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In this episode, KP Khalsa will be sharing how to help a migraine.
If you or someone you know suffers from migraine headaches, you know exactly how miserable and life-disrupting they are…and what a difference it would make to find a permanent solution to the upheaval they create.
KP shares a comprehensive approach to the treatment of migraines. This includes herbs to abort or suppress migraines so that you can be free of the pain they cause while you address and heal underlying factors.
You’ll also receive instant FREE access to KP’s handout, Herbal Treatment of Migraine.
If you don’t already know him, Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, A.D., D.N.-C., R.H., is an herbalist, nutritionist, yoga teacher and educator who has been making holistic health approaches palatable to the modern mind for over 50 years. He was the first person to be professionally certified in both herbalism and Ayurveda in the U.S. He is president emeritus of the American Herbalists Guild, and director emeritus of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association. You can find more from KP at InternationalIntegrative.com.
Listen in for:
► Common contributing causes of migraine – and the strategy needed to balance them
► The herbs KP commonly recommends for aborting or suppressing migraines and for addressing common root causes – along with dosage information
► What to expect on a healing journey from migraines
KP really is a teacher’s teacher and I’m so honored and delighted to share our conversation with you today!
-- TIMESTAMPS -- for How to Help a Migraine
00:00 - Introduction
03:32 - How KP got started on an herbal path
07:53 - How the Herbal Renaissance has benefited migraine sufferers
09:28 - The gray area along the spectrum between epilepsy and a classic migraine
11:00 - The factors KP considers when he consults with a client about migraine headaches
13:06 - The different ways migraines can present
15:54 - A few herbs KP commonly recommends in his clinical practice for aborting or suppressing migraines
24:40 - Addressing common root causes of migraine headaches
30:17 - Average timeline for healing from migraines
35:10 - Why it’s important to support the liver as you heal from migraines
37:30 - KP’s current projects
39:05 - How KP would like to see the general public’s understanding of herbalism mature
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Hello, and welcome to the Herbs with Rosalee podcast, a show exploring how herbs heal as medicine, as food, and through nature connection. I'm your host, Rosalee de la Forêt. I created this channel to share trusted herbal wisdom, so that you can get the best results when relying on herbs for your health. I love offering up practical knowledge to help you dive deeper into the world of medicinal plants and seasonal living. Each episode of the Herbs with Rosalee podcast is shared on YouTube as well as your favorite podcast app. Also, to get my best herbal tips, as well as fun bonuses, be sure to sign up for my weekly herbal newsletter at the bottom of this page. Okay, grab your cup of tea, and let's dive in.
I'm honored to bring you this interview with Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa about how to help a migraine. KP was one of my first herbal teachers, and he was my clinical mentor for several years. That means that, as I was qualifying to be a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild, I ran all my cases by him for feedback and advice. I can't stress how much I've learned from KP. I can tell you that many years ago, sitting in class intensives with KP, I never thought I would have a podcast, or that I would even be hosting KP on it. I don't even think podcasts existed back then. It's truly an honor to have him on.
One of the many things that I loved when studying with KP was how he was filled with so much experiential information, and that he was so willing to share that. After an eight-hour class, I would walk out of there feeling blissfully full after receiving this fire hose of practical, useful, and super insightful information. After listening to this conversation about home remedies for migraines, I think you'll feel the same. For those of you who don't know KP, he is an herbalist, nutritionist, yoga teacher and educator, who has been making holistic health approaches palatable to the modern mind for over 50 years.
He was the first person to be professionally certified in both herbalism and Ayurveda in the US. He is the president emeritus of the American Herbalist Guild, and director emeritus of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association. Well, welcome so much to the podcast, KP. It's truly an honor to have you.
Well, thanks for having me, Rosalee, definitely an honor to be here.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Well, it feels like just hearing the sound of your voice and seeing you, it's just bringing back all these memories. I've spent many hours of class time with you, many hours on the phone, and I'm excited to share your wisdom with the Herbs with Rosalee podcast audience.
Well, that's right. Let's see what we can come up with.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Well, I would love to start of hearing how you got started on the herbal path years ago.
Yeah, well, this was a long time ago. It was the hippie time, and I actually had a condition that was causing me tremendous distress. I had pain every day. It started when I was age 10, and there were a lot of disagreements about what the condition actually was, but the consensus was that I wouldn't make it past 40, so that was kind of the background of the whole thing. Now, when you're 10 years old, and you hear something like that, it's very hard to process.
And so I really wasn't paying much attention to that, although I was hurting more and more at the time, and it was the hippie times. I got interested in all things alternative, as many people of my age did, and we did such radical things as eating tofu. And we started to experiment with all these different new ideas that might make our lives better, and I stumbled onto natural healing, and in particular, herbalism. And I was very fortunate to meet a cadre of let's say a dozen natural healing experts from previous generations. So these were people who were maybe in their eighties when I was still a teenager, and they were incredibly generous.
They'd been functioning in the shadows for their entire career through that dark ages of natural medicine in our culture, and the idea that some young folks wanted to know what they knew was very exciting for them. Now, that period didn't last very long, because they were aged, and they all died on us, but there were maybe a half a dozen of us, maybe a dozen who were interested in those kinds of things. And as we traveled around, we would meet with each other, and sort of "you show me what you know, I'll show you what I know," and studying with these geniuses, so we could stand on their shoulders, and gradually everything just continued to expand.
At the time, it was incredibly minimal. I mean, all these things were fascinating to us, because it was all brand new, but by comparison to what we have today, it was just nothing, little tiny smidge of things here and there that we could begin to use, but we began to use them. They began to work. We talked to each other. We talked to our mentors. We figured out how to make it better and better, and I've been involved ever since. So this is my 51st year doing that sort of thing, 51. Yeah.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Wow. Well, that's the story of having some kind of major illness that Western medicine didn't really have a lot of answers for. I've heard you tell this story before, but this time I was really struck that we were both given 40 as our kind of life sentence, that we wouldn't make it past 40. So we have that in common. You were so young to take that in and really seek different things and, like you said, an entirely different world back there. You weren't Googling what herb is good for pain. You were out there learning from people and grabbing snippets here and there, wherever you could.
That's for sure. Now, the idea that I could treat my condition was completely not on my mind, because I'd been told by an army of rheumatologists that it's untreatable, just don't get into morphine too early, because you're going to need a lot later. So really that wasn't on my mind. I just found the whole thing to be fascinating, although that sort of wounded healer idea probably was there under the surface, and it was in a yoga class actually, where I was out of pain for about 15 minutes. And I said, "Well, if there's one thing that can do it, there must be other things that can do it," And very slowly began to put it together. But shortly thereafter, maybe a couple, three years, I was out of pain completely. And now if you look at my medical scans, no signs of that disease are there anymore, and I'm considerably past 40. I know you haven't made it to 40 yet, but I'm-
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Well, I have, but thank you for saying otherwise. Yeah.
I'm considerably passed. Yeah, so far so good.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. Well, KP, usually on the podcast I have people choose an herb, and we talk about that one herb, and when I asked you to be on the show, I was just already thinking, "You know what? I just want to talk about whatever KP wants to talk about," because you have so much wisdom, and I want to know what's fresh and interesting to you, and you came up with how to help a migraine. So I'm excited to hear what you have to share about migraines.
Well, sure. We could talk about this for all day or longer really. I really want to emphasize that herbal medicine has endured a Renaissance now for about the last 50 years. It was completely dead for about 70 years in the United States, except for those very few people I was talking about, but we put all that effort into putting it together, people like you and various others in our communities. So now we have schools, textbooks, experienced teachers, and we have all that information put together. So if you had asked me 20 years ago what we could do for migraines, I would say, "Pretty tough. There's not much." Now I can say absolutely that anybody experiencing migraines should expect their migraines to not only be able to be suppressed, but to be cured.
We know what we're doing. We do it many, many times a day. My specialty is neurology, and so I do this every single day, and I expect every case to be resolved. There might be a few oddball situations where that doesn't happen, but that's my expectation. So we can figure out why a person is having migraines. We can suppress them, so that the last one you had should be the last one you ever had, and then we can work toward healing the underlying problem, so that you don't continue to have them.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Now, I know there's a common saying in herbalism like, "A headache isn't a headache isn't a headache," meaning that oftentimes in Western medicine, if you have a headache, you take ibuprofen. It's just kind of you have this, you have that; but in herbalism, we want to know more about that particular headache. I'm guessing that the same is true for migraines, which you could perhaps call a type of headache, and that there's not just one type of migraine.
Yeah, absolutely. One of the things that we need to mention here is that migraines are a neurological phenomenon, and for many people they do result in a headache. So the classic migraine, where the pain is on one side, it starts with a prodrome about 20 minutes before the headache comes. You know it's coming. You see sparkly lights, things like that, then it lasts from four to eight hours. We know that that's actually a minority of what today we would think of as migraines.
Migraines are essentially seizures. Epilepsy is essentially a migraine you could say, or they're all seizure types. So on one end of the spectrum is classic epilepsy. On the other end of the spectrum is classic migraine, and there's a whole bunch of gray area in the middle that we can treat, and it turns out that now many migraine specialists are using anti-seizure drugs and getting great results with migraine, and the opposite is also true. So it's one big spectrum, and we can treat the underlying physiology, which is what you were saying. People are different.
So there's no particular connection necessarily with the type of experience a person has, and what's going wrong inside their body. It's their nervous system that we need to fix in the long run. Most migraines can be suppressed with pretty much the same things, and then most migraine and epilepsy can be treated, again, with more or less the same things.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
So when someone comes to see you, and that's their main complaint, is that they have a migraine, what are you first thinking? What questions are you first asking?
Well, I want to find out about a whole bunch of physiological things happening in their body. Physiological things like their sleep, their bowel movements, their digestion, when they have energy during the day, if they do, and when they don't. Do they feel hot or cold? How long does it take food to go through their digestive tract? And I'm looking for basic underlying physiological functions, like whether or not their body is overactive. Is it burning too many calories for their benefit and just wasting that heat, or is it unable to burn enough calories to be able to run their body properly, and now they're hypofunctioning, not functioning as well as they could?
So migraine, what we know of as migraine today in that wide spectrum of things, could be caused in just about any kind of a person. So there are sort of heavy, wet migraines, and hot migraines, and cold and dry migraines, but the vast majority of people have a cold and dry physiology; that is, their body is hypofunctioning. It's not burning the calories it needs to run its metabolism on a daily basis. People may not feel objectively cold, but usually they do, and they're not necessarily cold with a thermometer, but everything is just running slowly, pulse, circulation, food through the digestive tract. These people usually have anxiety and insomnia as well, and so most of the time we're looking to warm them up and lubricate them as our fundamental strategy.
Usually, though, I want to treat the symptom of the migraines. I want to use something that, if they take it every day consistently, they will never have a migraine. They'll never drop off that cliff and have those sparkly lights and that pain, so that they can feel comfortable that things are going to happen properly, and they're in the right place, and we can get good results. Now, having people take those suppressive herbal medicines every day, probably not the best idea, because we didn't get to that underlying cold and dry physiology, constipation, anxiety kind of issues. So we want to then go back and handle those issues.
To say a word, by the way, about how people experience migraines, the classic hemicranial, or one side of the head pain that lasts 48 hours, is what we think of as a migraine, but it can be just about anything. People can smell a funny smell. They can see the sparkly lights. Sometimes that's all that happens. Maybe they feel a tingling in one arm, or they have any kind of sensory input that's different and unusual. In migraine, people usually don't lose consciousness. In epilepsy, they usually do lose consciousness, but again, those two terms are starting to become obsolete, because it's this whole spectrum of neurological dysfunction or neuronal instability in the brain.
So all of those things are in the same spectrum. If it happens with a trigger phenomenon, that is, normally you don't have it but something happens to cause your arm to tingle, and it's the same every time, that's a migraine, just as much as the typical migraine, and then if we do the things we need to stabilize the nervous system, that stops happening.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Well, I want to go back to what you said about your approach, KP, because I think this is so brilliant, and it reminded me of just why I love studying with you so much, is that you have, just to simplify, kind of this two-handed approach, where you're doing something we could say maybe intense, but something that's very specifically suppressing the symptoms, so that the person is not experiencing those symptoms, or more comfortable, while also working for the underlying physiology. And I remember that was your approach to say, insomnia. You weren't the person who was like, "Okay, this person has 10 things we need to work on over the next couple of months, so we're just going to let them have insomnia for a couple of months while we work on those things, and ultimately, hopefully they'll get some sleep one day."
You were very much like, "No, this person needs sleep now. So we're going to get them to sleep now while working on those things." It's a very clever approach, and I just think it's also very compassionate. It's holistic and also compassionate for the people.
Sure. People are miserable with these things, and very often they do see practitioners who are locked into a particular philosophy of, "We always treat the root first." That's the most efficient way to do it. The root might have 12 branches coming off of it, and they have, as you said, all these 10 things to work on, but if they're not comfortable, and they can't make it through the day, and sleep, in fact, is one of the most important things. If people aren't sleeping, they're the most uncomfortable, and it's the thing that is the most likely to help them heal anyway, so we might as well get them to sleep.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Well, I know that you probably don't have a one-size-fits-all package when it comes to how to help a migraine, but I'm curious what are some herbs that you commonly call on?
Oh, sure. We can talk about a few that are likely to work for most people. So we mentioned that migraine is most often comorbid with anxiety, insomnia, and constipation, so some of those things can be treated fairly quickly. Usually, we can find something that is going to work for their anxiety and insomnia, and usually it'll be an herb, maybe it's valerian, that they take during the day that helps them, takes the edge off anxiety, and then a higher dose at bedtime for insomnia, and then we all know many things to be used temporarily for constipation. Getting insomnia and constipation handled fairly quickly is a huge difference in just the way people feel overall. They maybe have never been constipated.
I was just talking to a person yesterday who said that she's never experienced not being constipated. She has a bowel movement every five days. She can't get any attention with her medical doctors about that, and that's just who she is, and what she's used to. So we'll work on that and get that down to a minimum one per day. So people have, as a background these kinds of things we're talking about, a cold, dry, unlubricated, hypofunctioning physiology. There are trigger factors in the case of both epilepsy and migraine. We're talking about how to help a migraine, so things that will generate a migraine, and there are dozens and dozens of them, and it depends on the particular person which things they're sensitive to.
So they have this brain that's inherently not very stable. It has difficulty maintaining its own homeostasis, and then there are things that pile on, and it's different for everyone, so it can be staying up late at night, again, not getting the sleep that's necessary. It could be certain foods. It can be climate conditions like air pressure and temperature, so many things. Most people have dozens of sensitivities, and typically, it takes about three happening at the same time. So they eat chocolate, they don't get a migraine. They eat eggplant, they don't get a migraine. The barometric pressure goes up, they don't get a migraine, but when all those three things happen in the same day, the migraine is triggered, so that unstable physiology creates this neuronal instability, and they fall off the cliff.
The brain is able to understand that that's happened and reregulate itself. It just takes a while to do that. So this is caused by the brain sending too much blood into the brain, and then the brain says, "Whoa, too much blood," and then vasoconstricting, and now the brain doesn't have enough blood. There are 20 good theories about really what the bottom line cause of migraine is, and they all make good sense, but we don't have one sort of smoking gun. Most people feel like it's either the vasodilation or the vasoconstriction. Well, that's great, but that doesn't help much, because those are opposites. So what do we do?
What we have to do is rely on things that we've discovered over time that will work well, handle that particular situation. So the first one we can talk about is ginger, simple ginger. It seems like something that shouldn't be that dramatic, but it's very good to abort a migraine. So during the prodrome, those 20 minutes or so of feeling funny, and that the pain is going to start, that's the time to hit it. I usually recommend two heaping tablespoons of ginger, stir that into a glass of water, drink that down. Within about five minutes, the whole episode begins to wind down. It may try to restart itself again in let's say another four hours. If it does, you just do the same thing again. Most of the time it won't, and usually that'll just stop it immediately, and the person can just go right back to doing what they were doing.
This has happened occasionally in class, where a student has said that they're... They look green, and we say, "What's going on?" So a migraine is starting, and direct them to the ginger, and half an hour, they're back at their desk in the classroom, so that's the one thing that we know that will abort a migraine. There are a few other ideas on the horizon that we're working with that might be good for that, but that one is virtually 100% effective.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
I want to attest to that, because this is a KPism that I learned from you many years ago, and all my years in clinical practice, I have recommended it so many times, and wow, does it work, and wow, are people amazed. I mean, it works so well, and after suffering for so long getting these migraines, and they find out ginger. I think a couple people, it is such a common herb, and they're just like, "Really? You really?" Yes, I really think it's going to help, and it really does. Yeah, it's a great one.
That's right. It's not that exotic, but used at the right time, in the right way, and the right dose, it just knocks it. That doesn't solve the underlying problem. Now, some people if they get one migraine a year, they feel like, "Okay, I have the ginger. Why do we need to deal with it?" The migraine is a sign of underlying problems. So just to say, "Okay, the migraine, I have something I can use if it's happening," doesn't get to the underlying root of the problem, so we want to encourage them to work on their usually cold and dry, unlubricated physiology with all those issues we've talked about.
Now, a couple other things we might consider is salicylate, that's willow bark and meadowsweet, things like that. Those usually don't work very well, but in some cases, they're on the B list. They might work for some people, and then the opiates, which the two main ones that I would mention would be poppy seed and the Chinese herb, corydalis. Both of those are kind of medium-strength opioids that sometimes will be enough to suppress the migraine at the time. Once the migraine gets rolling, there's usually very little other than some newer drugs that can work for that.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
And so what are some kind of typical recommendations for that underlying cause?
Well, first let's talk a little bit about prevention. So we talked about aborting the migraine. I'm going to mention three herbs here that all work very, very well. The first two are virtually 100%, and that's feverfew. Feverfew is a preventive. It doesn't stop the underlying problems, but we don't know how it works. There's a little bit of science on the fact that it does work, but none about how it works. So feverfew, you take the amount that when you take it every day consistently, you never have another migraine. The dose range is huge there, so it can be anywhere from let's say 250 milligrams up to eight grams.
I've only had one client that it required eight grams to prevent that, but you start with let's say half a gram, if that works out, but you're still having migraines, then increased by half a gram every two, three days. And once you're up to the amount where as long as you take it, you never have another migraine, then that's what you want. Feverfew is an herb that's a little bit persnickety in the way it likes to be handled. There's nothing special that you have to do with it, but you just have to grow it, cut it, dry it with some care. So high quality companies that are making feverfew would make good feverfew, and that should be fine, but you just can't mow it down like hay and expect it to continue to work; a little bit delicate in how it should be prepared.
The next one is butterbur, which was the main herb used for pain in Europe, in the middle ages, and this will be available in specialized preparation, standardized extracts. That's what we're going to get that will be available, and same thing, take the amount that once you get up to that amount, you never have another migraine. Both of those are about a 100%, but there's two where if you start with one, and it doesn't work, you can try the other one. The issue usually is a dose. Most people who don't have good success, it's because they didn't just take enough, and they need to bump the dose up just a little bit.
Let me throw in one more, and that's peony. Peony was a favorite of Hippocrates, and peony used to grow all the way across Eurasia. Today, it's not used in Western herbalism, but you'll find it in Chinese herbalism. Peony has a particular connection with the liver, and at least Ayurveda and Chinese medicine very much have a story about how to help a migraine, and how that happens that involves the liver, so it's not surprising that peony would be involved. That one is probably not 100%. It's more like 60%, and the dose there typically is about eight grams, and you could take that each day, and you just bump up the dose until you never have another migraine. That's less reliable, but that's on the B list if some reason the other two don't work or are not available. All right. So what was our next area?
Rosalee de la Forêt:
So we've done prevention. We've done aborting of migraine, if you feel it coming on. Now it's those root causes.
Right. So for most people, it's that issue of a cold and dry physiology, and so we have to examine everything about why their body is running that way. It's almost always genetic, and we have to encourage people to live a life and eat a diet that warms them up, warming digestive herbs, warming circulatory herbs, things that lubricate the tissue like demulcents and various oils, and make sure they get enough sleep, and that they have their bowel movement, minimum one bowel movement a day. Just have to go back and neutralize all that cold dry stuff, and usually that takes typically two or three years, and then once that's accomplished, they probably can pull back on their preventive remedies, and discover that they're not having the migraines anymore. We've handled the underlying issue.
One significant factor here is magnesium deficiency. So migraine is almost a specific for magnesium deficiency, and we know that 95%, 97%, something like that, of our population is magnesium deficient. So we can either investigate that and find a sophisticated test to test for magnesium, or we can just go ahead and try it. When you've got something that 97% people are deficient in, it's pretty likely that your client is going to be that, so you can just try it. Anyway, we bring magnesium up to what we call bowel tolerance. Magnesium draws water into the gut, liquefies the stool, and helps soften up and exit comfortably, and so bowel tolerance is the maximum amount of magnesium that you can take that doesn't cause discomfort in terms of the stool, that you're not going to have an accident, and you continue that for quite some time, and then eventually six to nine months later, you can do a test for magnesium and figure out where you are, and adjust it as needed.
So sometimes that will just completely solve the problem right there. Some people's migraines are strictly because of magnesium deficiency. You get that handled, and it's done. A couple of others that we could consider, the herb gotu kola, which is used in all the big three systems, and that's probably the best nerve herb in the world. I just use it every single day with people. It's mild and slow acting though, so we have to get the dose up and use it very consistently over time to help reregulate and nourish the nervous system. Gotu kola, we use the above ground portion.
So it's a little tiny plant in the parsley family, and you can use that as tea. It's quite edible. You could use it as food, if you can get it fresh, which we don't have here. You could use it like spinach in stir fries or something, but otherwise, probably tea is going to be the way to go. And the dose could be let's say 30 grams of the gotu kola, that then you cook into tea, drink that, and that dose then taken over six months or so helps to rejuvenate, heal the nervous system. So that's a remedy to cure the underlying problem in their nervous system, if we could say that. The other one is a Chinese herb called bai zhi. It's B-A-I and then Z-H-I. This is an angelica. Many of your listeners are familiar with European angelica, I'm sure. So this is angelica anomala. Their angelica spread all over Eurasia, and they're used in all the herbal systems, certainly highlighted in Western Ayurveda and Chinese medicine.
So all these angelicas are very smooth, comfortable, easy, slow blood movers. As opposed to using heat to move the blood like ginger or cayenne, these angelicas are very easy on the body in a slow movement, and they all have a tropism or a place where they concentrate. So bai zhi is oriented toward the head. So it brings that blood slowly, comfortably, easily up into the head, and then back down out of the head, so that energy that was concentrated in the head gets relieved. It's probably very similar to what ginger does, and ginger is just more on the spot, whereas the bai zhi you're using ongoing to manage that. That's the number one urban Chinese medicine to treat migraine for that reason. A typical dose there is about 10 grams a day. It would be decocted in Chinese medicine. You could take it in capsules or powder if you wanted.
I would put bai zhi on the B list or even the C list. It is the number one remedy in Chinese medicine for this problem, energy stuck in the head, and Chinese medicine doesn't like those hot herbs that blast the circulation through. We want to nudge it through and encourage it, but I just haven't seen it perform that well for migraines in particular. You could certainly try it. So we've talked about 10 herbs or something by now already, and all those are things that one could experiment with.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. So everyone has their own healing journey, of course, but what I'm hearing from you is, when you work with people, you like to see immediate results in terms of just an improved quality of life, less migraine symptoms. Is there somewhat of a typical from start to finish, or not that there ever is a finish, but what does that timeline generally look like?
A couple years probably for the average person who's experiencing migraines, and to mention again, that migraine doesn't have to be the aura and then the half of the head horrible pain. It's all this kind of stuff. It's all the same issue. The brain can't maintain its own homeostasis. So usually we can stop the migraines immediately. A person might have another one in a couple days or something after we get started, but once we get rolling, the migraine should be suppressed. That should happen more or less immediately. So it depends on how often they have them. If they're only having a migraine once every six months, it takes us a while to drill down into the proper procedure. But most people are having them more often than that, and so then you can adjust the preventive remedies pretty quickly. Then the other underlying issues, a year or two probably to get all that handled, adjust their diet, warm up their physiology.
A migraine is kind of an extreme situation. It's a sign that your body has gone way, way off from where it should be, and so the kind of body that tends to allow it to do that is a body that usually you're going to have to do something forever to manage that body, which means mild warming remedies in the diet, a mildly warming diet, no cold foods, no refrigerated salads, that kind of thing, things that promote proper movement in the digestive tract. That's just going to have to be the new way of life, and going to bed at the same time every night, doing whatever you have to do to stay asleep all night, getting up at the same time, regularity and discipline, which typically people with migraines are not good with regularity and discipline. They're very often artists, and they like to stay up all night painting, and then sleep where they fall, and then get up again in the morning, and all of that, not so good for their nervous system.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
I love how practical what you've shared is, because I think for someone mildly interested in herbalism, their question might be, "What is the natural remedy for migraines?" Or, "What herb do I take for migraines?" And what I'm hearing from you, which has always been what I've heard from you, is that there's different ways of thinking about it, short-term results, long-term results, working on both, and then it's these variety of herbs that could work, but what you've shared in such a succinct amount of time is that it's not even just that herb, but the quality of that herb, like for the case with feverfew, it's very important to get a certain quality of herb, and something that I deeply appreciate about your sharing is the dosage too, because that is something I grew up in herbalism learning from you, and so dosage was really nailed in early on, but that is something that I continue to see as such, I don't know, just a missed point, especially in Western herbalism of just having these very small dosages.
And then also this one-size-fits-all dosage, and as you shared it, there's a starting point, and then there's finding out what works for the individual. So just the one herb for migraine isn't what we're going for, but there are answers out there, and looking at within all of these practical things, the herb, the dosage, the person.
Well, Rosalee, that makes two of us now that are concerned about dose. So we'll see what happens in the future. People like the idea that herbalism is simple and easy, and you can just take one little bit, bit, bit, and the problem is handled, and they often are just continuing to seek that after many failures with that not working, but it should work, but it doesn't. We're not surrounded by people where we see it working like we would be in a traditional culture, and so we don't see our aunties, and siblings, and neighbors taking these things in the way that really work. So we're really struggling to figure out how to do it. I know that you're on a crusade against vending-machine herbalism. I've heard that many times from you and John Gallagher, and that's exactly right.
Just today, I was teaching an advanced class. I was a guest speaker in another professional's class teaching professional clinical level herbalism, and all the questions were about what's the best herb for X, Y, Z, and it's like that misses the question altogether, but even at that level, people just can't resist that. You go to the medical doctor's office, and really they're not thinking what's the best herb either, or what's the best drug, because they have 12 drugs they could consider, and they all work a little bit differently. There is no best herb or best drug for disease X. It depends on all those other factors.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. So true. Well, is there anything else about how to help a migraine you'd like to share before we move on, KP?
Let me mention a little bit about this whole liver thing. So there's a story, a metaphor, an understanding in both Chinese medicine and Ayurveda today, and it was there in Western herbalism in Hippocrates' time. Hippocrates said that peony softens and comforts the liver, but the idea from an energy point of view is that the liver is a big energy backstop. It's a really weird situation. It's the only place in the body where veins get smaller as they're going back up toward the heart. So these big veins that come from the digestive tract, the portal vein namely, breaks down into very small capillaries in the liver, and then merges back together into a big vein that comes out, and goes up, and goes to the heart.
It's a recipe for disaster, because the way we're built is that our liver is jammed up under the right side of our ribcage. Everything is stuffed up in there, and then if we're eating things that we can't digest very well, a lot of stuff is coming up through that vein into the liver. The liver gets stagnant, or overwhelmed, or toxic, or however we want to talk about it. The energy can't be contained in the liver properly, and it burst out. It gets lost sometimes. The liver is a hot organization. Very often that energy that comes out is hot, so in Chinese medicine that would be called liver fire rising, or some other similar name for that, and so these migraines can be hot or cold. What we talk about as a classic migraine is typically cold, that perspective that I've been talking about the whole time, but many of these remedies focus on the liver, like the peony or other things.
So just being aware that the liver is the thing that, for most of us, for most conditions, is the thing that slows down the process. You're just grinding away on getting the liver unstuck for month after month, while you're looking for the cure for these things. So we want to be aware of taking good care of our liver and helping it to not contribute to these head problems.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Thank you for that. Well, KP, are there any projects that you're working on these days? Got anything new under your belt?
Oh, mainly I'm teaching, and I'm teaching at every level from beginner to intermediate to professional. What I really like to do, of course, is to teach more advanced classes. I don't know where your audience is in that spectrum, but I've been doing this for a long time, and so I'm interested in working with the people at sort of that higher level of more experience, and also to talk about all these kinds of things like epilepsy and migraine that now we can do very well with. We're starting to do very well with Parkinson's disease, for example, and some of these things that are tough to treat, and we're now finally making some of those breakthroughs. So herbal medicine is really at a place where we're doing some remarkable kinds of things, so I'm excited about a lot of those things. Otherwise, it's just kind of the usual teaching clients, and sun goes up, sun goes down.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
And you are seeing clients right now?
I am, yeah.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. And I am subscribed to your newsletter, as I have been for many years, and I know you are teaching all the time in special topics as well, so I recommend the folks get on your newsletter, so they can hear about all of those class opportunities as well. Well, before we go, I have one last question for you, and this is a question I'm asking everybody in season five of the podcast. We may have already answered it, but the question is, in what ways do you feel like herbalism is misunderstood by the general public?
I think a lot of people think that herbalism is like Heidi in the Alps. You live with your grandfather in a cabin, pick herbs out in the meadows and dry them in the rafters, and there are some people that practice like that. But really what we're talking about is sophisticated clinical herbalism, and most clinical herbalists are not wildcrafters. Maybe we know a little bit here and there, but those are two separate professions. That's number one, also it's cognitive dissonance that people are willing to think of herbalism as being powerful and dangerous, and yet mild and ineffective, and both of those are true at some level, but we're trying to figure out and educate people about what the benefits are of herbal medicine at what level. So people are asking the advice of health food store clerks and just getting nonsense back.
So we have to get all this straightened out, and I think just the "where do I apply what?" Is the biggest misunderstanding. People are interested, but they're confused, and they expect things to be comfortable in the sense that nothing is ever going to taste bad, and that sort of thing. That's something that we have to get over. Yeah, a lot of these things that slowly we have to educate people about. We'll see where it all goes.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. Well, you have been doing an excellent job of teaching that for many years now, and I certainly continue to learn from you, and I'm so glad to have you here on the podcast. I really appreciate you taking the time to do it.
Yeah, thanks for having me, Rosalee, and good day to all of you out there in podcast land.
Rosalee de la Forêt:
Thanks for watching. Don't forget to click the link above this transcript to get free access to the handout about how to help a migraine from KP. You can find KP at Internationalintegrative.com, where you can find his online classes and long-distance consultations. If you enjoyed this interview, then before you go be sure to subscribe to my newsletter below, so you'll be the first to get my new videos, including interviews like this. I'd also love to hear your comments about this interview with KP and how to help a migraine. I deeply believe that this world needs more herbalists and plant-centered folks. I'm so glad that you're here as part of this herbal community. Have a beautiful day.
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Rosalee is an herbalist and author of the bestselling book Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients Into Foods & Remedies That Healand co-author of the bestselling book Wild Remedies: How to Forage Healing Foods and Craft Your Own Herbal Medicine. She's a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and has taught thousands of students through her online courses. Read about how Rosalee went from having a terminal illness to being a bestselling author in her full story here.