How do you know if your headache is a migraine? Trust a migraine sufferer to know immediately the difference between a little tension after a long day and a full-blown episode.
Triggers vary for every person and can include everything from monthly menstrual headaches, to food allergies/intolerances, stress and fatigue, muscle tension in the neck and shoulders, and a past head injury.
The American Headache Society and American Academy of Neurology have released their 2012 recommendations as to appropriate therapies for those who experience episodic migraines.
These guidelines are divided into three categories, established as effective, probably effective and possibly effective. While medications, of course, rule supreme as primary therapies, there are a few well-studied natural alternatives that made the lists.
In the top category that is "established as effective", the herb Petasites, otherwise known as butterbur, is suggested at a studied dose of 50-75mg taken twice per day.
The active ingredients, petasin and isopetasin are found in highest concentrations in the root of the plant, therefore make sure you search for butterbur root and not leaf (or mixed parts). Also make sure you buy it free from pyrrolizidine alkaloids which can be toxic to your liver.
Next, the "probably effective" category lists the herb Tanacetum parthenium, known more popularly as feverfew. Taken at doses of 50-300mg twice per day (and often mixed with butterbur for improved benefit), feverfew has a long history of success with migraine relief.
However those with ragweed or pollen allergies should take warning as you may be allergic to feverfew too. Although the reports for this are minimal, you may want to consider trying it during your non-allergy season to be safe.
Within the same "probably effective" category is the vitamin, riboflavin, or vitamin B2, at 400mg per day. This water soluble vitamin is commonly a part of multi-vitamins and B-complex mixtures but not at the appropriate amount for migraines. Therefore it commonly requires additional supplementation.
Even better, there is no known toxicity for vitamin B2, however B vitamins (when in a complex) can cause nausea if taken on an empty stomach.
Lastly in the "possibly effective" category resides Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) at 300mg per day. CoQ10 is commonly supplemented by those on the cholesterol medications known as statins because they deplete the natural CoQ10 production in the body, as well as cholesterol.
A powerful antioxidant and important step in energy production by mitochondria, CoQ10 is fat soluble and therefore should be taken with oil or fat and not on an empty stomach.
As usual, quality counts when it comes to herbs and vitamins so make sure you are getting yours from a reputable source.
Also, talk with your health care provider about these as safe options to try and approved by both the AHS and AAN groups and continue to avoid or eliminate your known triggers to stay migraine-free.
1) 2012 AHS/AAN Guidelines for Prevention of Episodic Migraine: Results. Web. 1 July, 2012.
2) Feverfew. Web. 1 July, 2012.
3) Riboflavin. Web. 1 July, 2012.
4) Coenzyme Q10. Web. 1 July, 2012.
Reviewed July 2, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith