The People's Perspective on Medicine

How Could a Cold Mouth Stop Your Migraine?

The key to stopping a migraine as soon as it starts could be a cold mouth. Ice, ice cream, icy drinks like iced tea or iced coffee and milk shakes have all provided relief.
Cold coffee drink with ice on white background

Anyone who suffers from migraines would go to great lengths not to have one. Some people are very conscientious about following a migraine diet (see below). Others are careful to stick to a strict schedule for bedtime and getting up. If a person comes down with a blinding headache despite such precautions, though, what can she do? Many readers swear that a cold mouth can help chase a migraine headache away quickly.

A Cold Mouth to Get Rid of a Migraine Headache:

Q. I had to share my own experience of getting rid of a migraine by putting freezing cold on the roof of the mouth. I woke up with a migraine. Normally, I take sumatriptan and the pain goes away within an hour or so.

My blood pressure was already high, so I thought I’d try a small ice cube held on the roof of my mouth. Sumatriptan does raise my blood pressure.

Within about three minutes, the migraine was noticeably less intense. Within five minutes I could not detect it anymore.

Since I do home monitoring of my blood pressure, I can document that my systolic and diastolic blood pressure also went down significantly within about half an hour. I don’t know if that was a side effect of getting rid of the migraine, but I am sure grateful.

Inducing Brain Freeze with a Cold Mouth:

A. We have heard from many readers that inducing brain freeze at the start of a migraine can often stop the headache. This can be accomplished with ice cream, a milk shake, a slush drink or an iced-coffee concoction like a Frappuccino.

There is some science to support this remedy. A few years ago, researchers from Harvard and NUI Galway reported that drinking ice water through a straw altered blood flow in the brain, creating a brain-freeze headache. The response was to dilate blood vessels to rewarm the palate.

Researchers think that migraine may be triggered by changes in blood flow. In addition, studies have shown that migraines are related to temperature regulation. People with a specific type of TRPM8 cold receptor are more susceptible to migraines (Key et al, BioRxiv, online, Jan. 19, 2018). TRPM8 is a transient receptor potential ion channel that is sensitive to cold. It also responds to menthol and a few other natural chemicals. Might minty ice work especially well to stop a migraine? We don’t know, but it could be worth a try.

How to Stop Your Headaches Without Drugs:

You can find other strategies for dealing with head pain in our Guide to Headaches and Migraines. There is a good deal of information in Show 1055: What Are the Best Treatments for Headaches? You may also want to to read these pages on our site:

Here is the migraine diet that Dr. David Kaylie shared with our listeners recently:

Migraine Diet

A cold mouth is not the only way to stop a migraine. Some people are proponents of food that is hot, in both senses.

There are scientific studies that support the use of certain nutritional supplements to reduce the chance of a migraine headache.

Some research also incriminates the mix of microbes in your mouth.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Over 15 years ago I was told about a way to avoid a migraine that is already starting by a Naturopath in my acupuncture school. At the first symptoms, put an ice pack at the back of your head and put your feet in warm or hot water. This is based on the assumption that the migraine you are having is a vascular migraine (a not unreasonable assumption and the common assumption if you have a “pounding” headache – the pain throbs with every beat of your heart).

The ice pack constricts the vessels going into the head, reducing the cause of the headache and the warm water dilates the vessels in your feet, drawing the blood down away from your head. This should work on any migraine that is reduced by caffeine since caffeine is a vasoconstrictor.

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