OK, I know what you’re thinking…teas for migraine? Insert eye roll right? But hear me out here. I do understand the seriousness of our neurological disease. After spending MANY months housebound due to the ongoing dizziness caused by vestibular migraine, I understand how debilitating it can be as well. So I am not touting tea for migraine as our miracle cure. Tea is not going to magically make your neurological disease go away, but it can help ease some of its symptoms.
We all know that effective medications take time to work when we’re in the midst of an attack. Tea for headache and migraine can offer you some relief and comfort while you’re waiting for your effective treatments to kick in. So grab your best fuzzy blanket & tea kettle and read on to find out which is the best for migraine symptoms and which teas I reach for the most to provide that soothing warmth without triggering an attack.
** While Migraine Strong writes about the latest in migraine treatments, this is not medical advice. We are patient educators and all information you read should be discussed with your doctor.
Ginger tea for headache and migraine
Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory and works by blocking the chemical messengers (prostaglandins) that play a key role in the bodies inflammatory response. Like many of the teas listed here, ginger contains no tea leaves. Tea is made right from the ginger root making it a great option if you’re sensitive to true tea. You can make it in its most natural form by purchasing a root from the grocery store and boiling a few slices in water. For the sake of ease while I’m having a migraine attack, I like to purchase it in bags. I use The Republic of Tea Biodynamic Ginger which has ginger root as the only ingredient.
One study showed ginger to be as effective as Sumatriptan in aborting a migraine attack (1) . It works best when used at the very beginning stages of an attack. Turmeric and ginger belong to the same family and turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory in it’s own right making it another great option for migraine symptom relief. I use The Republic of Tea Biodynamic Turmeric Cinnamon because turmeric and cinnamon are the only two ingredients.
Peppermint tea for nausea and headaches
Migraine is far from just head pain. It’s often accompanied by a whole range of other symptoms like light, sound & scent sensitivity and nausea.
Peppermint leaves and oil have been a popular natural remedy for head pain and tummy upset for centuries. While there is not a lot of research to support it, it’s believed peppermint works by opening up the blood vessels and sinuses. This increases blood flow and oxygen in the brain giving it it’s pain relieving properties. It also relaxes muscle spasms in the gut easing tummy upset. This is one of my favorite teas because its refreshing and soothing. Peppermint tea for headaches is popular for a reason.
As you’re purchasing the best tea for migraine, look closely at labels to be sure there are no natural flavors or added artificial sweeteners added. You want only peppermint leaves here. I use Greenwise Organic Peppermint Herbal Tea which I purchase locally at Publix food stores. If you can’t find it in your area there are many other brands that offer peppermint as the only ingredient. For instance, Twinings Pure Peppermint Herbal Tea looks good to me.
Cayenne Pepper for migraine relief
Cayenne pepper is said to regulate the digestive system, reduce inflammation, lift your mood and promote hair growth. It’s pain relieving properties make it one of the best teas for migraine. Just like the teas above this one is not actually made from tea leaves.
To make this spicy brew dissolve about ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper in warm water. Let it steep a while as you’ll want it to be completely dissolved. The capsaicin in cayenne pepper can block the neurotransmitters that are responsible for sending pain impulses to the brain. At the 2016 Migraine World Summit Dr. Greger said that this is especially helpful for cluster headache (2). You can even put a bit in the nose to exhaust the trigeminal nerve and eliminate pain. The capsaicin found in this one makes it spicy hot which is a great combination when paired with a bit of honey. Just plan to sip this one slowly.
Butterbur for migraine prevention
Butterbur earned its name in colonial times when women wrapped its large leaves around fresh butter to keep it cool and fresh. Today it’s used as a migraine preventative, but with caution. It has some pretty decent research backing its effectiveness in preventing attacks (3), but it has been banned in many countries due to its toxic effects on the liver.
Some headache centers in the US have stopped recommending butterbur for migraine prevention due to safety concerns as well (4) & (5). Butterbur contains Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids (PA) which cause liver damage. If you consume butterbur it’s important to be sure its PA free. Consult your doctor before trying this one and do not use if you are pregnant or nursing.
Since this article was first written, updated information and an entire article on butterbur for migraine has been published.
Feverfew for migraine
Feverfew (a flowering plant in the daisy family) might just be one of the oldest treatments for migraine relief. It has a substance called parthenolide which helps keep blood vessels open, reduce inflammation and relieve neurological discomfort as well. Feverfew for migraine relief has a nice amount of research backing it as a preventive, but benefits seem split (6). It seems to be very effective for some while others report no beneficial effect leaving the American Headache Society to rate it as “probably effective”.
If you have a ragweed allergy proceed with caution here. Remember to consult your doctor before consuming and do not use if you are pregnant or nursing. Pure Herbal Tea Series by Palm Beach Herbal Tea Company makes a Feverfew Tea with feverfew as the only ingredient.
Chamomile tea for headache relief
In the Migraine Strong Facebook group we often discuss the importance of practicing intentional stress reduction techniques. Chamomile has such a lovely, natural calming effect making it a great tea to have on hand when you need to unwind. We all know how hard it can be to rest with a migraine attack. Chamomile is great for relaxation and to aid in sleeping making it a real winner for migraine relief. It’s one of the most effective teas available to depress the nervous system which relaxes your whole body and relieves anxiety too. It may be worthwhile to try chamomile tea for headache relief.
This is another tea that is not made from tea leaves making it a good option for those that are tannin sensitive. It’s made from the flowers so proceed with caution if you have an allergy to ragweed. Twinings of London makes a yummy Pure Chamomile tea with chamomile as the only ingredient.
Caffeinated tea for migraine
Some people are triggered by caffeine but for others, caffeine can be that magic ingredient that helps to abort a migraine attack. Especially if you avoid it daily and only use it for this purpose and pair it with ibuprofen or naproxen (7). Black teas contain the most caffeine. Green tea contains a little less making them both great teas to try to see if caffeine might work as an abortive for you. Twinings of London makes a 100% Pure Black Tea English Breakfast Tea if you’d like to try this strategy. Twinings of London also makes a Pure Green Organic Tea that contains green tea as its only ingredient.
Willow bark for migraine
Willow bark is another tea that is not made from tea leaves. It’s made directly from the bark of a willow tree. It contains salicin which is the active ingredient that makes up aspirin. Because of this, it is commonly known as nature’s aspirin. It’s another great inflammation fighter and fever reducer that helps banish pain and soothe inflamed nerves. Because of its aspirin like qualities it should not be used with other blood thinners (the same is true for ginger). You can find Willow bark on Amazon sold by Burma Spice and Health Embassy.
The best tea kettle
I can’t talk about teas without mentioning my favorite tea kettle. If you haven’t tried an electric tea kettle, you really must! A stove top kettle brings water to a higher temperature than an electric tea kettle, but an electric kettle boils water in less than half the time. This is an important distinction when you’re under attack! Because it doesn’t get quite as hot as a stove top kettle you don’t have to wait as long for that first warming sip either. And it does boil water so the water is plenty hot to brew your tea. In fact, most teas and coffees taste their best when brewed in water temperatures just under boiling. Another great benefit is that it automatically shuts off when it reaches boiling so if you can’t drag yourself off the couch, there is no danger in the kitchen. They also don’t whistle, which I do admit I love, except in the midst of a migraine attack when loud sounds are painful. Here are a couple of kettles to consider. Hamilton Beach electric tea kettle and Miroco electric tea kettle.
Precautions when using tea for migraine relief
As you can see most teas for migraine relief are not really teas at all. They’re herbs and spices. Stocking your kitchen with a variety of these herbs to help bring you comfort on your worst days is helpful. But, tea is not a pain reliever for everyone. Water should still be your main source of hydration if you’ve been diagnosed with migraine disease. Some people with migraine are highly sensitive to caffeine & tannins. Most people know tannins are one of the migraine triggers in wine but they’re also found in high quantities in tea leaves. If you think you are sensitive to tannins or caffeine, stick with only herbal teas like ginger and peppermint and avoid tea leaves.
Caffeine while helpful for some can be a big trigger for others so avoid it altogether if you are in your migraine diet elimination period. Even if tea is safe for you consider only having a maximum of one cup or two a day.
If you are experiencing frequent and severe migraine attacks consult an expert to help you implement a treatment plan that best fits you.