Everyone knows the familiar pain of a simple headache, but in the United States, nearly 36 million people—many of them children—suffer from migraines. Migraines can be debilitating, ranking in the top 20 of medical illnesses that cause disability. They can also run in families and tend to peak during a person’s most productive years as a worker and a parent (ages 25 to 55). In addition, about 10% of school-age children report migraine pain.
The common triggers—among them loud noises, hormonal changes, and weather—are often unavoidable and make prevention difficult. Complicating factors such as overuse of traditional prescription migraine medications make migraines even harder to prevent and, eventually, to treat.
But there is hope for a more natural prevention of migraines: research is proving the efficacy of 50–150 mg of daily butterbur in reducing the number of migraines a person experiences. Butterbur is a member of the daisy family and is used as an extract. The anti-convulsive and anti-inflammatory properties of the herb help relax cerebral blood vessel walls and may also inhibit cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) activity which helps to quiet and calm the pain receptors in the brain, thus offering relief.
In two double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled studies (Diener, et al and Lipton, et al), an average of 83% of participants experienced an average of 54% reduction in migraines in two months. A separate study under the same conditions for children and adolescents utilized butterbur in amounts ranging from 25–150 mg depending on age and size of the participant and experienced similar results: 85.7% of children (six to nine years of age) and 74.1% of adolescents reduced their attacks by at least 50%.
The efficacy of butterbur in reducing the number of migraines per month is good news for sufferers who want a more holistic option for pain prevention and management. Some other holistic, non-prescription strategies include:
- Practicing stress management, including yoga, biofeedback, and other relaxation techniques
- Recording migraines, including when they occur, foods eaten that day, and the other events leading up to them
- Limiting intake of caffeine
- Getting plenty of rest and regular exercise
What strategies have helped you reduce the number of migraines (and their length) every month?
Image by Magnus Hagdorn via Flickr