Turmeric and Headaches: How Curcumin Helps With Migraines

Woman Managing a Headache

There is hardly a person alive who has not suffered through at least one headache or migraine. Unfortunately, such ailments are common in most people and can be very unpleasant to endure. For the most part, such issues are addressed by using aspirin or other pharmaceutical compounds to minimize the effects of the headache so we can continue our day. However, using pain relievers for headaches might not be ideal for those who are hesitant to rely on chemical compounds like those found in medications. This has caused many to start looking at more holistic alternatives through naturally growing plants and spices that might yield the same effects as standard aspirin.

One of the most common supplements available on the holistic market is turmeric curcumin. Curcumin has grown in popularity after researchers discovered several beneficial health effects offered by curcumin consumption. However, it had served as a staple of holistic medicine long before Western society began to use it. 

With all of the benefits curcumin offers, it is no surprise that many have begun to wonder what other benefits it might be hiding. Some have begun looking to curcumin as a naturalistic replacement for standard aspirin for their headaches. With this article, we hope to provide insight into the effects curcumin may or may not have on headaches and migraines.

What is a Migraine?

Despite the intensity of migraines, there is a lot of misinformation surrounding the phenomenon. There are those who, erroneously, use the terms "migraine" and "headache" interchangeably despite being two different ailments. You can break down a headache into multiple subtypes that vary in duration, intensity, and cause. Migraines are far more complicated than a common headache and are usually the result of an underlying disorder that causes them. However, migraines are extremely painful and debilitating, with severe migraines posing a significant risk to your health.

One of the most distinguishing factors of a migraine is that an aura phase often precedes them. An aura is a type of physical warning sign that something is about to wreak havoc on your body. The term is commonly used by people with epilepsy and those with seizure disorders to describe the moments before the seizure begins. With migraines, the effect is similar as you experience certain sensations before the migraine, though they occasionally manifest during the migraine.

Woman Suffering From Migraine

The aura phase usually involves:

  • Visual hallucinations such as seeing shapes, bright spots, or flashes of light.
  • Loss of vision.
  • A tingling sensation in the arms or legs.
  • Numbness on one side of the body.
  • Difficulty speaking.

The aura phase is a temporary occurrence that precedes the onset of the migraine and affects the nervous system. However, the main issue lies in the migraine, which requires treatment to resolve. Migraines tend to last between 4 and 72 hours unless you seek treatment. Sometimes, the issue lies in distinguishing migraines from headaches since they tend to have similar head pain symptoms. However, the symptoms of a migraine are more extensive than an ordinary headache. The symptoms of a migraine include:

  • A throbbing or pulsing pain that can either be localized to one side of your head or affect your entire head.
  • Sensitivity to stimuli such as light or sound; occasionally, you can develop a sensitivity to smell or touch.
  • Nausea or vomiting.

Migraines are a highly unpleasant and painful sensation that can disrupt your daily life. Whereas a headache is a minor inconvenience that can be abated fairly easily. However, identifying a migraine and distinguishing it from a common headache is only one step in dealing with migraines. You will also need to know what can be used to minimize the symptoms and prevent recurrences.

Does Curcumin Help With Migraines?

Curcumin is a well-known spice that often makes its way into Indian cuisine. Curcumin is the chief curcuminoid of the Curcuma longaroot, also known as turmeric. Turmeric has long been used as an ingredient in Indian cuisine and a way to create dyes for fabrics and other products. However, one of the most impressive uses for turmeric lies in the medicinal benefits hidden in curcumin that have turned it into a popular medicinal herb. The medical benefits of curcumin are still being studied, but extensive research has linked the compound to several health benefits. However, how curcumin stacks up against migraines is another matter entirely.

While the research on curcumin's health effects has been growing and supported by new information, the same is not true of its effects on migraine symptoms. This is not to say that there have not been any studies, but that the studies are few. The studies that have been completed on this topic are promising but still require supplementary studies to support them. As for the studies that have been completed, some of them are animal studies that have been further corroborated by other established benefits afforded by curcumin.

For example, a study conducted in 2017 helped determine that curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory. The anti-inflammatory effect of curcumin is one of the main selling points of the substance as a holistic medicine tool. However, studies on migraines have linked the phenomenon to inflammatory responses in the body. Some studies have determined that inflammasomes are one of the biomarkers of a migraine that, when treated, reduce the effects of the migraine in the patient.

As a result of the studies mentioned earlier, a hypothesis has arisen that curcumin can combat migraines caused by inflammation. However, the research behind curcumin and combatting migraines is still in its infancy, as is the information surrounding migraines caused by inflammation. Fortunately, the results of curcumin combatting inflammation are extremely promising, making future studies on inflammation-induced migraines optimistic. That said, there are a couple more studies around curcumin and migraines.

Curcuma Longa Root

A subsequent study to determine if curcumin could be effective against migraines was conducted in 2018. This study took a more conventional approach and combined curcumin with omega-3 fatty acids. The researchers then gave this mixture to patients who suffered from chronic migraines. The study consisted of a subject pool of 72 patients who were divided into four groups:

  • Group 1: Group 1 was given a serving of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Group 2: Group 2 was given a dose of nano-curcumin.
  • Group 3: Group 3 was given a combination of omega-3 fatty acids and nano-curcumin.
  • Group 4: Group 4 was given a placebo and served as the control group.

When the study ended, it was discovered that Group 3 had fewer migraines than the other groups and the ones they did have were less severe. This study was a little more promising than the anti-inflammatory test used to determine curcumin's effects on migraines. However, it is important to note that Group 1 also had fewer migraines than Group 4, indicating that omega-3 fatty acids play a role in reducing migraine frequency, whereas curcumin helps reduce the severity of the ones that remain.

Finally, another study was conducted in 2019 that took 100 men and women who suffered from episodic migraines. This test involved the use of curcumin and a supplement of coenzyme Q10 to try and mitigate migraine symptoms. These 100 subjects were divided into four groups, much like the previous study's sample pool. The groups included:

  • Group 1: Group 1 was given an 80 mg dose of nano-curcumin and a 300 mg dose of coenzyme Q10.
  • Group 2: Group 2 was given an 80 mg dose of nano-curcumin.
  • Group 3: Group 3 was given a 300 mg dose of coenzyme Q10.
  • Group 4: Group 4 was given a placebo and served as the control group.

While the study lost nine subjects before the conclusion, the results remained promising and favored Group 1's results. The subjects in Group 1 saw reduced frequency, severity, and duration of their migraines that exceeded reductions in any other group. This study helps to reaffirm curcumin's ability to moderate migraine symptoms, especially when the 2018 study is considered. These studies help to illustrate the effectiveness of curcumin as a migraine aid.

However, the studies on this topic are still being pursued and will require further research before curcumin earns its place as an approved migraine treatment. Until then, you will need to consider other factors about curcumin and how to use it for any health reasons. If you do not factor the strengths and weaknesses of curcumin into your plans, you might find yourself struggling to benefit from curcumin's effects.

How to Use Curcumin

Using curcumin for medicinal purposes is not as simple as you might hope. Curcumin might be the chief curcuminoid of turmeric, but that does not mean it is readily available. The truth is that the curcumin content of a turmeric root is very small and what little there is can be difficult for our bodies to use. This is why those looking to take advantage of curcumin's benefits by eating curcumin roots are not likely to see significant results. The average turmeric root only has about 2 to 5% curcumin in its composition, making it a fairly poor source of curcumin for your health needs.

Even if you could get your curcumin dose from raw turmeric, you would still be faced with curcumin's biggest weakness. While the low concentration of curcumin in turmeric is the latter's weakness, curcumin itself has remarkably low bioavailability. This means that it is extremely difficult for our bodies to absorb curcumin without some intervention. This makes the consumption of raw turmeric even less effective for medicinal use than it would be because of the low curcumin content.

Fortunately, while you cannot change the low curcumin content, there is a way to improve the bioavailability of any curcumin you consume. The key lies in piperine, a chemical found in a common household seasoning—black pepper. By combining curcumin with black pepper, the bioavailability of the former skyrockets by an astounding 2,000%. Even the low curcumin content of turmeric root benefits from being mixed with black pepper as it allows the curcumin to enter your bloodstream so you can enjoy the effects.

Curcumin and Black Pepper

As for the low curcumin concentrations of turmeric root, there is only one method to overcome this shortcoming. Rather than consume turmeric in excess to try and yield curcumin's benefits, your best bet is to use a curcumin supplement specially designed to maximize the curcumin content without any of the major issues. The most beneficial curcumin supplements use piperine as a standard ingredient to improve bioavailability. That way, you can enjoy the benefits curcumin offers without worrying about being able to absorb it properly.

No matter the studies on curcumin's effects on migraines, they are meaningless if you are unable to use the curcumin properly. The only thing left to worry about is finding a reliable curcumin supplement for this purpose.

The Nu Healthier You

Migraines are significantly worse than your average headache and can be destructive to your health. While combating them is not always easy, you can do it with the right tools. Curcumin's position as one of these tools is still being evaluated, but current research seems to point to a promising result for curcumin's anti-migraine future. 

More research still needs to be done to confirm these results, but more studies are approved every passing day, and we could see the final studies very soon. However, for those eager to try curcumin for themselves, it becomes a question of where to find a reliable supplement from a reputable vendor.

Woman Free From Headaches

We at NuVitality can help with that last part. We offer a range of naturalistic health supplements, with our curcumin supplements being one of our top products. Our capsules are filled with just the right amount of curcumin for your daily needs and are made with black pepper to overcome curcumin's bioavailability issues. Curcumin supplements are good for more than migraines; with our supplements, you will never need to worry about being unable to absorb curcumin for its effects. So, consider visiting our website to try them for yourself. It could be the first step to becoming the Nu, healthier you.

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