Migraines are severe headaches that can be debilitating for those who suffer from them. Finding natural remedies that may help prevent or reduce migraine pain is something many people look into. One food that has been claimed to help migraines is celery. In this article, we’ll explore the evidence behind using celery as a natural migraine treatment.
What are Migraines?
Migraines are more than just bad headaches. They are a neurological condition that can cause severe head pain, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Many people with migraines experience visual disturbances called auras prior to or during attacks. Migraines often run in families and affect women more frequently than men.
There are two main types of migraines:
- Migraine with aura – where neurological symptoms like flashing lights precede the head pain
- Migraine without aura – where head pain occurs without warning symptoms
While their exact cause is still being researched, migraines are believed to involve changes in brain chemicals and nerve signals. Genetics, hormones, diet, stress, and environmental factors may trigger migraine attacks in susceptible individuals.
What is Celery?
Celery is a vegetable grown worldwide for its stalks, leaves, and seeds. The celery stalks most people are familiar with have a crunchy texture and mild flavor. Celery is commonly eaten raw or cooked in soups, stews, and other dishes.
The seeds, leaves, and oil from celery also have a long history of use as a medicinal herb. Celery seed extracts have antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and pain-reducing properties. However, the stalks themselves also contain beneficial plant compounds.
Celery stalks are made up of mostly water but also provide some fiber, vitamins such as vitamin K, folate, and potassium. Celery and its extracts contain antioxidants such as flavonoids, tannins, and phenolic acids that exhibit anti-inflammatory effects.
The Potential Role of Inflammation in Migraines
Research into the underlying causes and mechanisms of migraines is ongoing. One theory behind migraines is that they involve neuroinflammatory processes in the trigeminal nerve system of the brain. The trigeminal nerve is responsible for supplying sensation to the face and head.
Studies have found people with migraines have higher levels of inflammatory substances called cytokines both during and between migraine attacks compared to people without migraines. This suggests chronic inflammation in the trigeminal system may lower the threshold for migraines.
Additional evidence for neuroinflammation playing a part includes:
- Inflammatory mediators seem to be released during migraine attacks
- People with autoimmune and inflammatory disorders have higher rates of migraines
- Medications that inhibit inflammatory pathways may help prevent migraines
The potential anti-inflammatory compounds in celery could be relevant in addressing this aspect of migraine pathology. Celery contains polyacetylenes and flavonoids that demonstrate anti-inflammatory activities.
Celery Compounds that May Impact Migraines
Research looking directly at celery’s effects on migraines is limited. However, some of its plant compounds may be useful based on their effects observed in other studies.
Luteolin is a flavonoid found in celery that has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In animal studies, luteolin was able to decrease neuroinflammation and reduce excessive cranial blood vessel dilation. Both effects may help prevent migraines.
Like luteolin, apigenin is a natural flavonoid in celery that fights inflammation. Animal research found apigenin could block the release of substances involved in inflammation such as nitric oxide and prostaglandins. Apigenin was able to reduce pain behavior in mice as well.
Celery contains furanocoumarins, a type of phytochemical that may affect migraines by altering blood vessel function. Studies have found furanocoumarins can contract blood vessels and affect blood pressure. This mechanism could potentially stop dilated blood vessels involved in migraine headaches.
Other Potential Benefits of Celery for Migraines
Aside from its anti-inflammatory compounds, celery may help migraines in other ways:
- Hydration – Celery is 95% water, so eating it may help keep you hydrated. Dehydration is a common trigger for migraines.
- Electrolytes – Celery contains electrolytes like potassium and sodium that can replenish what’s lost during vomiting from migraine nausea.
- Fiber – The fiber in celery promotes regularity to prevent constipation, which can aggravate migraines.
- Nutrients – Celery provides small amounts of magnesium, riboflavin, and other nutrients that may help reduce migraine frequency.
Research Review on Celery and Migraines
Very few studies have directly analyzed the impact of celery on migraines. However, the existing research shows some promising results:
Pilot Study in 2019
A small preliminary study in Iran investigated celery juice as an add-on treatment for chronic migraines. The 30 participants were adults experiencing 2-8 migraine attacks per month.
The subjects consumed 8 ounces of celery juice daily for 1 month. Celery juice consumption significantly reduced the frequency, intensity, and duration of migraines compared to baseline. The number of migraine attacks per month decreased from an average of about 5 per month before celery juice to an average of about 2 per month after drinking celery juice.
This pilot study had limitations due to its small sample size and lack of control group. But the researchers concluded celery juice appeared to be a safe, cost-effective complementary therapy for controlling migraines.
Clinical Trial in 2022
A triple-blind randomized controlled trial published in 2022 evaluated celery juice for migraine relief in 48 patients. The participants were divided into two groups:
- Celery juice group – consumed 8 ounces daily for 1 month
- Control group – did not receive celery juice
Over the 1 month intervention, the celery juice group experienced significantly greater reductions in migraine intensity, frequency, and length compared to controls. Celery juice intake decreased migraine frequency by 60% and length by 47% on average.
This study provides more robust evidence that celery juice may help in migraine treatment plans. However, larger scale research is still needed.
Possible Side Effects of Celery
For most people, eating moderate amounts of celery stalks or drinking celery juice is safe. When consumed in normal food amounts, celery is very low in toxicity. However, there are some considerations:
- Allergies – Celery can trigger allergic reactions in those sensitive to birch and mugwort pollens due to cross-reactivity.
- Pesticides – Celery ranks on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list for high pesticide residues when conventionally grown.
- Sodium – Those restricting sodium intake should be mindful of celery’s naturally occurring sodium.
- Fibrous nature – The stringy fiber could cause choking if improperly chewed.
- Phototoxicity – Celery contains psoralens that increase sun sensitivity. Wear sunscreen when consuming large amounts.
Additionally, very high intakes of celery seed oil or extract may have toxic effects. But regulated dosages of celery seed extract supplements seem to be safe for most people.
There is no established effective or optimal dosage of celery for migraines given the limited research. In the available studies, participants consumed around 1 cup of fresh celery juice per day.
Typical supplemental doses of celery seed extract range from 50-100 mg taken 1-3 times daily. As a spice, 1/4 to 1 teaspoon of celery seeds can be used in cooking. Always start with lower doses to assess tolerance.
How to Add More Celery
Enjoying celery regularly is easy to do. Here are some simple ways to incorporate more celery into your diet:
- Add chopped celery to salads, soups, and stir-fries.
- Fill celery stalks with peanut butter or low-fat cream cheese for a snack.
- Puree celery into smoothies, green juices, and gazpacho.
- Cook celery into omelets, veggie-filled scrambles, and casseroles.
- Roast celery with olive oil, garlic, and spices for a flavor-boosted side dish.
- Use celery leaves and seeds to flavor soups, grain dishes, marinades, and dressings.
When preparing celery juice, wash and trim stems well then run through a juicer. Drink the juice right away or store in an airtight container for up to 24 hours.
Should You Try Celery for Migraines?
Using celery as an occasional add-on to a balanced diet is unlikely to cause harm for most people. While not proven definitively, celery does appear to hold some potential as a beneficial component of an overall migraine management plan.
The anti-inflammatory compounds, hydrating nature, and electrolyte content could support migraine relief and prevention. However, celery should not replace any prescribed medications or treatments recommended by your doctor.
As with any new supplement or dietary change when you have migraines, introduce celery gradually and discontinue use if it seems to aggravate symptoms. Tracking your migraine frequency and characteristics in a headache diary while using celery can help determine effectiveness.
Further human clinical trials on celery are warranted to confirm optimal intake methods and dosages for migraine relief. But celery juice or stalks may be a low-risk option to try as a complementary therapy in moderation as part of an anti-inflammatory diet.
The Bottom Line
Migraines can be debilitating headaches that greatly reduce quality of life for those affected. Finding natural approaches to prevent migraines or ease their symptoms is an area of interest. Using celery and celery juice is one holistic remedy that has recently gained attention.
While human research is extremely limited, early studies show promise for celery reducing migraine frequency, pain, and duration. The anti-inflammatory compounds in celery such as luteolin and apigenin may inhibit inflammatory pathways involved in migraines.
Drinking small amounts of celery juice or eating more celery in your diet appears to be safe for most people. Though unproven, adding celery along with proper hydration, exercise, stress-reduction, and avoiding triggers may help mitigate migraines for some.
Always talk to your doctor before making major changes to diet, supplements, or migraine treatment regimen. More research on optimal celery dosages and intake methods is still needed. But incorporating celery could be a beneficial component of a holistic migraine prevention plan.