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One Herbal Remedy Helps Prevent Migraine

Herb prevents migraine

Numerous prescription medications are recommended for the prevention and treatment of migraine, but many migraine sufferers would like to have a natural preventive or treatment option a well. A new review and several previous studies indicate there is one herbal remedy that helps prevent migraine, and you may have never heard of it.

Which herb can help migraine?

In a new report published in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, the reviewers explain the findings regarding alternative/complementary prevention and treatment options for migraine. The verdict: “Petasites is established to be effective in migraine prevention.”

Petasties hybridus is better known as common butterbur, a plant that belongs to the daisy family, Asteraceae. The Native Americans valued butterbur for its ability to relieve headache and inflammation, and today it is used for these purposes as well as for allergy relief.

Substances in butterbur that are believed to have healing properties include petasin and isopetasin. These plant chemicals are mostly found in the roots or rhizomes of the plant.

Butterbur also contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which have toxic qualities. Therefore, anyone who wants to use butterbur supplements should get those certified to be free of these alkaloids.

Butterbur studies
Two randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical studies have shown butterbur to be effective in the prevention of migraine. One study involved 60 patients who received either a butterbur extract (two 25 mg capsules twice daily) or placebo for 12 weeks.

Compared with before the study, migraine attack frequency declined by 60 percent among those who took butterbur compared to placebo. Use of butterbur was “exceptionally well tolerated,” and the authors concluded that the herb has value as a preventive treatment for migraine.

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The second study compared two different doses of butterbur and placebo in 245 patients with migraine. The participants were randomly assigned to take either 75 mg twice daily, 50 mg twice daily, or placebo over a four-month period.

Over the period of the trial, the researchers found that:

  • Subjects who took 75 mg butterbur experienced a 48 percent reduction in migraine frequency
  • Subjects in the 50 mg group reported a 36 percent reduction
  • Participants assigned to the placebo group had a 26 percent reduction in migraine frequency
  • The proportion of subjects who experienced at least a 50 percent reduction in migraine frequency was 68 percent among those who took 75 mg twice daily and 49 percent among those taking placebo

The authors concluded that taking 75 mg butterbur twice daily was more effective than placebo in preventing migraine. Burping was a side effect possibly associated with the use of butterbur in this study.

Other migraine preventive options
Migraine affects an estimated 18 percent of women and 6 percent of men in the United States. According to the reviewers, although only 3 to 13 percent of migraineurs take some type of preventive therapy, about 38 percent actually need one.

Among the over-the-counter and prescription drugs typically recommended to help prevent migraine are antiepileptic drugs (e.g., divalproex sodium/sodium valproate, topiramate), beta and calcium channel blockers (e.g., propranolol, verapamil), several types of antidepressants (e.g., amitriptyline, venlafaxine), some antihypertensives (e.g., lisinopril, candesartan), several of the triptans, onabotulinumtoxin A (Botox), and various nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

In addition to butterbur, researchers have conducted studies on coenzyme Q10, magnesium, MIG-99 (a purified feverfew parthenolide), estrogen, hyperbaric oxygen, riboflavin, and a combination of soy isoflavones, dong quai, and black cohosh. All of these alternative preventive therapies, with the exception of MIG-99 and hyperbaric oxygen, were rated as “possibly” or “probably” effective by the reviewers.

If you suffer with migraine and want to consider a non-drug prevention option, butterbur may be a reliable choice. Consult your healthcare provider about using butterbur as an herbal remedy to help prevent migraine attacks.

Estemalik E, Tepper S. Preventive treatment in migraine and the new US guidelines. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment 2013 May; 9:709-20
Grossman, W, Schmidramsl H. An extract of Petasites hybridus is effective in the prophylaxis of migraine. Alternative Medicine Review 2001 Jun; 6(3): 303-10
Lipton RB et al. Petasites hybridus root (butterbur) is an effective preventive treatment for migraine. Neurology 2004 Dec 28; 63(12): 2240-44

Image: Wikimedia Commons