A migraine headache is defined as a painful intense throbbing or pulsing sensation generally located in one area of the head. Migraine headaches can cause nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. These painful debilitating headaches can last for hours or even days. Some severe types of migraine headaches known as “aura” migraines can be accompanied by flashes of light, blind spots, or tingling in your arms or legs. Individuals inflicted with aura migraines are more at risk for cardiovascular disease.
Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical drugs designed to treat migraine headaches can create chronic migraine conditions that only prolong suffering. Scientific research in Germany has concluded that a standardized herbal extract of butterbur can help diminish the frequency of migraine headaches by as much as 50%.
Butterbur root extract works by relaxing the smooth muscle lining of the cerebral blood vessel walls. This powerfully medicinal herb also contains compounds that prevent blood vessel inflammation. Butterbur also helps allergies and asthma due to it’s potent anti-inflammatory qualities. The normal dose of butterbur extract for migraines is 50 to 75mg twice daily for four months. Allergy and asthma sufferers can find relief with 50mg of butterbur twice daily while symptoms persist. Butterbur standardized extract is available by prescription in Germany and in most health food stores in the United States.
If you have migraine headaches, asthma, or allergies butterbur is definitely worth it’s weight in gold..Give it a try!
Every year, nearly a million people in the United States end up in the emergency room seeking relief from debilitating migraine pain.1 Severe migraine headaches remain an unresolved medical issue for millions of people despite the availability of powerful drugs and specialty migraine clinics.
For most people, taming their migraines is an ongoing series of trial and error events using various medications and stress-reduction therapies. For some, however, the very drugs taken to resolve migraine may actually create a chronic migraine condition.2 Alarming studies have even shown that those who suffer from a certain type of migraine are at risk for life-threatening cardiovascular disease.3
Given the severity of the problem, alternative methods are urgently needed to deal with this serious health issue. Clinical studies from Germany have positively confirmed that an herbal extract known as butterbur (Petasites hybridus) may cut the frequency of migraine headaches by up to 50% in long-term migraine sufferers.4-7 Sadly, many Americans still remain unaware of this unique supplement, which has been shown to be as effective as many prescription medications in preventing migraine with far fewer side effects.
Migraines versus Headaches
Migraines are distinguished from everyday headaches such as tension headaches by their intensity and duration. “The typical headache of migraine is throbbing or pulsatile,” notes Jasvinder Chawla, MBBS, MD, assistant professor of neurology at the Loyola University of Chicago. The pain usually starts on one side of the head, becoming more generalized, and typically lasts from several hours to a day, Dr. Chawla adds. Pain intensity may be moderate to severe and aggravated by physical activity, prompting the patient to remain still as it intensifies.8
Migraine episodes are often accompanied by dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. The patient may also be very sensitive to light, often experiencing neurological effects known as “aura” that precede the headache by as much as an hour.9 These effects produce visual symptoms such as flashing lights, bright spots, blind spots, and blurry vision.10-12 Even in the absence of aura, many sufferers go through a “prodrome” or preliminary period in which feelings of elation or intense energy, craving for sweets, thirst, drowsiness, irritability, or depression serve as a warning that a migraine is on the way.11
A specialized extract of butterbur root extract has demonstrated impressive efficacy in preventing migraine headaches. Used in Germany as a prescription remedy, this plant extract can reduce the frequency of migraine by 50% when used daily for three to four months.
Scientists believe that butterbur works by promoting the relaxation of smooth muscle lining cerebral blood vessel walls and by combating inflammation.
Butterbur also demonstrates efficacy in managing seasonal allergies and asthma.
A dosage of 50-75 mg of standardized butterbur extract twice daily for up to four months has demonstrated efficacy in migraine prevention, while 50 mg twice daily has been used in the management of allergic rhinitis.17
Research indicates that abnormal electrical changes across the brain can help trigger migraine. These changes may be linked with low levels of magnesium and high levels of calcium and glutamate.13 First, there is a wave of neuronal excitation that is followed by a wave of depression in a phenomenon known as cortical spreading depression. These changes in electrical activity passing through nerve cells stimulate the release of peptides and other proinflammatory substances that irritate nerves causing pain particularly in the trigeminal system, which conveys sensory information for the face and much of the head.8,13
When migraine strikes, conventional physicians often recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or aspirin. When these over-the-counter remedies are not enough, doctors often prescribe medications such as Imitrex®. These drugs are not risk-free. Common side-effects include nausea, dizziness, muscle weakness, and even a slightly elevated risk of stroke or heart attack.11 Drowsiness and rapid heart rate are commonly reported with Imitrex®-like drugs and up to 40% of people experience headache recurrence within 24 hours after taking them.14
While prescription medications can relieve acute migraine pain, their excessive use (generally considered as more than two to three days a week on a regular basis) can increase susceptibility to chronic headaches. The result is a tightening spiral of dependency on pain medications.2,9 This is where migraine-prevention strategies-both prescription and natural-can play an important role in breaking the cycle of pain.
Butterbur extract has a broad spectrum of action that can help alleviate hay fever and allergies-without the troublesome side effects of conventional allergy medications.
A large open-label study in 508 patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis who supplemented with butterbur extract for two weeks found that 90% of participants reported improvements in symptoms such as sneezing, nasal congestion, watery eyes, itchy eyes and nose, and red eyes.30
Butterbur may also be useful for patients suffering from asthma.17,31 In an open-label trial, 64 adults and 16 children who suffered from asthma consumed butterbur extract for two months. The subjects were allowed to continue conventional asthma medicines as needed. In response to butterbur treatment, asthma attacks became less frequent, less severe, and shorter in duration. Additionally, measures of breathing capacity improved, and 40% of patients were able to reduce their intake of asthma medications.31
In addition, doctors often need to try many of these drugs on a trial-and-error basis to find one that is tolerable and effective, a process that can take months or even years. Clearly, a safer and better approach to migraine prevention is greatly needed.
The Natural Alternative: Butterbur
Studies suggest that a standardized extract of butterbur (Petasites hybridus) is a powerful migraine-preventive agent.4,16 Butterbur has been used for more than 2,000 years for conditions ranging from gastric disorders to allergies.16-19 A specialized butterbur root extract has been available in Germany as a prescription remedy since 1988. More than half a million German citizens have used this remarkable plant extract for health concerns such as migraine prevention and allergies.18 The good news is that this standardized butterbur extract is now also readily available in the United States as a dietary supplement.
Butterbur’s headache-preventive capabilities likely stem from its anti-inflammatory and spasmolytic (muscle-relaxant) effects.17 It contains active components known as isopetasin, oxopetasin, and petasin, which induce smooth muscle relaxation, particularly in cerebral blood vessel walls. Research indicates that petasin inhibits the proinflammatory lipoxygenase (LOX) enzyme, while both petasin and isopetasin exert highly potent anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting leukotriene synthesis.
Preventing Migraine With Butterbur: the Evidence
The earliest evidence of butterbur’s migraine-preventive power came from a small study conducted in Germany comprising 60 patients, in which a group of 33 adults took 50 mg of standardized butterbur extract twice daily and the remaining group took placebo.16
At the study’s onset, the participants suffered an average of 3.3 migraines each month. After four weeks of treatment, those who supplemented with butterbur averaged just 1.8 migraines per month. After eight weeks, they suffered only 1.3 migraines per month-a 61% decrease. At 12 weeks, the butterbur recipients reported an average of 1.7 migraine attacks per month-a 49% decrease. The total number of headache days per month fell from 3.4 to 1.7 days by the study’s end.16
The results achieved by taking 50-75 mg of standardized butterbur extract twice a day are comparable to the observed benefits of prescription migraine-preventive medications. The added benefit of butterbur is that its safety is far superior to such drugs.4,16
Fortunately, butterbur extract shows impressive migraine-preventive effects in children as well as adults. A multicenter, prospective, open-label study examined the migraine-preventive effects of butterbur extract in 108 children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 17 years who had suffered migraines for at least one year before the study’s onset.7
The participants supplemented with 50-150 mg of standardized butterbur extract, depending on age, for four months. A remarkable 77% reported that the frequency of their migraine attacks decreased by at least 50%. In those who benefitted, attack frequency was reduced by 63%. In addition, butterbur was also well tolerated.7
Migraine With Aura Linked with Increased Cardiovascular Risk
Women over 45 have about twice the normal risk of major cardiovascular disease if they experience frequent migraine headaches preceded by “aura.”3 These so-called aura usually consist of visual effects, such as flashes of light or blurred vision, which are experienced by about one-third of migraine sufferers.
Individuals prone to migraine with aura tend to have detrimental cardiovascular risk factor profiles as well as a genetic susceptibility to elevated homocysteine levels-a significant cardiovascular risk factor.3 The powerful link between migraine with aura, heart disease, and stroke risk highlights the importance of aggressive preventive cardiovascular care in this patient population.
A dosage of 50-75 mg of standardized butterbur extract twice daily for up to four months has demonstrated efficacy in migraine prevention,17 while 50 mg twice daily has been used in the management of allergic rhinitis.17No instances of overdose with butterbur have been reported in the scientific literature,17 but anyone who has a known allergy to plants in the Asteraceae family, such as ragweed or daisies, should consume butterbur with caution.
Obtaining a correct diagnosis is essential for remedying your headaches. A physician can evaluate if sinus pain is truly due to sinus infection or if migraine may be the culprit.Conclusion
Individuals with a history of migraine headaches now have a powerful, clinically proven alternative to risky, high-cost pharmaceutical treatments. Already widely used in Europe to minimize debilitating headaches, butterbur extract-combined with riboflavin and ginger-may also help Americans free themselves from the crippling grasp of recurrent migraines.
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