Apparently, We Don't Actually Know How This Common Pain Reliever Works

July 23, 2014 2:32 PM

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One of the oldest herbal remedies for migraines, this plant can be used in many forms, included steeped in tea or even eaten raw, according to Alexander Mauskop, M.D., a board-certified neurologist focused on headaches and the director and founder of the New York Headache Center. That's because it contains a powerful chemical called parthenolide, which has been linked to warding off migraines, although Mauskop says science hasn't really offered an answer yet as to how or why, One of the first studies of the herb came out of Great Britain in the 1980s, and found that 70 percent of people who chewed a couple of feverfew leaves each day saw their symptoms improve and experienced fewer migraines, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. In supplement form -- as long as it contains at least 0.2 percent parthenolides -- 100 to 150 milligrams a day may do the trick, according to a HuffPost blog by Dr. Andrew Weil, because it can help "prevent the release of substances that dilate blood vessels in the head."

Unlike feverfew, this herb is toxic in any form but the processed supplement, says Mauskop. However, its headache-preventing properties are equally impressive. The chemicals in butterbur are thought to relieve spasms and decrease inflammation, which can cause headaches, according to WebMD. A small 2...

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