A guide to herbs for headaches – Disease Prevention – Health & Nutrition – Homemakers
A guide to herbs for headaches
How it works: Butterbur’s active ingredients, petasin and isopetasin, can supposedly calm inflammation and muscle spasms.
Evidence: A couple of clinical trials are positive, but not definitive.
Side-effects: Mild gastrointestinal upset. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA), organic compounds that contaminate certain plants, are toxic to the liver. Take only PA-free extract.
How it works: Feverfew’s active compound, parthenolide, is believed to relieve muscle spasms, keep blood vessels from constricting and hinder inflammation.
Evidence: Clinical trials have had mixed results, but some show it helped.
Side-effects: Mild canker sores, allergic reactions and loss of the sense of taste are possible. Stopping long-term use could result in headaches and joint pain, occasional gastrointestinal upset and nervousness.
(an amino acid from the Griffonia plant)
How it works: Helps balance levels of serotonin, a chemical in the brain associated with sleep, mood and migraines.
Evidence: A couple of studies suggest migraineurs may be able to reduce their use of normal pain-relieving meds.
Side-effects: Mild stomach problems, such as nausea and indigestion.
How it works: Contains salicin, a chemical similar to the one in acetylsalicylic acid.
Evidence: Never been investigated for headaches per se, but has been used for centuries to relieve inflammation.
Side-effects: Can possibly cause gastrointestinal irritation and ulcers. Too much can cause skin rash, nausea and kidney inflammation.
How it works: A natural tranquilizer, its sedating property also helps relax muscles and relieve tension and anxiety.
Evidence: Little scientific evidence, though its medicinal use dates back to ancient Greece and Rome.
Side-effects: Mild side-effects (including headaches!) the morning after.
How it works: Its antispasmodic and mild sedative properties relax tense muscles, especially in the back.
Evidence: Little scientific evidence.
Side-effects: Skin irritation from topical use. Ingested oil may be poisonous.
How it works: Because the menthol in peppermint has a numbing effect, applying bruised fresh leaves or peppermint oil to the forehead may reduce pain.
Evidence: Little scientific evidence; studies so far have found no concrete proof of its benefits.
Side-effects: Heartburn, if ingested. Allergic reactions.
How it works: Relaxes the muscles in the head and neck, as well as along the arteries.
Evidence: Limited clinical testing has been done, so there is little, if any, evidence.
Side-effects: Rare allergic reactions.