A paroxysmal disorder characterized by recurrent attacks of headache, with or without associated visual and
gastro-intestinal disturbances.

Allopathic medicine considers the underlying cause of migraine to be unknown.
The Phytotherapist, as with most holistically orientated therapies, can achieve excellent results through focusing on a number of factors which suggest causal links. Specific herbal remedies can prove exceptionally successful if used in the context of address the whole body and environment of the patient. About 8% of all headaches treated by the average physician are migraine or one of its variants with some 16-18 million Americans suffer from migraine. Attacks can occur in early childhood, but most patients first develop symptoms between the ages of 10 and 30. Many migraine patients have family histories of the problem.

The immediate causation appears to relate to spasms in the muscular walls of the blood vessels of the brain and scalp. In approximately 30% of all cases, migraine attacks are preceded by warning signs such as scintillating visual effects, blind spots, zigzag flashing lights, numbness in parts of the body, and distorted visual images. These signs of an imminent attack are probably due to intracerebral vasoconstriction, and the head pain to dilation of scalparteries.

All such symptoms may clear just before the onset of pain or merge into it. The pain my be unilateral or generalized but tend to follow the same pattern in particular person. Attacks may happen daily or only every several months. Untreated attacks may last for hours or days and often accompanied with nausea, vomiting and photophobia. The extremities are cold and the patient will seek seclusion.

Possible causes that should be considered include the range listed below. However they will rarely all be involved in any specific individual.

  • Food sensitivity – this category can include anything, but the common triggers are:

Dairy products, especially cheese

Chocolate, Eggs

Wheat & wheat products, Peanuts

Citrus fruits, Tomatoes

Red meat & Shell Fish, Alcohol (especially red wine and spirits)

  • Stress & Fatigue – will undoubtedly compound the problem and maybe a clear trigger.

  • General “Toxicity” – any tendency to constipation, liver problems or general `congestion’ will be a marked trigger in some individuals.

  • Hormone Levels – occasionally, changes of certain hormone levels may trigger an attack. This is usually related to menstrual cycles in some way. Drugs such as birth control pills, which contain estrogen mat be triggers.

  • Structural – Cranial and spinal misalignments may be involved, as may posture, even when not associated with overt skeletal problems.

System Support

This will depend upon the diagnosis of factors involved in any specific patient.

Specific Remedies:

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is the only herb used in European Phytotherapy known to be specific for the treatment of migraine. It is also the best example of a remedy well known to medical herbalist’s that has recently been accepted and used by allopathic medicine. It has been used throughout recorded medical history as a bitter tonic and remedy for severe headaches. Through wide media coverage in recent years, the herb has gained a well deserved reputation as a “cure” for migraine. Clinicians at the London Migraine Clinic observed that patients were reporting marked improvements when they took the herb. Thankfully, these doctors had the inquiring and open minds of the true scientist and so started their own investigations into the claims for Feverfew. Clinical observations were soon being reported in the journals.1,2

An example is the work of Dr. Hylands and colleagues. Seventeen patients who regularly ate fresh leaves of Feverfew daily as prophylaxis against migraine were invited to participate in a double-blind, placebo controlled trial of the herb. Of these, eight patients received capsules containing freeze dried Feverfew powder and nine, a placebo. Those taking the placebo had a significant increase in the frequency and severity of headache, nausea, and vomiting as well as the re-emergence of untoward effects during the early months of treatment. The group given capsules of Feverfew on the other hand showed no change in the lack of symptoms of migraine, providing clear evidence that Feverfew can prevent attacks of migraine. This led the researchers to strongly suggest its use in migraine sufferers who have never treated themselves with this herb before.3 Long term users often report beneficial side effects such as relief from depression, nausea and arthritic pain due to inflammation.

The venerable English herbalist’s Gerard and Culpepper would not have been surprised at all at these findings! It is a pity that the patients given the placebo had to go through the renewed migraine attacks to demonstrate something already well known by herbalist’s and the patients themselves.

Pharmacologists are putting great attention on this humble weed in the search for a new class of effective anti-migraine and analgesic drugs. As the dried or fresh leaf of the plant itself is an excellent formulation, why not just suggest it to patients? It raises social, political and economic issues as well as the obvious medical ones. To suggest the use of Feverfew as a remedy involves the doctor empowering the patient, in demystifying the treatments on offer. The patient is no longer totally dependent upon the expert skills of their therapist; they are actively involved in their own healing. The pharmaceutical industry may not be too happy as the plant is grown by nature free of charge and is non-patentable. In other words there is no profit in it! This is not to deny the value of research and exploration of herbal therapeutics, rather to question the ends to which they are put.

Following the clinical clues, pharmacologists are finding active components in the plant. Part of the herb’s action appears to be via an inhibition of secretion of the granular contents from platelets and neutrophils in the blood. This may be relevant to the therapeutic value of fever few in migraine and other conditions such as
osteo-arthritis.4 The five main compounds that were identified as having this activity were parthenolide, 3-beta-hydroxy-parthenolide,
secotanapartholide A, canin and artecanin, all of which are sesquiterpene lactones. The researchers say that it is very likely that these and
other sesquiterpene lactones inhibit prostaglandins and histamine released during the inflammatory process, so preventing spasms of the
blood vessels in the head that trigger migraine attacks. As with all such impressive research findings, do not lose sight of the importance
of whole plant activity rather than simply identifying `active’ ingredients.

One possible prescription:

Feverfew 125 mg. of dried herb once a day.

Lavender massage oil into temples at first sign of an attack.

One possible prescription:

Migraine associated with stress and hypertension



Wood Betony


Cramp Bark equal parts to 2.5 ml. threes times a day

Feverfew 125 mg. of dried herb once a day.

Lavender massage oil into temples at first sign of an attack.

Many phytotherapists in Britain focus upon supporting the liver in migraine treatments. As an example consider the following mixture
suggested by Mrs. Nalda Gosling F.N.I.M.H., one Britains best herbal clinicians. Note the preponderance of hepatics and bitters.

“Motherwort, Vervain, Dandelion Root, Centaury, Wild Carrot each of these mixed together in equal parts and 25g. of this mixture
simmered for 15 minutes in 0.5l of water. A wine glass of this should be drunk 3 times a day.”

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Written by David L. Hoffmann BSc Hons MNIMH

Explore Wellness in 2021