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Problem of the week: Migraines.


There are a few reasons for migraines:

1. If you also crave chocolate, you have a magnesium deficiency. It's very common:

  • If we are very stressed, we use up rather too much vitamin B. It takes vitamin B to absorb magnesium.
  • If we eat a lot of simple carbs all too much magnesium is excreted in the urine.
  • There isn't enough magnesium in our food, unless we eat only organically grown food.(Crops grown conventionally are almost always fertilized with NPK (nitrogen, phosphor, kalium); thus, the soil and the crops are depleted of pretty much anything except for N, P and K.)

A vitamin B deficiency is also very common:

  • Vitamin B requires magnesium in order to be absorbed (see the vicious circle there?).

So stress -> vitamin B deficiency -> magnesium deficiency -> migraine. That's the path for school kids who get migraines the day before they have an important test or exam. Fix the deficiency, don't give migraine meds.

Other problems from a vitamin B deficiency include mental fog, tiredness, depression, concentration problems, moodiness, arrythmia and straight-out mental problems. Take your B:s ...

2. If you don't crave chocolates you might react to the aspartame, sodium glutamate or benzoates in your food (and drink).

3. If you don't ingest any of above additives you might have problems with tyramine-containing foods like chocolate, red wine and soft cheeses.

4. If none of the above fit, you might be straight-out allergic to a food.

5. Or you might benefit from taking some coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinone) for a while.

6. Commenter Stony C. gets migraines from a sodium deficiency. I'm not really sure how THAT one works ...

Of course you can also use herbs for migraines, but they will at best help temporarily. Get at the root at the problem: take magnesium (+ vitamin B) and/or ditch migraine-causing substances.

Here's an easy way to get a lot of magnesium cheaply:

Magnesium vinegar

1 part milk of magnesia (Mg(OH)2)
4 parts apple cider or white wine vinegar (or diluted white vinegar)

Mix. (There's a chemical reaction: Mg(OH)2 + acetic acid -> magnesium acetate.)

Take 1-2 tablespoons a day (not all at once) either straight or mixed in a little water (not in anything else). (This recipe is from Paul Bergner, a fabulous nutritional herbalist.)

If you take your two tablespoons in one go you'll be on the loo, and the magnesium will exit with your poo instead of helping your deficiencies.

If you mix the magnesium vinegar in anything but water the magnesium and acetate will part ways: the magnesium won't be even 1/10 as well absorbed.

Or Magnesium bubbly water

1 part milk of magnesia (Mg(OH)2)
40 parts bubbly water

Mix. (Be prepared: it'll bubble up!). Take 100-200 ml (3-6 oz) 3 times a day.

Or Magnesium oil

1 part magnesium chloride
1 part water

Boil the water, mix in the magnesium chloride, stir until the magnesium chloride is dissolved. Let cool, pour into a spray bottle and spray onto your torso. If it stings, dilute it with more water.

Or Epsom salts

Make a bath or a foot bath.

For all these: Do take 50 mg B2, B5 and B6 (with the rest of the Bs) a day as well, to help the magnesium get absorbed.

Comments on Facebook:

  • From Gail Faith Edwards
    milky oat tops contain lots of B complex vitamins and are very high in magnesium as might skip the supplements and drink 2-4 cups of milky oats/oatstraw infusions daily to beef up your supply of these nutrients. It's also a fabulous nourisher of the brain and nervous system...
    25 April at 16:12
  • From Henriette's herbal
    Have you used milky oats in migraine, Gail?
    I think that, if you have magnesium deficiency to the point of migraines, you'll HAVE to fill up your reservoirs with (eg.) the milk'o'magnesium vinegar. And take extra B.
    When you've taken enough of that (you should continue for months, usually), THEN you can keep your Mg + B up with food. Which will need to be organic, cos there's not enough Mg in the soil anymore ...
    25 April at 16:19
  • From Gail Faith Edwards
    Yes, Henriette, I have used it, in combination with other herbs, as part of a protocol for the treatment of migraines...with success. I couldn't help but notice how perfectly it fits the description as you've outlined it here for what is needed to eliminate migraines.
    25 April at 16:27
  • From Stony Creek
    Is there a difference in aura migraines and non-aura migraines? Is this scenario still accurate for people who suffer migraines since earliest childhood? Well, if most every other problem in your life is allergy driven I guess a duck is a duck. Thank you.
    I did not see this on your list-if I catch it in time salt will stop a migraine. Just plain old sea salt.
    25 April at 18:30
  • From Henriette's herbal
    I don't think there's a difference in aura or non-aura migraines. The scenario is still accurate for people who've had migraines since they were a kid.
    Salt? How much? At the first sign of a migraine, right?
    25 April at 18:37
  • From Stony Creek
    I have 3 stages of migraine. The aura or what I always called the twinkly part. Best if here. Then there is a part where I feel sick and it feels like a weight is coming down on me. Have to do it here. By the time you think that light just could kill you it's too late. I just pour out chunks of salt. about a half tsp maybe? If I need more, I'll know it quickly. If out and one comes on suddenly-lays potato chips that they make with no chemicals or preservatives. But I know to carry salt now.
    25 April at 18:40
  • From Henriette's herbal
    So that's a sodium deficiency. How interesting. Thanks Stony Creek!
    25 April at 18:50
  • From Karen C
    The multivitamin I take daily contains the following doses of vitamin B. B1=5mg, B2=5mg, B3=10mg, B5=5mg, B6=5mg, B12=5mg. Must I go buy a multivitamin that Only contain the B's and HOW much mg more? please and thank you
    25 April at 23:22
  • From Henriette's herbal
    ‎Karen C: Not even remotely enough vitamin B. Yes, a separate B. Like I said, 50 mg B2, B5, B6 + smaller amounts of the rest.
    26 April at 07:17
  • From Seanna Tully
    IV Mg works well when someone is in acute migrane state.
    26 April at 05:19
  • From Jessica Lee
    My neurologist has had me taking magnesium, B2, CO Q10, etc for a while now also take a daily preventitive and Aleve. I have generic Imitrex nasal spray for the bad ones. Turns out some people don't absorb migraine meds in the stomach properly which explains why they never worked for me in the past! Its so great to get some relief! I still have at least minor migraine issues every day but its much better than it used to be!
    26 April at 16:12
  • From Susan Marynowski
    I want to add that some headaches that develop into migraines are actually from stress and tension. These would be the ones that start at the back of the neck. There is both muscular tension and vascular tension. I have found herbs such as Pedicularis, Crampbark, and Lobelia to be helpful with these headaches.
    For the headache from Sodium deficiency, that could also be a headache from dehydration. The salt would help the body to hold more water.
    26 April at 19:47
  • From Henriette's herbal
    ‎Jessica: it's entirely possible that you don't get *enough* magnesium. The most commonly sold, Mg oxide, isn't absorbed very well at all ... try the Mg vinegar outlined in the text.
    Susan: cool, thanks!
    27 April at 08:37
  • From Susan Marynowski
    A Savannah, Georgia (USA) herbalist reports: "One local accupuncturist uses 1 drop of Spanish Moss tincture for headaches, says it "puts out liver fire." (I haven't tried it yet, but very intrigued.) br>It's a Bromeliad, of course, so I'm trying to think of how that might be working...some of them have a good bit of manganese...and some have bromelain, of course. The plant was mostly used for fiber (weaving, ropes, etc.). Looking in the FL ethnobotany, it was used for fever/chills and also for tannin content (hemorrhoids, leucorrhea), but "gallbladder problems" is also mentioned without further explanation. It is not particularly bitter, more astringent.
    16 May at 18:46
  • From Becky P.
    Hi henrietta, my 5 year old gets migraines from being overtired or if he's been doing a lot the day before. Would this also be a magnesium deficiency from stress? He wakes up with it, is sick 2-3 times and it resolves (chamomile) by midday. It's been happening since he was about 3.
    25 April at 20:28
  • From Henriette's herbal
    Any growing pains? That's a Mg + Calcium deficiency ... so if that's present the migraine is definitely a Mg deficiency. Try the oat straw that Gail talks about above, and, if that doesn't help, go for the magnesium vinegar + vitamin B.
    Please do report back! :-)
    25 April at 20:40
  • From Becky P.
    No growing pains that he's talked of. I'll try the magnesium vinegar, I get migraines too!!
    25 April at 22:46
  • From Patricia B.
    I had great success by adding extra B vitamins and magnesium back in the day when migraines were coming on at least 3 a month....they were completely debilitating, sometimes would end in a trip to the ER because I couldn't keep anything down, the pain was so great,nausea would set in and I'd dehydrate. but the extra B and magnesium really worked for my daughter has just started takin B2 and magnesium, says she hasn't had a migraine since,just a tension headache, but no migraines
    2 May at 16:07
  • From Mike B
    Why would magnesium only be in organically grown food? I don't get that.
    26 April at 16:26
  • From Will F
    Soils get depleted of nutrients with industrial ag.
    27 April at 04:29

Comments on the herblist:

  • From Mtn Calls:
    Date: 2012 04 25 - 21:19:14 +0300

    >If you take your two tablespoons in one go you'll be on the loo, and the magnesium will exit with your poo instead of helping your deficiencies.

    Yes, you certainly will. Been there, done that. No fun.

    Would soaking in an epson salt bath help with the magnesium? If so, how often should that be done? Just wondering.


  • From elaine mcdaniel:
    Date: 2012 04 30 - 02:26:23 +0300

    > Would soaking in an epson salt bath help with the magnesium? If so, how often should that be done? Just wondering.

    you could just follow directions on the sack of epsom salt for the bath -- or my favorite way is to start the hot bath -- hotter the better. As the tub is filling sit down and get your body wet. Now take a hand full of epsoms and start with your legs (doesn't matter -- I just figure they will be under water sooner) take the epsom and scrub it on the body -- it helps to dip the hand of epsom into the water. You can use the whole pound if you like in one bath if you are quite depleted. I let the salt stay on as much of my body as I can when the tub is the level I want it. Of course the less water the stronger the mg/water ratio. I find it especially helps my feet -- humm hot feet. where are the b vits?

    how often: I've done it daily for as much as a month.

    elaine in TX

  • From Cathy S:
    Date: 2012 04 30 - 03:38:02 +0300

    Henriette, Paul Bergner, and all --

    After Henriette's recent post about migraines, I finally made the Magnesium elixir. So easy... why did I wait so long? Well, it actually took me awhile to find a stripped down version of Milk of Magnesia without extra additives, but I had that in the cupboard for a couple of months before actually making the supplement with vinegar.

    My goddess, I have had the grooviest sleeps of my life the past three nights! I have had an extended, two-night dream about being in the middle of a movie that the Beatles made in the 70s after they broke up. Everything is mad-cap, adventurous fun! And George is still gorgeous. After weeding for hours yesterday, I wanted fun so my family went to an arcade to play games and eat at a buffet! I smiled at people. In a real way! And then today -- slow start, but it was a rare late night -- I decided to have my breakfast of champions (radish greens and egg white on homemade whole grain toast) and then smote weeds for another few hours!

    Thank you, Jesus, Henriette, Paul, and the Goddess.

    -cathy in Oregon

Please add your own experiences etc. in the comments!

This plant will be in my next book ("Practical Herbs 2"), out in 2013 or so. Buy "Practical Herbs", it's excellent!.