Migraines: prevention with
herbal medications

When my patients suffer from migraines, I want to pull out all the stops. It hurts me to be a witness to such pain, and to hear stories of day after day lost to miserable headaches, nausea, light sensitivity, and the desperate wish just to go to sleep. I “feel the pain” not only as a doctor but as a husband, as my wife suffered from frequent severe migraine headaches until she was introduced to natural medicine solutions.

In fact, this would be a good time to publicly acknowledge that I can thank my wife Gail for being the one to open my mind and medical practice to holistic medicine in the first place. Always much more open minded than I, she insisted that I drop my arrogant doctor attitude and experience some remedies I never learned about in medical school. And the rest, as they say, is history.

So here we are talking about medicinal herbs for migraine headaches. And back to your concerns, if you are like my many patients who have come for natural relief. Let me say first that sometimes prescription medications are effective and reasonably safe, but I always prefer to start with the least toxic and most natural approach first. Let me introduce you then to two herbal medications that have a good track record for safety and effectiveness, feverfew and butterbur.

Feverfew leaf extract has been studied and found to reduce their frequency. The recommended dose of a standardized leaf extract is 50 to 100 mg per day. A good example of a reliable product is the Nature’s Way Feverfew Extract. It is most effective as a preventive and not to be used to relieve an ongoing headache.

Butterbur also has been researched and shown to reduce this type of headache frequency. It is most effective when taken daily as prevention, but is also worth a dose to relieve an acute severe headache at its onset. It is very important to take only the extract which is pyrrolizidine alkaloid free, as these natural toxins present in the butterbur plant (petasites hybridus) must be removed for safety. I recommend the Petadolex brand 50 mg three times daily. By the way, in addition to preventing headaches (generally expect to reduce frequency by about ½), butterbur helps relieve symptoms of allergic rhinitis.

Going beyond medicinal herbs, I have some other favorite approaches to migraine prevention as well. Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), 400 mg daily (for adults) has evidence for reducing their frequency, as does Magnesium, somewhere between 400 and 700 mg daily. My favorite however is not something you swallow! Clinical Hypnosis is a very effective tool for prevention, and completely safe, with lots of wonderful crossover benefits like improved sleep and reduced anxiety. I have used hypnosis with children and adults in my practice for years, and have loved watching the good results my patients get. Another holistic medicine approach which I have personally seen work well to prevent migraines is magnets for health.

So if you suffer from migraines, please consider these safe medicinal herbs first, and consult a physician with a holistic medicine approach to advise and guide you along the way.

To your health,


Robert Pendergrast, M.D.

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