If you’ve ever had a migraine, you know that it’s not your average headache. More than 39 million people in the United States suffer from migraines, which are typically felt as a throbbing or pulsating pain on one side of the brain at a time and can be accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, blurred vision, and even vomiting. Migraines can last anywhere from four to 72 hours.
According to a study on the prevalence and burden of migraines in the United States, 91 percent of migraine sufferers have reported symptoms so severe, they have had to miss work and more than half have reported the need to stay in bed or restrict their activity, when a migraine strikes.
Migraine treatment is typically aimed at stopping symptoms and trying to prevent future attacks. Many medications have been designed to treat migraines. Medications used to combat migraines fall into two broad categories:
- Pain-relieving medications – These types of drugs are taken during migraine attacks and are designed to stop symptoms.
- Preventive medications – These types of drugs are taken regularly, often daily, to reduce the severity or frequency of migraines.
Treatment choices depend on the frequency and severity of the headaches, whether they are accompanied by nausea and vomiting, how disabling they are, and any other medical conditions that may need to be considered.
Many migraine sufferers have found additional relief by using natural, complementary and alternative therapies as well. One such option making headlines is the use of curcumin. Curcumin is found in the turmeric plant. Turmeric is part of the ginger family and its root is commonly ground up and used as a spice. Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Evidence is mounting that the release of neuropeptides (associated with neuron inflammation) may be the cause of at least some types of migraines.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are a common source of over-the-counter headache relief. Some studieshave found turmeric to be as effective as these in managing pain from arthritis. A study from Iran looked at the effectiveness of curcumin and omega-3 fatty acids (a known anti-inflammatory nutrient) in preventing migraines. Seventy-two migraine patients were divided into four groups and given curcumin, omega-3 fatty acids, a combination of both or a placebo over the course of two months. Scientists found a significant reduction in migraine attack frequency and a reduction in markers of inflammation in the group that received both curcumin and omega-3 fatty acids.