Can Turmeric Help Your Migraine?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Migraine can cause debilitating pain along with a host of other unpleasant symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, vision changes, and sensitivity to light and sound.

Sometimes, treating migraine with medication adds unpleasant side effects to the mix, which is why some people turn to natural remedies for help.

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Turmeric — the deep golden spice loved by both culinary and wellness communities — is being explored as an adjunct therapy for the treatment of migraine. The active component in turmeric is curcumin. It’s not related to the spice cumin.

Read on to learn more about this spice and whether it may provide relief for migraine symptoms.

What does current research say about turmeric for migraine?

Although the potential health benefits of turmeric supplements have been researched in recent years, more research needs to be done to fully understand whether turmeric can prevent or treat migraine.

Still, some animal studies and a few small human studies show some promise. Most studies tested the effects of curcumin — the active component in turmeric — because it’s much stronger than the powdered spice.

  • A 2019 study tracked 100 people who regularly had migraine to see if a combination of curcumin and coenzyme Q10 supplements would affect how many migraine attacks they experienced. The study also looked at how severe their head pain was, and how long it lasted if they took these supplements. Those who took both supplements reported a reduction in headache days, severity, and duration.
  • Similarly, in 2018, researchers found that people who took a combination of omega-3 fatty acids and curcumin had fewer and less severe migraine attacks over 2 months than they usually did.
  • Research from 2017 concluded that turmeric’s benefits can be traced to its antioxidant and anti- inflammatory properties. Migraine researchers believe inflammation is one of the key causes of migraine.

What are the benefits of turmeric?

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Much of the research into the benefits of turmeric centers on its anti- inflammatory and antioxidant properties. While more research needs to be done on the role turmeric could play in reducing migraine attacks, here’s what research has to say about its benefits in other areas:

  • Recent animal and human studies indicate that curcumin may help combat insulin resistance and lower blood glucose levels, especially in patients with prediabetes.
  • A small 2012 study found that curcumin may help reduce the number of heart attacks patients have after bypass surgery.
  • A 2013 review of studies suggests that curcumin may help with osteoarthritis pain in the knees.

A large, well-controlled 2018 study called into question the idea that turmeric is anti-inflammatory. In this study, researchers measured inflammation in 600 patients who underwent surgery at 10 different university hospitals. The researchers found no difference in inflammation among those who took curcumin as part of their treatment.

According to the National Institutes of Health, claims about turmeric’s anti- inflammatory properties aren’t well supported by scientific studies.

So, what’s the takeaway regarding taking turmeric for migraine?

There’s some evidence that suggests that curcumin supplements could cut down on:

  • the number of migraine attacks you have
  • how long they last
  • how much pain you experience
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More research needs to be done before health professionals can confidently recommend turmeric for migraine.

It’s important to know that curcumin supplements contain a much higher concentration of the beneficial polyphenols than the amount you’d get from eating curry — even if you ate curry every day.

And taken in higher doses, curcumin can cause some unpleasant side effects like nausea, diarrhea — and brace yourself — headache.

Don’t take curcumin while you’re pregnant or nursing because doctors don’t know how it’ll affect your body and your fetus.

What other natural remedies may help migraine?

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If you experience occasional or chronic migraine attacks and you want relief using natural products, the following options show some promise:

  • Magnesium. Based on a 2018 review of relevant studies, researchers recommended 600 milligrams (mg) of magnesium dicitrate to help fend off a migraine.
  • Feverfew. A 2011 review noted that feverfew affected several pathways known to be involved in migraine.
  • Lavender oil. A 2012 study showed that people with severe migraine attacks experienced some relief when they inhaled lavender essential oil over 15 minutes.
  • Ginger. At least one recent study found that ginger reduced migraine pain.
  • Peppermint oil. Researchers found that a drop of peppermint essential oil caused a significant drop in migraine pain within 30 minutes.

Some people also get relief with:

    yoga
  • regular exercise
  • acupressure
  • relaxation techniques
  • biofeedback

What about medications?

For some people, natural remedies don’t work to relieve the pain of a migraine. You may want to talk to your doctor about rescue or preventive medications like the following:

  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) (anti-inflammatories)
  • ergotamines (vasoconstrictors)
  • triptans (serotonin boosters)
  • gepants (calcitonin gene-related peptide blockers)
  • ditans (very specific serotonin boosters)
  • beta-blockers
  • antiseizure medications
  • antidepressants
  • Botox
  • CGRP treatments

All of these drugs can have side effects, especially when they interact with other medications you’re taking.

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Tell your doctor about any medications you’re currently taking. Also, be sure to ask your doctor if it’s safe to take migraine medications if you’re pregnant or nursing.

The bottom line

There’s limited evidence that curcumin, a concentrated turmeric supplement, may help reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. More research needs to be done before researchers can say for sure that turmeric is an effective treatment.

You may be able to find some migraine relief by taking a magnesium supplement, or by using lavender and peppermint essential oils, ginger, or feverfew. If natural remedies aren’t strong enough, prescription medications are often effective.

Whether you choose natural remedies or medications, it’s important to talk to your doctor about side effects and drug interactions. Getting relief from migraine pain may be a process of trial and error until you find the methods and remedies that work well for you.

Read more on: migraines


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