I used to be a regular sufferer of migraine headaches, and when I say sufferer, I really do mean it, it was utter misery that I would never wish on another human being. I got migraines three or four times a month that would last the whole day and be followed by another day of total exhaustion, so I was losing up to eight days a month of my life to migraine.
They started with a strange pain in my face and then later I would develop a headache that got gradually worse, until I could no longer stand any noise or light. I would be bed-bound in darkness, being sick for the remainder of the day.
Having tried acetaminophen as a child, I found it didn’t help me so I didn’t try it again. The only relief I got was from using an electric fan and putting cold compresses on my head.
Then one day I read in an alternative therapy book that if a migraine was caused by hypertension or a dietary problem, it could be relieved by peppermint. I decided to experiment with the theory and started drinking two or three cups of peppermint tea as soon as I felt the strange pain in my face.
I found that as long as I drank it immediately, the migraine would fail to develop. If I waited for the first symptoms of headache, it would progress and there was nothing I could do about it.
I did this for a couple of years, always keeping a supply of peppermint tea in the house in case of emergency, and all my migraines aborted before they took hold.
Then I began keeping a food diary and realized that my migraines always happened after drinking red wine and percolated coffee, so I stopped drinking red wine and switched from percolated to instant coffee and immediately stopped getting the face pain and migraine.
That was five years ago and I’ve never had another migraine since.
Medical Evidence for Peppermint Use for Headaches and Migraine
The International Journal of Clinical Practice found in a study in 2010, that menthol (the active ingredient of peppermint) was effective at aborting migraines without aura, or significantly easing them. More patients in the menthol treatment group experienced pain relief or were pain free, compared with those who didn’t have the treatment.
The menthol solution was also more effective at stopping nausea, vomiting and aversion to light so the researchers suggested it as a safe and effective treatment option for migraine.
Two other studies in the 1990s found that peppermint was also helpful to people with tension headaches, as it has a muscle relaxing effect.
Caffeine, Red Wine and Migraine
According to MedicineNet, having too much caffeine (in coffee, tea, cola, chocolate) can cause insomnia, irritability and headaches. Percolated coffee contains a higher amount of caffeine than instant coffee, which may be why it triggered my migraine. They also say that red wine can trigger migraines in some sufferers.
So check your diet and see if there are any triggers and try peppermint tea. It just might help.
Cutaneous application of menthol 10% solution as an abortive treatment of migraine without aura: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossed-over study, The International Journal of Clinical Practice, 5 February 2010. Abstract:
Effectiveness of Oleum menthae piperitae and paracetamol in therapy of headache of the tension type, Der Nervenarzt, 1996 Aug;67(8):672-81. Abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8805113
Effect of peppermint and eucalyptus oil preparations on neurophysiological and experimental algesimetric headache parameters, Cephalalgia. 1994 Jun;14(3):228-34; discussion 182. Abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7954745
Migraine Headache, Medicine Net. Web. 20 October 2011. http://www.medicinenet.com/migraine_headache/page5.htm
Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/. She is author of the book, 'Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation,' and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting.
Reviewed October 20, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith