Migraines and Herbal Options

Expert advice on herbal remedies for migraines and headaches.

Kelly Anne Spratt, D.O., Director of Women's Cardiovascular Health at the University of Pennsylvania Presbyterian Medical Center, answers your questions.

Q. Is there an herbal remedy for migraine headaches?

A. Migraines are common in the population, affecting as many as 25 percent of people, mainly women, at some time in their lives. Frequently, there is a familial trend as well. The best cure is prevention, eliminating as many triggers as possible. These triggers often include stress (and the period immediately after the stress), alcohol, fatigue, hunger, certain foods, and altitude changes. Some uncontrollable triggers include changes in barometric pressure and hormone levels.

Herbal supplements that can help prevent migraines include vitamin B2 (riboflavin), in a dose of 200mg twice daily. Magnesium supplements are also helpful in prevention of migraine. Caffeine, too, seems to help; however, withdrawal from caffeine (even for a day) may trigger a headache.

Certain oils in an aromatherapy essence can be helpful, including chamomile, lavender, marjoram, and cardamon. Herbs that may help alleviate a migraine include feverfew, Jamaican dogwood, lemon, and St. John's wort. Discuss using these with your doctor if you are taking any other medication, as some herbs and medications do not mix well together. Combining effective prevention measures with the use of vitamins and herbs may substantially reduce your headache rate.