I'm Happy I Can Eliminate an Acute Migraine Headache, but How Can I Prevent Them?
Fortunately, natural remedies are even more effective than medications in preventing migraines. They may take up to 3 months to start working, however, so the above medications can be used while you're waiting for the natural preventives to take effect. Magnesium by mouth has been found to be effective for migraine prevention and is as effective as Elavil®. Magnesium serves in an enormous number of functions in the body, including the relaxation of muscles and arteries. Most Americans get nowhere near the optimum amount of magnesium in their diet, getting less than 250 mg a day as opposed to the 650 mg that the average Chinese diet supplies. Blood testing to check magnesium levels are horribly unreliable and may not detect magnesium deficiency until it is severe.
A leading authority on natural prevention of migraine headaches is Dr. Alexander Mauskop, author of What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about Migraines. As discussed above, in 1995 Dr. Mauskop published a study showing that intravenous magnesium could abort a migraine headache. He also found that intravenous magnesium could knock out other types of headaches as well. This powerful data spurred researchers to see whether magnesium could also prevent migraines. As noted above, the answer was yes. In one German placebo-controlled study patients were given 600 mg of magnesium daily for 12 weeks or a placebo; there was a significant drop in migraine frequency in the magnesium group. Another study shows similar effects in women with menstrual migraine. It is a good idea for most migraine patients to take 150 to 200 mg of magnesium in the morning (present in the Energy Revitalization System vitamin powder from Enzymatic Therapy) and again with dinner or at bedtime (less if diarrhea is a problem).
Riboflavin (vitamin B2) assists in the production of energy. In one study, migraine patients were given riboflavin 400 mg with breakfast every day for at least 3 months. By the end of the study they had a 67 percent decrease in migraine attacks as well as a decrease in attack severity. This was later repeated in a placebo-controlled study. Note that it can take 3 months for the riboflavin to start working.
Vitamin B12 can also decrease migraine frequency. In one study in which patients received 1000 micrograms a day as a nasal spray, migraine frequencies decreased by an average of 43 percent after 3 months (the vitamin powder/B-complex contains 500 micrograms a day).
Feverfew is another helpful herb for migraine prevention. Using feverfew has resulted in a significant reduction in migraines in one-third of patients. It was also found to be very safe.
Butterbur is a shrub which grows in Europe, Asia, and Africa. A standardized extract called Petadolex® was used in two double-blind studies. By the third month, those receiving active treatment with 100 mg a day had 60 percent fewer migraine attacks than the control group. Although 100 mg a day is effective, 75 mg twice a day with food may be the optimal dose.
Fish oil has also been found to decrease the frequency of migraines. In two placebo-controlled studies of patients with frequent severe migraines that did not respond to medication, fish oil was found to be effective. Use 1 to 2 tbs a day and give the treatment 6 weeks to see the effect. Then you can decrease it to the lowest dose that maintains benefit.