Migraines, though not considered a serious illness, can nevertheless be debilitating. It can be very difficult to do anything but lie in bed when this type of headache pain strikes. Although some over-the-counter pain drugs may offer some pain relief in the short term, it’s worth considering some herbal remedies and other natural cures that may help stave off migraine symptoms over the long term.
A recent clinical trial has provided updated recommendations for the preventive treatment of migraine headaches. A team of researchers looked at both anti-inflammatory drugs (or NSAIDs) and complementary treatments thought to be effective for migraine prevention.
The researchers analyzed published studies from June 1999 to May 2009 using a review process to classify the evidence in terms of effectiveness of various medications for migraine prevention. In all, they reviewed 284 abstracts, which ultimately yielded 49 articles on migraine prevention. Of these 49, 15 were classified as involving non-traditional therapies, NSAIDs, and other complementary therapies.
The research team found that there was one herb that showed more positive evidence than any other: butterbur. In fact, the researchers stated that butterbur is effective for migraine prevention and should be offered to patients with migraine to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks.
Not familiar with butterbur? Butterbur root is a shrub-like plant in the daisy family, native to Europe, North Africa, and Southwestern Asia. Although not well-known in North America, extracts made from it have been used to treat migraines in Europe for decades.
One cautionary note about the herb: there are naturally occurring chemicals in butterbur called “pyrrolizidine alkaloids.” These alkaloids are toxic to the liver and must be processed out to make any butterbur supplement safe. Make sure you take a commercial brand that is purified to contain no detectable levels of alkaloids.
For another alternative approach to preventing migraines, read the article How to Avoid Food-triggered Migraines.