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Herbs for Migraines

Feverfew and butterbur are popular herbs that are commonly used to provide relief from migraines.

Written by Sandy Cho, MD and reviewed by Julie A. Cerrato, PhD

Herbs are commonly used to provide relief from migraines. Feverfew and butterbur are remedies for a migraine in either preventing them or reducing their severity. Seek the advice of a health professional to see if these treatments are right for you.

Feverfew

Feverfew is an herb with anti-inflammatory properties. A study shows that feverfew extract of 6.25 mg three times a day decreased migraine attacks by nearly half.

The primary active ingredient in feverfew can be found in some other plants such as artichoke, sunflower, lettuce, spinach, and ginkgo biloba.

Feverfew action appears to affect a wide variety of physiologic pathways. Some of these mechanisms include inhibition of prostaglandin synthesis, decrease of vascular smooth muscle spasm, and blockage of platelet granule secretion.

Feverfew supplements are available fresh, freeze-dried, or dried and can be purchased in capsule, tablet, or liquid extract forms.

Feverfew supplements with clinical studies contain a standardized dose of parthenolide. Feverfew supplements should be standardized to contain at least 0.2% parthenolide. Parthenolide is central to the biological effects of feverfew.

Butterbur

Butter (a.k.a. Petasites hybridus root) is an ancient plant which has been used for medical and edible purposes.

50-75 mg twice a day have demonstrated significant reduction in migraine frequency. The mechanism by which butterbur may reduce migraine includes inhibiting the inflammatory effect of chemicals like leukotrienes and prostaglandin E2 in the pain pathway.

Another mechanism of butterbur may be its ability to function as a natural beta blocker whose action results in the normal flow of blood to the brain. This helps control blood pressure and spasmodic capillary action, which can also contribute to the onset of migraine headaches.

When purchasing butterbur products, be sure to choose a brand labeled PA-Free. This means the product was processed to remove potentially harmful, toxic chemicals found in the butterbur plant known as pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA). The special butterbur extract is prepared by having all liver-toxic alkaloids removed.

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NINDS Migraine information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
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