The second of three parts about what sparked my interest in herbalism—and my own migraine journey. Please note that nothing here is intended to be taken as medical advice or suggestions. Every person is different. If you suffer migraines, please consult with someone qualified to help you with them.
By the time I got into herb school, the pattern of the migraines had changed. They still came about a week before the onset of menstruation, but now they tended to come on Sundays. So, I missed less work, but they interrupted the time that was supposed to be for me and my partner. Part of that first year of school, our teacher did an intake with each of us in front of the class to demonstrate the process and really get us to experience how an intake feels, so we would better know how it feels to be a client. To fill out the health questionnaire, I added up all the days lost to migraines and it was approaching a full year. I was stunned.
The second year of herbal studies began to shift things for me. One thing about being in herb school is trying to find just about any excuse to try herbs out on yourself. One of my favorites became motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca). It’s quite bitter, though not as bitter as some. It works through the liver to move blood, so helps support circulation, is cooling, so helps to clear heat, and is also antispasmodic.
I also began craniosacral therapy as one of my classmates was a CS therapist, who I eventually saw. I had some real breakthroughs with her. These were of a spiritual-physical nature, and during one session, I got very cold and just shook and shook and shook. There was nothing my intellect could do to stop the shaking; it was as if my body were saying, “You’re just going to have to come along now.” Something then and there got released. And I also got another message, from deep intuition, which was to think of the migraines as a gift, because something far worse could have happened, could have taken place instead.
And then I saw the person who taught us Traditional Chinese Medicine. He is an acupuncturist, a very skilled herbalist and practices, for lack of a better word, osteo-manipulation. He put me on a formula that included herbs that support the Blood (TCM-Blood as well as blood-movers, or alteratives, in the Traditional Western Herbal/energetic sense). Slowly, things began to change. He said I would also need to see an acupuncturist because the body patterns were so ingrained that plants alone would not necessarily help effect the big change I was seeking. So, I began acupuncture in January 2011 with a Chinese acupuncturist/herbalist based in Annapolis, who worked on liver, gallbladder and spleen as well as female reproductive channels, and things shifted even more.
The menstrual cycles began to change in big ways, with fewer and fewer clots and brighter and brighter blood. (Clots and dark blood are common for many women, but they are not normal. They are one indicator of stagnation.) And the headaches, too, began to further diminish in severity and move closer and closer to the day of menstruation onset. One coincided with the day of onset and reminded me so much of when I’d first started menstruating, but before the migraines really kicked in. What was surprising was the feverlike condition—chills and heat swinging back and forth. I wanted to jump out of my skin. One minute I was peeling off my clothes—I felt so hot and irritated, the touch of the clothing on my skin was beyond annoying. The next minute, I was cold and soaked my feet and calves in water hot as I could stand and then returned to bed and piled on the wool blankets, even though this was summer.
And then I saw my herbalist-teacher again and he worked on the roof of my mouth after we had talked about old injuries. I’d had a few as a child that involved my nose and mouth. My teacher thought it possible that a complex of bones was pushing into the stella turcica area, putting pressure on the pituitary gland and that that could account for the menstrual-cycle–related nature of the migraines. After he worked on the roof of my mouth, I noticed some immediate improvement in the flow of air, especially at night; I did not seem to be as congested upon waking.