Alternate Route

Imagine for a moment, if you will, that all of those ads for painkillers (such as Excedrin, Motrin, Tylenol, etc.) were replaced with pictures or commercials for leafy greens, herbs, or even essential oils.  Everyone knows that vegetables are good for you, but not to what extent.  Did you know that spinach, swiss chard, and kale contain magnesium and niacin which have been proven to treat and prevent migraines?  I’m not saying that your headaches will magically disappear overnight, but by incorporating those foods (and others) into your diet, you’ll notice a change over time.  Some of the biggest headache/migraine triggers are food related….cheese, wine, white flour, fried food, sugar, food additives, and much more. 

  • In 2007-2008, 1 out of every 5 children and 9 out of 10 older Americans reported using at least one prescription drug in the past month.  (Imagine what the numbers must be today!)
  • Over 100,000 people die every year from taking medications….and not just prescription medications, but over the counter drugs as well.  Even if they don’t kill you, they can still cause serious problems, such as liver or kidney disease.

So why do doctors continue to prescribe?  And what did we do before medication?

The enormous multinational drug companies make billions of dollars mass manufacturing medicines for worldwide distribution.  these drugs are heavily promoted to doctors in medical journals and to the public in the mass media, where we cannot escape being told every day of the wonders of the latest pain reliever, cold remedy, or heartburn formula.  These powerful modern drugs are almost miraculous at relieving symptoms.  this is because modern chemistry can extract or synthesize what is called the “active ingredient” in an herb, the chemical that appears to produce the desired effect of relieving a certain symptom.  In our fast-paced world, we look for the quick fix.  We have no time for a recuperation period; we need to get back to work, to our numerous responsibilities.  (Anselmo, pg 123)

  • The use of plants as medicines predates written human history. A 60 000-year-old Neanderthal burial site, “SHANIDAR-4”, in northern Iraq has yielded large amounts of pollen from 8 plant species, 7 of which are used now as herbal remedies
  • In the written record, the study of herbs dates back over 5,000 years to the Sumerians, who described well-established medicinal uses for such plants as laurel, caraway, and thyme.
  • In Indian Ayurveda medicine has used many herbs such as turmeric possibly as early as 1900 B.C.
  • The ancient Greeks and Romans made medicinal use of plants. Greek and Roman medicinal practices, as preserved in the writings of Hippocrates and – especially – Galen, provided the pattern for later western medicine. Hippocrates advocated the use of a few simple herbal drugs – along with fresh air, rest, and proper diet.
  •  Ancient Egyptian medicine of 1000 B.C. are known to have used garlic, opium, castor oil, coriander, mint, indigo, and other herbs for medicine.  (

I was guilty of being a part of the quick fix….thanks to my doctors and the mass media.  For years, since high school, I suffered from horrible migraines that would last days, weeks, and even months.  If you’ve never experienced the pain of a migraine, consider yourself lucky.  It would feel like someone or something was crushing my brain or hammering away.  It hurt to walk, move, eat, drink or be anywhere near light.  Often times I was also nauseous.  I honestly thought I had a brain tumor because I experienced them so frequently.  The longest one lasted for three months straight…no relief.   Finally the pain got so bad that I decided to get it checked out.  Over the course of four years, I had seen eight different doctors and not one of them questioned my diet, water intake, or sleep patterns.  They were very quick to prescribe Topamax (or Topiramate) and send me on my way.  I was told that I would be on this drug for life and if I were to take myself off of it, I would end up in the ER again.  So I took my medication, as told, for three years….then I learned alternative ways to heal myself.  In September, I took myself off of Topamax and started using superfoods (MSM and Shilajit) combined with a raw food diet and herbs.  (Check out my earlier post regarding MSM and Shilajit).  I admit, that first week was rough….I woke up with a headache every morning and was very tempted to go back to the drug, but I opted to wait it out and in the end, I’ve never felt better.  We really do live in a society that is afraid to feel pain and are very quick to pop a pill to feel better.  If only people were a little more patient to let a natural remedy take it’s course.  My original prescribed quick fix created many intense and horrific side effects.  Let’s take a look at what the side effects for Topamax (Topiramate) could be:

Some of the common side effects are: constipation, decreased sweating, diarrhea, dizziness, dry mouth, loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, nervousness/anxiety, numbness or tingling of skin, sore throat, stomach pain or upset, trouble sleeping, taste changes.  There are many more, those are just a few.

The more severe side effects are: severe allergic reactions (rash, hives, itching, difficulty breathing); blood in the urine; blurred vision; bone pain; decreased coordination; double vision or vision changes; irregular heartbeat; loss of consciousness memory problems; suicidal thoughts or actions; trouble thinking, concentrating, or remembering things; trouble walking; new or worsening mental/mood changes; speech problems and many, many more!

I experienced extreme loss of appetite, weight loss, numbness and tingling, fatigue, trouble concentrating, memory problems, decreased coordination, and new or worsening mental/mood changes.  And I lived with that for three years!  On top of that, the meds didn’t always work…I still experienced migraines more often than I should have.  They had me on the highest dose that could be prescribed at one point and I started having panic attacks and trouble breathing.  So when I found out a natural way to actually heal myself without side effects, I ditched the medication.

Now you may think that Advil, Excedrin, and Tylenol are helpful (I at one point took Excedrin), but in reality, their side effects are just as bad….Google them and you’ll see.  Here are some natural ways to heal:

According to experts, Ayurveda probably has “the oldest, most visionary, most developed science of herbal medicine in the world.”  Ayurvedic physicians have described and classified (according to their effects & benefits) literally thousands of herbs and herbal compounds, subjecting them to the test of every day use for more than 3,000 years.

In simplest terms, herbs are plants.  They may be large plants, such as trees, or tiny plants almost impossible to find.  Either the entire plant, or some part of it – root, leaf, stem, bark, flower, or seed – may be useful for medicinal purposes.  The easiest and most common ways of using herbs are (1) to mix the chopped, powdered, or whole fresh herbs in with your food, (2) take them powdered in capsules, or (3) boil them in water to make a tea. (Anselmo, pg 122)


 Herbs for headaches/migraines:

  • Feverfew
  • Peppermint (can come in the form of tea or essential oil)
  • Passionflower (has anti-inflammatory properties; used in tea)
  • Ginko (ginko biloba)
  • Cayenne (capsaicin) Many peppers have an ingredient called capsaicin, which among other things seems to raise the pain threshold. It’s gained attention in the medical world in recent years especially for its treatment of cluster headaches, and it’s often given in the form of a nasal spray.
  • Willow – White willow bark is an especially popular herb for headache because it works much like an aspirin, relieving your headache pain and causing the inflammation to go down.
  • Butterbur
  • Valerian
  • Turmeric – has anti-inflammatory properties; I make turmeric capsules or cook with it.
  • Ginger
  • Lavender – I use Lavender essential oil….not only is it helpful with the treatment of headaches, but also has a calming effect.
  • Rosemary
  • Kava Kava

Why not choose a more natural way of healing your body and improve your well-being?  The biggest problem with pharmaceutical drugs is that they only provide a mask for the symptom(s) and do not cure the underlying cause.  Natural remedies may not always provide instant relief, but with a little patience, you’ll notice big changes.  There are natural ways to heal every ailment, I highly recommend checking out some books from your local library or doing some research online!

 “You cannot poison your body into health with drugs, chemo or radiation. “Health” can only be achieved with healthful living.” T.C. Fry


Ayurvedic Secrets to Longevity & Total Health by Peter Anselmo with James S. Brooks, M.D.