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Treating Migraines With Lavender

Lavender has been studied recently for several purposes, including treatment of mood and anxiety disorders (see, for example, the video I profiled in my last Care2 post, Lavender for Generalized Anxiety Disorder). Though it’s better known for its analgesic (pain-killing) properties, there hasn’t been a single documented clinical trial on lavender for the treatment of migraine headaches, which affect tens of millions of Americans every year. That is, until now: “Lavender Essential Oil in the Treatment of Migraine Headache: A Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.”

Migraine sufferers were asked—at the early signs of headache—to rub two to three drops of lavender essential oil onto their upper lip and inhale its vapor for a 15-min period, then score the severity of their headache for the next two hours. In the control group they did the same thing, but with drops of unscented liquid wax instead. Neither group was allowed to use any painkillers. In the lavender group 74 percent of patients had an improvement in their symptoms—significantly better than placebo.

Although lavender wasn’t directly compared to more conventional treatments and outcome measures differed, lavender appears to stack up pretty well against typical migraine drugs. Lavender helped about three quarters of the time; high dose Tylenol may only work about half the time; and Ibuprofen 57 percent of the time. The top prescription drug, generic Imitrex, is effective 59 percent of the time, and the hardcore treatment they use in emergency rooms where they inject you under the skin works 70 percent of the time. Fortunately all of these work better than the original migraine therapy, known as trepanning, where doctors drilled holes in our head to let the evil spirits escape!

The lavender researchers concluded that the results of the study suggest that inhalation of lavender essential oil may be an effective and safe treatment modality in acute management of migraine headaches.

Migraine sufferers may also want to experiment with avoiding potential triggers such as aspartame (see my video Diet Soda and Preterm Birth). Saffron may also help with headaches (Saffron for the Treatment of PMS) as well may the avoidance of certain parasites (Pork Tapeworms on the Brain and Avoiding Epilepsy Through Diet). A note of caution, though: Pregnant migraine sufferers seeking natural remedies should be wary of advice they may get (Dangerous Advice From Health Food Store Employees).

What’s better than treating your pain with natural remedies? Not having pain in the first place! Those eating healthy diets are less likely to be on pain medications in general (Say No to Drugs by Saying Yes to More Plants). See, for example:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and More Than an Apple a Day.

Image credit: r.nial.bradshaw via Flickr

Related:
Half of Doctors Give Placebos
Treating Breast Pain with Flax Seeds
How Diet Can Help Relieve Breast Pain

Read more: Health, Alternative Therapies, Drugs, Headaches, Videos, , , ,

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at NutritionFacts.org.

55 comments

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2:30PM PST on Nov 25, 2013

Shared, thanks.

10:48AM PDT on Oct 21, 2013

thanks

10:11AM PDT on Aug 28, 2013

Thank you for the info!

9:48AM PDT on Aug 28, 2013

Thank you for the info!

7:08AM PDT on Aug 25, 2013

Thank you! I should try it.

11:32AM PDT on Aug 22, 2013

Thanks for the article :)

10:11PM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

I usually use in the bath but i'll be trying it 4 migraines now too! Thanks

12:03AM PDT on Aug 20, 2013

The only time I've suffered severe headaches - somewhat akin to migraine - is after being tortured in office environments in Vancouver, BC, when I had freezing cold air aimed down at my head.

It was so bad, I had to go home once and in the very hot outside weather, I shivered with cold.... I resigned thereafter. (As did the previous employee who was made to sit in that position).

10:59PM PDT on Aug 19, 2013

How I wish there was truth to this for me! Sadly, if I used this remedy it would GIVE me a migraine. I have high sensitivity to certain smells and most flowers hit me hard. Been dealing with migraines since 1985, mine are hormonal and scent related. Hoping menopause will eventually stop them. I have tried some really weird things to try and stop one. But after many home remedy as well as drug failures, I have finally found a medicine that will help. IF I take it in time, I just hate taking medicines so a lot of the time I will put it off. Then it's too late.

6:49AM PDT on Aug 19, 2013

My sister-in-law has suffered Horrible migraines her entire life. She is in her late 40's now and after dozens of drug protocols, she finally found relief in slight changes to her diet (no more red wine) and a combo of drugs and aromatherapy. She credits the lavender mix with the drugs for her reduction of days in bed in the dark. So there is precedent to this.
She's been on that combo now for 6 yrs.

(wonder how my brother explains this to their kids?)

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