Mythbusters: Migraine Remedies
Investigating alternative migraine treatment methods to see which ones are worth trying
One internet search will provide endless advice about alternative medical approaches, especially when it comes to migraine treatment. From vitamins to homeopathic remedies, exercises, and essential oils, there are many migraine solutions, and everyone swears that their solution works. But with all the clutter on the internet, you have a right to proceed with caution. To help you cut through the noise, we investigated some of the most common alternative migraine treatments to see which ones held water.
Alternative Migraine Remedies
Magnesium: Found in many greens, nuts seeds and grains, magnesium is a nutraceutical, a mineral or vitamin supplement, that has been found to help reduce migraine frequency. Studies suggest magnesium supplementation can be helpful for migraine with aura and menstrual-related migraine. In fact, both the AAN and Canadian guidelines recommend its use for migraine prevention, either as oral magnesium citrate 400-600 mg daily or by eating more magnesium rich foods. Doctor Says: Effective
Butterbur: Butterbur, a shrub generally taken in oral form, comes up regularly in migraine circles as an effective migraine treatment method—and studies support that it is effective for prevention in some patients. However, due to a rare but serious risk of liver toxicity, it has been removed from the market in some countries, and many headache experts in the US have stopped recommending its use. Doctor Says: Effective, but proceed with caution and know the risks
Essential Oils: A small bottle of lavender can help you to relax (although not in a medical fashion) and can be very pleasant as well. In a common pyramid scheme, however, consumers are sold an entire set of essential oils, assured that they can “treat” a plethora of ailments, and are sometimes encouraged to use essential oils instead of medicine. While one or two oils might smell nice, there’s no need to purchase an entire set, and they should not be substituted for medicine. Doctor says: Not effective
Homeopathic Migraine Treatment: The homeopathic theory says that if you take a miniscule amount of an element that causes symptoms like the symptoms that you are experiencing, your body will repair itself. Examples of this could be belladonna and other poisonous herbal substances. Tests have never proven homeopathy to work, and Britain is considering banning homeopathy from its National Health Service. Doctor says: Not effective
Cream of Tartar: This popular baking ingredient often makes the rounds on social media with people claiming that putting a little under your tongue can abort a migraine attack. One reason that people believe this claim is that tartaric acid is present in dihydroergotamine, a proven migraine treatment. However, tartaric acid is not the active ingredient in dihydroergotamine and there is no scientific evidence to prove that it prevents headache or migraine. Doctor says: Not effective
Acupuncture for Migraine: Many mainstream doctors and clinics are now using acupuncture, which originated in China thousands of years ago, as a complementary medicine, to support other treatments. Studies have shown that acupuncture can be effective in fighting chronic pain, like migraine. Many doctors work with and recommend acupuncturists, especially because it is minimally invasive and can garner results for migraine patients, but it’s important to do your research and sure acupuncture is right for you. Doctor Says: Could be effective
Remember, every person responds to treatment differently, so please make sure to consult a doctor before adopting any new migraine remedies.
The American Migraine Foundation is committed to improving the lives of those living with this debilitating disease. For more of the latest news and information on migraine, visit the AMF Resource Library. For help finding a healthcare provider, check out our Find a Doctor tool. Together, we are as relentless as migraine.
Reviewed for accuracy by the American Migraine Foundation’s subject matter experts, headache specialists and medical advisers with deep knowledge and training in headache medicine. Click here to read about our editorial board members.