Natural Agents Offer Relief from the Misery of Migraines
By Romy Fox
Why feverfew helps prevent migraines remains unknown. Some researchers attribute the herb’s anti-migraine properties to its parthenolide, which may hinder the inflammatory process,19 or to the release of serotonin from certain white blood cells and platelets, which in turn can reduce the frequency and severity of migraines by keeping the blood vessels properly toned.20 Other substances in feverfew may interfere with the actions of arachidonic acid and histamine, which can contribute to migraine pain and other symptoms.21
Feverfew has been approved in Britain and Canada as a treatment for migraines, with a generally recommended dose of 100 mg per day.
Butterbur for Migraines
A standardized extract of butterbur called Petadolex® was used in two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies to test whether butterbur could prevent migraines. In the first study, 60 migraineurs were divided into two groups. For 12 weeks, one group received 100 mg of Petadolex® a day, the other a placebo. By the end of the first month, those taking the butterbur extract reported significantly fewer migraine headaches compared to those taking the placebo. By the third month, the butterbur group had 60% fewer migraine attacks than did the control group. Migraine-related symptoms also were reduced, and no significant side effects were reported among those taking the Petadolex®.
The second study, involving 233 migraineurs, produced equally encouraging results.22 The volunteers received either 100 mg of Petadolex®, 150 mg of Petadolex®, or a placebo every day for 16 weeks. Those taking 150 mg of Petadolex® daily saw significantly fewer migraines compared to the placebo group, with mild gastrointestinal problems being the only reported side effect. The study results suggest that 75 mg of butterbur extract taken twice a day with food may be the optimal dosage.
Other Intriguing Therapies
Glucosamine. Doctors at Canada’s Brampton Pain Clinic studied 10 people. All suffered migraines or migraine-like headaches and none had been helped by previous standard treatments.23 After they took glucosamine for 4-6 weeks, the volunteers reported a drop in the number and intensity of migraines. The researchers theorize that glucosamine works through white blood cells called mast cells to boost the production of heparin, which helps to reduce blood clotting, thus reducing nerve-mediated inflammation and pain. How much glucosamine is required to prevent migraines is unknown, but the therapeutic dose may be similar to that used to treat osteoarthritis (approximately 1,800 mg per day).
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). This vitamin-like substance may aid migraineurs by stimulating the mitochondria to produce more energy. A 2002 study published in the journal Cephalgia reported on 32 migraine patients treated with a daily dose of 150 mg of CoQ10 for four months.24 By the study’s end, the average number of migraine attacks per month fell from 4.85 to 2.81, and CoQ10 did not trigger any reported side effects. If the results of this preliminary study are confirmed by double-blind studies, 150 mg per day of CoQ10 may become the recommended dose.
Melatonin. Secreted by the pineal gland at night to aid in sleep, this hormone also may play a role in the genesis of migraines. French researchers noted abnormal melatonin levels in the blood of four of six women who suffer from migraines (compared to nine healthy people serving as controls).25 The scientists theorized that problems with the pineal gland may be responsible for migraines in some people, thus explaining why melatonin may help reduce the incidence of migraines.
According to the American Migraine Study II conducted by the National Headache Found-ation, migraine headaches are underdiagnosed and undertreat-ed.26 Despite new understanding of the disease and new “medications designed specifically for the treatment of migraine, many patients continue to experience needless pain and disability,” the study reported.
Some 28 million Americans suffer migraines, which means you can find a migraineur in one of every four households. While standard medications are helpful, millions may find additional relief in natural, readily available substances such as magnesium, riboflavin, feverfew, butterbur, glucosamine, CoQ10, and melatonin.
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