Relief for Headaches and Migraines

by Dr. David Williams
Filed Under: General Health
Last Reviewed 04/23/2014

Peppermint oil and ethanol appear to be effective treatments

Researchers at the University of Kiel in Germany studied the use of peppermint oil and ethanol (alcohol) in the treatment of headaches, and the mixture appears to be an inexpensive and effective treatment for headache pain.

Thirty-two patients took part in the double blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study. Dabbing a mixture of peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil, and alcohol onto the participants’ foreheads and temples brought about mental and physical relaxation. This mixture, however, wasn’t effective at reducing headache pain. When only peppermint oil and alcohol were used, the participants noticed an almost immediate reduction in headache pain. 

Peppermint oil is readily available from either local pharmacies or health food stores. Before being applied topically, however, it should be diluted with ethyl alcohol. Keep in mind, this is not common rubbing alcohol (isopropol alcohol). Ethanol (or ethyl alcohol) is grain alcohol and the least expensive source is from the liquor store where it is sold as "pure grain alcohol."

The 3-Cent Migraine Cure: Vitamin B2

Dr. Jean Schoenen at the University of Liege in Belgium has found that megadoses of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) can lessen the incidence of migraine headache attacks.

Dr. Schoenen’s team tested vitamin B2 on 55 mild-to-moderate migraine sufferers, ages 18 to 65. Before the study, these individuals had between two and eight attacks per month. Dr. Schoenen’s team found that patients given 400 milligrams of vitamin B2 per day experienced 37 percent fewer migraine attacks than individuals on a placebo, and the headaches they had were far less severe.

Dr. Schoenen’s study indicates that riboflavin therapy is as effective as currently used migraine medications. On top of that, it is much less expensive and has considerably fewer side effects. In fact, the only side effects reported were diarrhea in one woman and increased urination in another.

Two Important Guidelines

There are two things to keep in mind if you decide to use vitamin B2 for migraines: First, it appears that you need to take it for at least three months to get the full benefits. Second, whenever you take large doses of any one B vitamin, it’s critical to take the other B vitamins, as well. If your multi-vitamin/mineral contains all the B-vitamins, that’s fine. If not, then I would recommend taking a B-complex. Try Freeda Vitamins; their B-complex is excellent.

Dr. Schoenen isn’t sure exactly why riboflavin works and hopes to continue his research in the area. What’s important for now is that we have another effective, safe, inexpensive, and easily obtained solution to a very debilitating problem.

Why Boxers Don’t Get Migraines

Dr. Phillip Lamey, professor of oral medicine at the Royal Victoria Dental School in Belfast, recently shed some welcome light on a simple method to help prevent migraine headaches.

Dr. Lamey and his colleagues compared peptide levels in saliva samples of migraine sufferers and non-migraine sufferers. He found that people who suffered from migraines had peptide levels between 50,000 and 60,000 units, while non-migraine sufferers had levels of only around 500 units.

Keep Your Teeth From Grinding at Night

To lower the peptide levels in migraine sufferers, Dr. Lamey had 19 migraine patients wear an oral appliance while they slept that completely kept the occlusal surfaces of the upper teeth from contacting the lower teeth. Apparently, teeth-clenching at night produces the excess peptide production. The results of this study were quite remarkable.

Saliva peptide levels dropped to around 500 units in migraine sufferers wearing the appliance (the same levels originally seen in non-migraine sufferers), and the number of migraine attacks dropped to an average of only 40 percent of what these patients had previously experienced. Dr. Lamey has found that the device only needs to be worn each night for about a year—for 70 percent of his patients using the device, after one year their migraine attacks ceased completely.

Best Technique for Frequent Migraine Sufferers

Dr. Lamey’s treatment doesn’t help every patient suffering from migraines. It works best in those who suffer from migraines frequently (at least two per week) and regularly, and in those who experience migraines upon awakening in the morning.

The oral appliance Dr. Lamey was using in the study was 2 millimeters thick and made from acrylic. Dr. Lamey reports testing several different types of appliances. Apparently, the most important factor was that the appliance kept all the top and bottom occlusal surfaces from touching each other throughout the night.

Long-Term Migraine Relief

Dr. Lamey’s device isn’t yet available in this country, but there’s a very simple alternative you can easily get at your local sporting goods store. All sporting goods stores sell athletic mouthpieces made from various rubber compounds. They’re used to protect the teeth in events like boxing and football. If you suffer from migraines, especially ones that occur first thing in the morning, a trip to your local sporting goods store may solve your problem.

Mouthpieces are designed to cover the top teeth only. When selecting a mouthpiece, choose one that covers the contact surfaces of all the top teeth, including any wisdom teeth and/or back molars. Most mouthpieces come in adult and children’s sizes, and you can heat them in hot water and then mold them to your bite for a better fit. (Be sure to wait for the rubber to cool off a bit before you put it in your mouth.) The smaller and thinner the appliance, the more comfortable it will be in your mouth overnight.

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