A migraine can strike at any time…but it’s sad to say, they become more common around the holidays. Fortunately, herbal remedies can help.
Feverfew has long been known as an alternative treatment for migraine headaches. But another, lesser-known herb–butterbur–made history in 2012 by gaining recognition from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) as an effective migraine therapy.
This year, the AAN reviewed all the studies for alternative migraine treatments published between June 1999 and May 2007. Butterbur (Petasites hybridis) stood out as an effective alternative to prescription drugs. And, given all the clinical research on butterbur, the AAN’s announcement is well-deserved.
Several clinical trials published over the last 10 years prove that butterbur can help patients who get migraines on a regular basis. In fact, in many of these trials, patients who took butterbur root extract reduced the frequency of their migraines by up to 50 percent.
Beyond butterbur extracts, experts reviewed other alternatives such as Co-enzyme Q10, magnesium, and hyperbaric oxygen as treatments. In addition, they reviewed Papaverine (a derivative of the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum). Papaverine affects blood circulation in the brain, which is a key factor in migraine headaches. Not surprisingly, Papaverine also works extremely well as a pain reliever.
In the AAN report, the neurologists acknowledged that non-prescription drugs are important for many migraine patients.
This is a big step for the AAN. It’s important to migraine sufferers too because standard migraine drugs can cause serious side effects. And, in too many cases, the drugs just don’t help! In fact, in severe cases, the very drugs prescribed to treat the migraine can lead to chronic, unremitting headaches that never go away.
While doctors still don’t know what causes migraines, many theories focus on the importance of circulation through the blood vessels in the brain.
Scientists are indeed finding that several things can influence this blood flow. Many now believe that body temperature and blood pressure can affect blood flow. In addition, hot flashes in post-menopausal women can also restrict blood flow. This is important as migraines are three times more common in women than men.
In addition, your mind and emotions have a strong influence on blood flow. Recent studies from the University of Tilberg, Netherlands, show that participating in group activities increases blood flow and produces warmth. On the other hand, exclusion from group activities and feelings of isolation can decrease blood flow and lower body temperature. But try holding a warm cup of coffee, tea, or herbal infusion. Doing this can actually help reverse the emotional, as well as physical, effects of exclusion and isolation.
So here’s the good news for the New Year…
If you suffer from migraines, you have a lot of options, even beyond feverfew and butterbur. Mind-body therapies such as relaxation, biofeedback, and guided imagery all influence blood flow and may be helpful for controlling migraines. For more information about mind-body treatments for migraine and what will work best for you, see my book Your Emotional Type.
The AAN’s recommendation has me thinking that change is possible among mainstream doctors. After all, this isn’t the first time a U.S. medical association is recommending natural remedies for an illness or disorder. So perhaps in the coming years we will see more inroads through the blockades put up by the modern academic-government-industrial-medical complex. Here’s hoping.
Holland S, Silberstein SD, Freitag F, Dodick DW, Argoff C, Ashman E. “Evidence-based guideline update: NSAIDs and other complementary treatments for episodic migraine prevention in adults: report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society.” Neurology. 2012:78;1346-1353.
Lipton RB, Gobel H, Einhaupl KM, Wilks K, Mauskop A. “Petasites hybridus root (butterbur) is an effective preventive treatment for migraine.” Neurology. 2004 Dec 28;63(12):2240-4.
Grossmann M, Schmidramsl H. “An extract of Petasites hybridus is effective in the prophylaxis of migraine.” Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2000 Sep;38(9):430-5.
Diener HC, Rahlfs VW, Danesch U. The first placebo-controlled trial of a special butterbur root extract for the prevention of migraine: reanalysis of efficacy criteria. Eur Neurol. 2004;51(2):89-97.
Pothmann R, Danesch U. Migraine prevention in children and adolescents: results of an open study with a special butterbur root extract. Headache. 2005 Mar;45(3):196-203.