Turmeric for Headache
Headaches are a common occurrence in humans and are usually benign. On the other hand, migraine attacks are severe and generally require pain relief medication. Both instances can cause debilitating pain.
In modern times, people often turn to natural remedies for migraine treatment to save themselves a trip to the doctor and potentially expensive prescription medications.
Herbal remedies have always been quite popular for dealing with many health issues, and one such remedy is turmeric.
Or so it's claimed. Turmeric is extracted from the Curcuma Longa root, a type of ginger originating from Southeast Asia and India. It has been used as a spice for many authentic dishes to bolster its taste and provide many health benefits.
A few years ago, turmeric appeared as a solution to a couple of common ailments, including reducing pain from migraine attacks, helping with acid reflux, and offering many other health benefits thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties.
But is there any weight to the story of turmeric being able to counteract a migraine attack? Recent studies have been positive regarding turmeric's potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, and there is some evidence pertaining to its effectiveness as headache relief.
However, before we look at these studies and quantify their findings, we need to understand why headaches and migraine attacks occur and what kinds of these ailments are there.
The Causes Behind Migraine Attacks and Headaches
Headaches often happen independently without any underlying health conditions to cause them, but migraine symptoms are common in numerous other health conditions. The painful sensation of a headache can affect any part of a person's head.
Migraine pain is similar and can be sharp or dull. There are numerous methods of dealing with a migraine headache, but the best course of action depends on the cause of the headache itself. Headaches and migraine attacks are caused by the following (not limited to):
- Depression or anxiety
- High systolic blood pressure
- Weather changes (weather sensitivity) and other environmental factors
- Injuries (i.e. concussions), disabilities, and other physical issues
It's also worth noting that there's no universal way to describe headaches. Because of this, the creation of headache types was necessary to give a more accurate representation of migraine triggers and their influence on proper brain function.
Primary headaches are not caused by any underlying health issues, and they mainly occur due to specific circumstances, not necessarily related to health either. One situation that could cause them is the overuse of pain medication.
These types of headaches can also happen to an individual due to certain structural problems with the neck and head. Overall, they are relatively easy to diagnose and generally don't take long to deal with.
Secondary headaches are problematic because they are caused by underlying health issues. Migraine symptoms usually coincide with these types of headaches, which may need preventive medications to offer relief to the patient after a while.
Some conditions that feature headaches or migraines as symptoms are allergies, hypothyroidism (where the thyroid gland doesn't work as well as it should), and more severe health issues.
Secondary headaches often come with additional symptoms such as neck stiffness, confusion, fever, or sensory changes.
A chronic headache or a chronic migraine is a consistent occurrence of pain. Headache days are numerous, so pain management is essential during this time.
They can sometimes be predicted, after which migraine prevention is prescribed to the patient, but overall, chronic headaches are a pain to deal with (pun intended).
If you're suffering from consistently painful episodes, it's best to consult with a certified medical professional who will give you the most efficient treatment available.
Episodic headaches are seemingly random and generally last for a couple of hours, after which the pain dissipates. In most cases, episodic headaches aren't serious and usually require minor treatment.
Most Common Types of Primary Headaches
Migraines are the most well-known type of chronic headache that we know of. Migraine patients continuously experience excruciating pain, which isn't easy to get rid of. Even when they take pain medication, there is no guarantee it'll help.
Migraine pain can be described as pulsating or throbbing, and it usually affects only one side of the head at a time. Severe migraine symptoms include vomiting and nausea, and patients generally experience heightened sensitivity to light or sound.
Cluster headaches result from an inflammatory response around an eye or one part of the head. They are very painful and long-lasting, usually going on for months on end.
When a cluster headache happens, it can last between 15 minutes and several hours.
Tension headaches are arguably the most common type of headache. They occur during the day and usually begin in the neck, spreading to other parts of the head as time passes. In most cases, tension headaches can be dealt with by stretching and avoiding sudden movements.
Turmeric Helps Treat Migraines and Headaches - True or False?
Now that we've gotten headache types out of the way, let's look at why they happen. Migraines are 'activated' by two enzymes that contribute to neurogenic inflammation and pain in the Central Nervous System (CNS).
These two enzymes are cyclooxygenase-2 and nitric oxide synthase (COX-2 and iNOS, respectively). Drugs used to treat migraine attacks inhibit these enzymes, preventing future attacks from occurring.
As for taking turmeric to deal with migraines, one study has shown that curcumin supplements (curcumin being the base element of turmeric) and Omega-3 fatty acids suppress the iNOS and COX-2 gene expression.
This study included 74 migraine-afflicted patients over a 2-month period. These patients were divided into four groups that received a specific type of treatment - Omega-3 fatty acids, curcumin, a combination of both, and a placebo-controlled control group.
This study concluded that the benefits of turmeric, combined with O3 fatty acids, significantly reduced the duration, frequency, and severity of headaches.
Other medicinal studies have also confirmed turmeric's benefits, including its antioxidant properties and anti-inflammatory effects. Individuals suffering from allergies can also benefit from turmeric intake due to it acting as an antihistamine.
Migraine patients sometimes get prescribed nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to help with the effects of migraine attacks, but turmeric seems to be a great alternative.
Turmeric Usage for Headache and Migraine Relief
Turmeric is up there near the top of the 'food' chain when it comes to natural remedies. With that said, if you want to treat migraine attacks effectively, simply adding it to your meals won't be enough.
Curcumin makes up only 3.14% of the turmeric root, and its anti-inflammatory compounds aren't strong enough to stop a headache. You will have a better time drinking turmeric tea, but it still won't be the best headache-solving option.
The third (and best) method of taking turmeric for reducing oxidative stress and dealing with headaches is in the form of turmeric supplements. One encapsulated pill of curcumin supplement is enough to stop a mild headache.
However, if you want to take it up a notch and fixate on dealing with all kinds of migraines (vestibular migraine as an example), then taking black pepper extract in conjunction with curcumin supplements is ideal. This combination can increase absorption by 20-times.
Negative Side-Effects of Turmeric Use
Although turmeric by itself doesn't cause any harmful or annoying side effects, taking too much of it isn't recommended. Here are a couple of things to look out for before choosing turmeric as your headache treatment of choice:
- Taking higher doses of turmeric can cause nausea, digestive discomfort, and headaches
- Turmeric should be avoided if you're using blood thinners because turmeric is a natural anticoagulant
- People with diabetes should consult with a certified medical professional because turmeric can lower an individual's blood sugar levels
When Should you Avoid Using Turmeric and Turmeric Supplements?
Turmeric should also be avoided in the case of pregnancy or nursing. If you have scheduled surgery in the future, do not take turmeric less than a couple of weeks before the surgery because its antioxidant capacity can prevent clotting and cause complications.
Additionally, turmeric contains oxalates which can increase the production of kidney stones. So, if you're suffering from kidney or liver disease, or are currently going through the process of releasing kidney stones, do not take turmeric for migraine or headache relief.
Does Turmeric Cause Migraine Symptoms?
Somewhat surprisingly, turmeric can cause headaches and common migraine symptoms. This only happens when individuals take high doses of turmeric, after which other symptoms may also appear.
Due to numerous studies on the subject, it's better to keep within the recommended dosage since more (in this case) doesn't mean better.
Headaches are problematic and can be annoying, especially in high-stress environments. Pain medication isn't always a great idea, and taking them too often can lead to other health problems down the line.
This is one of the reasons why people have turned to natural remedies to deal with certain ailments that don't always require a trip to the doctor. Turmeric is not just a tasty spice; its anti-inflammatory properties are useful in combating a variety of health issues.
And, the combined effects of black pepper extract and curcumin supplements are excellent for reducing oxidative stress and eventually reducing the effects of a migraine on an individual.