According to the World Health Organization, migraine is a serious neurological disorder that is among the leading 20 reasons for disability in the world. Studies have identified stress, seasonal changes, poor sleeping patterns, and improper eating habits as the major causes of migraines. Another important etiological factor is the changing reproductive hormone levels in women, which makes females, particularly those in their reproductive years (18 to 45 years), more susceptible to this disorder.
Termed as menstrual migraine, this condition develops at the commencement of menarche, is more frequently seen in females above the age of 30 years, and bestows respite only after menopause. Typically, it occurs when the estrogen levels reduce before the start of the periods. It could also be triggered by high prostaglandin levels during menstruation. In addition, the regular use of contraceptives and hormone replacement treatment leads to de novo menstrual migraine or exacerbates an existing condition. In case of pure menstrual migraines, symptoms such as headache and nausea occur only around menstruation. On the other hand, women suffering from menstrual-associated migraine may experience symptoms not only around menstruation but also at other times in a menstrual cycle.
At present, treatment of menstrual migraines involves the use of natural remedies and medications. Natural remedies include regular eating and sleeping habits, stress management, and proper hydration. Medications used include painkillers, drugs that reduce nausea, and estrogen supplements. While the natural remedies are more useful as preventive measures, the medical remedies are fraught with adverse side-effects such as greater risk of ischemic attacks.
One effective therapy for menstrual migraines is the use of ginger. According to Acharya Charak, adrak or ginger pacifies the vitiated vata dosha in ardhavabhedaka or menstrual migraine. Scientific investigations too report that ginger is as effective as sumatriptan in treating common migraine. In a recent study on 100 migraine patients suffering from acute migraine, effect of treatment with 250 mg of dried ginger root powder was found to be statistically comparable to that with sumatriptan therapy. In addition, ginger exhibited a better side-effect profile than the drug. It is suggested that as an anti-inflammatory agent, ginger may reduce pain due to migraine by inhibiting the prostaglandins that control the inflammation of certain blood vessels in the brain.
Although many researchers have employed a dosage of 1g of dried ginger powder for their experiments, those suffering from menstrual migraine can also consume an equivalent amount (approximately 10g or a quarter-inch piece) of fresh ginger. One way of taking fresh ginger is to juice it and add to vegetable or fruit drinks. Another way is to prepare ginger ale by adding grated fresh ginger to mineral water.
Ayurvedic physicians recommend the use of a paste prepared using dried ginger powder for treating menstrual migraine. For this, mix equal quantities of shunthi or dried ginger powder and vasa or Adhatoda powder, and prepare a thick paste using water. Apply the paste on the forehead when experiencing severe pain due to menstrual migraine. Alternatively, take approximately half a teaspoon of the powder mixture along with a teaspoon of honey thrice a day before meals and two to three days before the commencement of the monthly menstrual cycle. This helps to prevent the symptoms of menstrual migraine, including nausea.
Through the regular use of ginger, alone or with other herbal powders, for about five to six months, it is possible for women to reduce the intensity of headache caused by menstrual migraine. Not only is this treatment effective, but it is also devoid of any adverse side-effects and is economical.