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Herbal Supplements Better Than Drugs for Migraine

New research has revealed that butterbur, a natural herbal supplement, may be better at preventing migraines than several commonly-prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (frequently called NSAIDs).

Researchers analyzed 49 studies on migraine treatments performed from 1999 to 2009. They then rated the various treatments on their ability to prevent migraines. The research was part of new set of guidelines for treating migraines developed by the American Headache Society and the American Academy of Neurology.

The researchers concluded that among natural and over-the-counter preventative treatments, herbal supplements of butterbur were the most effective for preventing migraines. Taking supplements containing magnesium, feverfew, and riboflavin were also shown to be as effective as some drugs at preventing migraine occurrences. The researchers rated these supplements, along with NSAIDS like ibuprofen and naproxen, “probably effective” for preventing migraines.

Many treatments are available for migraine prevention. However, few patients actually take them. The journal Neurology has published research showing that while 38 percent of migraine sufferers would benefit from preventive medication, but only 3-13% use it. As a result, the American Academy of Neurology has placed a new emphasis on preventing in their new guidelines.

Preventive medications are taken daily to reduce the severity and frequency of migraines. Many of these treatments are available without a prescription. However, Stephen Silberstein of the AAN

says patients should consult their doctors to determine correct dosage to control their migraines. This can change, since migraines can become better or worse over time. Chiropractic care and regular exercise are two additional natural treatments that have been shown to reduce the severity and frequency of migraines.

Photo by Adam KR via Creative Commons.


Holland S, Silberstein S, Freitag F, et al. Evidence-based guideline update: NSAIDs and other complementary treatments for episodic migraine prevention in adults: Report of the quality standards subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society. Neurology 2012; 78 (17): 1346-1353.

Lipton RB, Bigal ME, Diamond M, Freitag F, et al. Migraine prevalence, disease burden, and the need for preventive therapy. Neurology 2007; 68(5): 343– 349.

New guidelines: treatments can help prevent migraine. American Academy of Neurology. Press Release. April 23, 2012. Accessed May 30,2012. http://www.aan.com/press/index.cfm?fuseaction=release.view&release=1062.