Avoiding migraine triggers

Q. My husband used to get migraines. He was suffering so much, I decided to see if it was related to food. For a two-month period, I wrote down what he ate every day. We discovered that within three days of each migraine, he had eaten Chinese food, salted peanuts, sharp cheese or a frozen lasagna. We switched to fewer frozen entrees, moderated consumption of cheese and peanuts, and asked for no MSG in our Chinese food.

As a result, his migraines went from once a month to about two a year.

A. Headache specialists consider food triggers for migraine to be controversial (Headache, October 2016). That’s because there are relatively few well-controlled scientific studies of dietary triggers.

That said, there is general recognition that some people may be susceptible to certain foods. Among the most common culprits blamed are alcohol, chocolate, aged cheese, monosodium glutamate (MSG), nuts, salami, nitrite preservatives and artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. A food diary of the sort you kept is a very good way to uncover migraine triggers for a given individual.

Q. I cure my cold sores with lemon balm. It has worked for me for years. It comes as a salve, and I apply it once or twice a day as soon as I feel a tingle. The cold sore never appears.

A. Lemon balm, or Melissa officinalis, has traditionally been used against cold sores. These are caused by herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1).

Scientists have studied lemon balm extract and found that it helps keep HSV-1 from penetrating cells (Phytotherapy Research, October 2014). A review of research concluded that Melissa officinalis and certain other botanicals hold promise against HSV-1 (Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, September-October 2016).

Q. I have been taking a tablespoon of blackseed oil every night for the past six months. It seems like a miracle to me.

I was scheduled to have total knee replacements on both knees and was able to cancel the surgery as the pain decreased and my mobility increased. I’m now 95 percent back to normal.

Since starting the blackseed oil, my cholesterol levels have dropped back into the normal range. My HbA1c also is down. I feel better than I have in years!

A. Blackseed oil is made from the seeds of the Nigella sativa plant of Southeast Asia. It goes by many names, including black cumin, black caraway and blessed seed.

Laboratory studies suggest a wide range of pharmacological actions: anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, analgesic, anti-hyperlipidemic, anti-hypertensive and anti-cancer (Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, December 2016). A randomized double-blind clinical trial showed that Nigella sativa oil (1 gram/day) reduced inflammation for people with rheumatoid arthritis (Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, January-February 2016).

A meta-analysis of seven studies indicates that blackseed oil can reduce fasting blood sugar, HbA1c, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (Complementary Therapies in Medicine, December 2017). This would explain the benefits you have noticed.

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