At some point in time, nearly everyone has experienced a headache. But a migraine is a different story. A migraine is described as a recurrent painful headache that typically impacts one side of the head and can include vomiting and/or disturbed vision. This type of headache can significantly and negatively impact your quality of life.

zoomed in on woman's hands one holding supplements in one hand and water in the other hand

Women of childbearing age, in particular, are impacted the most by migraines.

According to a 2018 report featured in the journal Headache, “The prevalence and burden of self-reported migraine and severe headache in the US adult population is high, affecting roughly 1 out of every 6 Americans and 1 in 5 women…” (1) Women of childbearing age, in particular, are impacted the most by migraines. Family history and genetics can also increase the risk of developing chronic migraines. Understanding what causes migraines and how to get rid of a migraine is therefore crucial!

Did you know?
When it comes to women of reproductive age, migraine is the third leading cause of emergency room visits in the United States.

Once a migraine takes hold, it can be hard for the patient to experience relief as the efficacy of migraine medicines during an acute attack is inconsistent. For this reason, prevention becomes paramount.

Dietary supplements for migranes

The spectrum of severity regarding migraine frequency is broad. (2) Some patients experience a migraine a few times a year, while others can succumb to a migraine on a weekly basis. A migraine can last for hours or even days. Sleep provides the only solace once a migraine begins. Most integrative professionals focus on a prophylactic approach when it comes to managing migraines. This approach for migraine relief typically features a combination of dietary supplements and lifestyle recommendations.

Petasites hybridus (butterbur)

Perhaps one of the most widely studied botanicals for migraine prevention is Petasites hybridus or butterbur. When it comes to using butterbur to help prevent migraine frequency, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states, “Based on two high-quality studies, the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society have endorsed the use of a butterbur extract made from underground parts of the plant, like the root or rhizome, to reduce the frequency of migraines.” (3)

Petasites hybridus or butterbur plants in basket on table

Petasites hybridus or butterbur, has been proven to help prevent migraine frequency.

In a three-arm, parallel-group, randomized trial published in 2004 in the journal Neurology, migraine frequency was reduced by 48% in the Petasites group that took 75 mg twice daily compared to placebo. The group that took 50 mg twice daily had a 36% reduction in migraine frequency. (4) A review of two studies that were published in 2006 in Phytomedicine also showed efficacy at daily doses of 100 mg and 150 mg with 150 mg being the most effective. (5)

An interesting perspective, randomized, partly double-blind, placebo-controlled, a parallel-group trial published in 2008 in the European Journal of Pain combined butterbur with music therapy for children who were experiencing migraines. (6) In that study, both butterbur and music therapies were superior to placebo.

While the studies involving butterbur for migraine treatment were done years ago, recent research has uncovered a key mechanism of action. A 2017 study featured in the British Journal of Pharmacology concluded that isopetasin, a major active compound in butterbur, activates the TRPA1 channel, which results in an “excitation of neuropeptide-containing nociceptors, followed by marked heterologous neuronal desensitization.” (7)


Magnesium can also be used prophylactically for migraines. A 2018 systematic review of five clinical trials published in the journal Headache, found that magnesium supplementation helped to significantly reduce the number of migraine attacks compared to placebo. (8) The typical dose of magnesium for migraine prevention is 400 to 500 mg daily. Magnesium serves many important purposes in the human body.

“The ideal medication for prevention and treatment of migraine would have no side effects, no risk, would be safe in pregnancy, as well as being highly effective while remaining inexpensive,” writes the American Migraine Foundation. (9) “Of course, no such medication exists, but magnesium comes closer than many interventions on all these fronts.”

Identifying migraine symptoms & triggers

In addition to butterbur and magnesium, another way to help patients reduce migraine frequency is by helping them identify potential triggers. Migraine triggers are specific to individual patients. What triggers one patient may not trigger the other. And the fact is, nearly anything can trigger a migraine so teaching patients to pay attention is important. You may even ask patients to keep a migraine journal for at least 30 days to help keep track of what happens just prior to a migraine.

Here is a list of everyday items and experiences that can trigger a migraine:

  • Foods (e.g. MSG, nitrates, dairy, eggs) (10)
  • Drinks (e.g. alcohol, caffeine)
  • Exercise
  • Medications (e.g. proton pump inhibitors, decongestants, oral contraceptives)
  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Bright lights or eye strain
  • Certain smells
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Blood sugar issues
  • Being hungry
  • Dehydration
  • Mental health issues (e.g. anxiety, depression)

Patients can have one or many triggers. Obviously, once triggers are identified, they should be avoided to help reduce the frequency of migraine episodes.

The bottom line

The best way to improve the quality of life for migraine sufferers is by reducing the number of migraines they get. Teaching patients to identify and avoid triggers and recommending that they consistently take magnesium and butterbur will help with this key clinical objective of getting rid of migraines naturally. Once we understand what causes migraines, we are better positioned to manage it over the long term! We recommend seeing a healthcare professional for any health and wellness related issues and questions.

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  1. Burch R, Rizzoli P, Loder E. The prevalence and impact of migraine and severe headache in the United States: figures and trends from government health studies. Headache. 2018;58(4):496-505.
  2. Burstein R, Noseda R, Borsook D. Migraine: multiple processes, complex pathophysiology. The Journal of Neuroscience. 2015;35(17):6619-6629.
  3. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Accessed February 2019.
  4. Lipton RB, Gobel H, Einhaupl KM, et al. Petasites hybridus root (butterbur) is an effective preventive treatment for migraine. Neurology. 2004;63(12):2240-4.
  5. Agosti R, Duke RK, Chrubasik JE, Chrubasik S. Effectiveness of Petasites hybridus preparations in the prophylaxis of migraine: a systematic review. Phytomedicine. 2006;13(9-10):743-6.
  6. Oelkers-Ax R, Leins A, Parzer P, et al. Butterbur root extract and music therapy in the prevention of childhood migraine: an explorative study. European Journal of Pain. 2008;12(3):301-13.
  7. Benemei S, De Logu F, Li Puma S, et al. The anti-migraine component of butterbur extracts, isopetasin, desensitizes peptidergic nociceptors by acting on TRPA1 cation channel. British Journal of Pharmacology. 2017;174(17):2897-2911.
  8. von Luckner A, Riederer F. Magnesium in migraine prophylaxis—is there an evidence-based rationale? A systematic review. Headache. 2018;58(2):199-209.
  9. American Migraine Foundation. Magnesium. Accessed February 2019.
  10. Nazari F, Eghbali M. Migraine and its relationship with dietary habits in women. Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research. 2012;17(2 Suppl1):S65-S71.