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According to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), it is estimated that there are 190,000 migraine attacks experienced every day in England. The Migraine Trust says that migraine is the third most common disease in the world (after dental caries and tension headaches), and is one of the conditions most commonly treated by alternative practitioners. In prehistoric times, migraines were treated by drilling a hole into the skull to let out the evil spirits. These days, we use gentler methods.

Headaches and migraines have many causes, and when treating these conditions, it is imperative to treat or eliminate the underlying cause.

Women are three times more likely to be affected by migraines, and these hormonal related headaches are caused by the declining levels of oestrogen, which occur either before menstruation or during the menopause.

How to help yourself:
You can support your oestrogen levels by eating plenty of soya, fennel and legumes, which are rich in plant oestrogens; but medical herbs do have a much more powerful effect.

Tension headaches…

are very common, and researchers have discovered that the single greatest trigger of a headache is the reduction of stress after the stressful episode. It seems that it is not so much the actual stress but the fluctuating cortisol levels which trigger the headache.

How to help yourself:
Melissa (Lemon balm) is a delicious common garden plant with significantly calming effects. Fragrant rose petals also reduce cortisol. Drop a sprig of Lemon balm and a few (unsprayed) fragrant rose petals into a cup of boiling water and sip, inhaling the fragrances, for instant tranquillity.


is another cause of recurrent headaches. The faecal toxins of a stagnant bowel leach back into the blood stream, recirculating into the system. An unhealthy diet puts extra pressure on the liver to remove the toxins from the blood. If the bowel is clogged, the toxins build up in the liver, causing a back-wash of toxic matter into the blood – effectively slowly poisoning the body, leaving the person feeling sluggish, foggy and headachy.

How to help yourself:

Eat healthy organic foods.

Drink kefir.

Cleanse your liver daily with 1 teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar in a glass of apple juice.

2 tbs of flax seeds in a cup of yoghurt, followed by a glass of warm water, gently stimulate bowel movement.

Sinus headaches…

are often associated with allergies or sinus infections. The inflamed mucous membranes cause terrible pain in the face and front of the head.

How to help yourself:
A hot infusion of fresh elderflowers and mint makes a very effective remedy for sinus congestion, but won’t clear an infection.

Burn-out and on-going fatigue…

disrupts our cortisol levels, which upsets the blood sugar regulation, and the low blood sugars can trigger headaches. Stress, burnout and fatigue are increasingly common, and need gentle professional attention and help.

What can you do:
Eating little and often will help to maintain even blood sugar levels. Taking time out for yourself, and connecting with nature helps to balance the whole mind/body system. Herbal medicine can be incredibly restorative, while yoga or meditation classes help to restore equilibrium.

Brain Fog…

often describes the feeling that you have a cotton-wool brain. It may even hurt to think. This is a common symptom of adrenal fatigue, menopause or Candida over-growth.

There are many causes of migraines and headaches, and in all cases, the underlying cause needs to be identified and addressed. Jo Dunbar (MSc. Medical Herbalist) has treated many cases of migraine and headache for over 20 years.