects of migraine. Be sure to consult with your doctor and a nutrition expert to determine which foods and drinks can be included in your treatment plan.
- Ginger. This root has been linked to soothing upset stomachs. If you experience nausea with your migraine attacks, ginger may provide some relief. You can consume fresh ginger, ginger tea, ginger candy or ginger capsules.
- Caffeine. Many people living with migraine report that having a bit of caffeine (coffee, tea or soda) can provide mild relief after a migraine attack occurs. Try to consume the same amount of caffeine consistently as it can cause withdrawal headaches if you suddenly drink less of it.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. For people with migraine, these fatty acids have been found to reduce the duration of attacks when they are regularly incorporated into their diet. However, they do not have any effect on the frequency or severity of attacks. Humans cannot make their own omega-3 fatty acids, so they have to be consumed through a variety of different foods, such as salmon, cod, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
- Vitamin supplements. Vitamin deficiencies are often the cause of certain health problems—migraine can be one of them. Below are some vitamins that you can add to your diet if you live with migraine. However, it is important to always talk with your doctor first to make sure they are safe and right for you.
These supplements are available in the form of a pill from stores or you can get them through food.
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): When taken regularly for migraine prevention, this antioxidant has been shown to reduce the frequency and intensity of migraine.
- Magnesium: Lower levels of magnesium are linked to headaches and migraine attacks. Talk to your doctor about taking a magnesium oxide supplement to help prevent migraine with aura and menstrual migraine. You can find magnesium in foods like nuts and leafy greens.
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): Riboflavin has been shown to reduce the number of migraine attacks people experience each month. However, it is still not clear why. You can find riboflavin naturally in eggs and dairy products.
- Vitamin D: A study from 2018 found that individuals with Vitamin D deficiency experience more days with migraine. Vitamin D can be found naturally in dairy and eggs. You can also soak up Vitamin D by spending some time in the sun.
- Maybe: Butterbur and feverfew: Some people believe these plants have migraine-relieving remedies. However, it is important to note that these herbal remedies may have dangerous side effects. Butterbur was found to potentially cause liver toxicity. Feverfew is also not well-studied enough to provide concrete evidence of its effects on migraine. If you are considering using these herbal supplements, speak with your doctor and proceed with caution.
While there is currently no cure for migraine, the American Migraine Foundation is committed to supporting research that will one day lead to a cure—your support will help us achieve this. We hope these home remedies can help those living with migraine manage their lives more easily.
Want to learn about alternative treatments for migraine? Check out this article.
The American Migraine Foundation is committed to improving the lives of those living with this debilitating disease. For more of the latest news and information on migraine, visit the AMF Resource Library. For help finding a healthcare provider, check out our Find a Doctor tool. Together, we are as relentless as migraine.