If anything was to make me vanish off the face of the earth in an instant, it would have to be a migraine.
I imagine my migraines to be these little red devils, silently creeping up to one side of my head, (often to the right just behind my eye) and start a stabbing frenzy with their pitchforks. They’d last for hours, enough for my friends to call my partner and ask where I am. ‘Last online 12 hours ago’ is quite unusual for me… unless my head is being internally stabbed by these spawns of Satan.
For those of you who also suffer from migraines, that description might feel somewhat close to home. Feel free to share how you imagine your little red devils via my contact page or in the comments below. It’s nice to be able to relate and share the pain.
I want to share with you guys a natural remedy for migraines. One that has the support of high quality evidence and one that I have tried and had success with.
As many will know, I advocate for a plant-based diet and am very fond of using natural foods to guide us to good health. However, I am also wary of low quality evidence concerning natural remedies for medical conditions that may sound too good to be true. So I am quite careful with what I publish and recommend in regards to this.
I felt like I should write all that because this natural remedy actually does sound too good to be true! When I first heard about this study, I didn’t want to believe or dismiss it until I actually had time to sit down and critically appraise the article myself.
Low and behold, the natural remedy for those little pitchfork wielding devils is ginger! More specifically, 250mg (or roughly 1/8th teaspoon) of powdered ginger.
A double-blinded randomised controlled clinical trial compared the efficacy of ginger and a drug called sumatriptan.
Sumatriptan (also known as Imitrex) is a popular medication used to treat migraines. It comes in a variety of formulations such as intranasal, injection and oral. But as with any medication, sumatriptan has a high risk profile that is important to consider. The milder, more common side effects of sumatriptan include nausea, vomiting, fatigue and dizziness. Rarer but more serious adverse effects include arrhythmias, heart attacks and strokes. Sumatriptan can also interact with other drugs that a person may be taking and so may not be suitable for their lifestyle.
Researchers trialled a typical dose of sumatriptan and plotted it against an eighth of a teaspoon of powdered ginger. I’m just visualising it in my head right now… a half of a 1/4 teaspoon… that’s such a tiny amount! The participants, on average, had moderate to severe pain during their migraine episodes.
Same Same But Different?
The results were so cool. Sumatriptan decreased the severity of the pain within 2 hours of use. This was unsurprising and expected. However, ginger produced the exact same results! An eighth of a teaspoon decreased the severity of migraine attacks within 2 hours of use. When researchers the results in finer detail (such as patient’s satisfaction and other measures of efficacy), there was no significant difference amongst the two.
However, they did find a difference. Participants receiving sumatriptan reported side effects such as dizziness, sedation, vertigo and heartburn. Tummy upset was the only reported adverse effect in the ginger-treated group. Honestly, this makes ginger much more superior over sumatriptan don’t you think?
Another determinant of using medications is cost price. So I did a quick calculation comparing the cost of garlic powder and sumatriptan.
Amazon sells this fine garlic powder for $9 (USD) for 21 oz. The study used 250 milligrams of garlic powder. 21 oz equates to 595,340 milligrams. So that means we get around 2,381 doses of garlic powder for each migraine attack. Therefore, each dose costs less than half a cent!
Let’s look at sumatriptan. Using the same 50mg dose as they did in the study, Imitrex costs $864.50 for 100 tablets. This equates to $8.64 per dose… approximately $9 for every migraine attack!
For a lot of us, this cost comparison is very appealing. I’m essentially paying money to have a migraine subscription that I can’t get out of!
A True Too Good to be True Story
When I dug deeper into the literature surrounding this topic, I found that there were plenty of case studies that have documented the use of ginger for migraines. Now we have more reason to believe that ginger might actually be one true ‘too good to be true’ natural remedies out there.
Of course, more research is always needed to look into this and every person’s circumstances are different (especially in terms of migraine triggers!)
I have personally weighed up the risks and benefits, done my research and come to the conclusion that ginger is something I’ll continue to incorporate into my migraine treatment regime. It’s low risk, efficacious and usually part of my plant-based diet anyway. Plus, there’s plenty of it in the pantry!