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HeadWay, Issue #040 -- Better with butterbur?
December 09, 2006
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In this month's issue:
On a personal note
Better with butterbur?
Say what?! Osmophobia
On a personal noteWelcome to the 40th edition of HeadWay! This was supposed to come out in November, but as some of you long-time subscribers have noticed, it's a little late. Here in the offline world, my family and I have been going through a major move, of about 3800km (or 2400mi). For some of that time I had no internet access, and on top of that I had some computer problems (I won't say what got poured on my laptop!). And of course, there are always migraine attacks of my very own (last night was something else, let me tell you). But I have been thinking of you all, and I've been anxious to drop you a line again so that (hopefully) we can both learn a little something!
Thanks so much to all of you for sticking with HeadWay, especially those of you who have been with us for a long time! Thanks especially to those who have left comments and suggestions at the HeadWay MailRoom (remember, your password is nomoache). I've said before that I consider you shareholders in the site, which is why I created the mailroom for you to give feedback. Some have given ideas for the newsletter, others have just sent best wishes. Some of you have seen major improvement in your health, some have even unsubscribed because they have more or less conquered their symptoms (what a great reason to unsubscribe!). Others are still struggling, looking for answers.
I hope you will let me continue to explore treatments and tips new and old through the original articles at the website, and in HeadWay, and I hope you'll continue to share your experiences - both good and bad - and your ideas. You are all appreciated!
Better with butterbur?Boy, has butterbur ever been in the news the last couple of years. Now they're telling us it will help with asthma, ulcurs, hay fever, and, of course, migraine. But how does it really work - or, does it really work at all? And if it does, is it safe? If I'm going to take butterbur as a migraine preventative, I'll be taking it a while - is that kind of long term use good for me?
For those of you who have missed the headlines, let me back up a bit. Butterbur is actually a shrub with large leaves. The name may come from the fact that the large leaves were at one time used to wrap butter in. Butterbur has been used as an herbal remedy for centuries - it was even used (unsuccessfully) to try to fight the plague.
There have been some small studies coming down the pipe that seem to show butterbur to be an effective migraine preventative. For example, at the end of 2004, Neurology reported on a study that 75mg twice a day reduced migraine frequency by 48%. A study was done on children as well, showing a drop on attacks.
So, it's worth a try, right? Well, there are some concerns about butterbur, as you may have guessed. Now the side effects in studies like these seem to be limited to mild problems like burping. But what about the long term? That's harder to measure.
There are chemicals (toxic alkaloids) in butterbur that are known to damage the liver and cause cancer. They've also been associated with scarring of the lung, and blood clotting. Now I've got your attention! Even small amounts of these chemicals can be dangerous.
The good news is that companies are now claiming they can remove this chemical. That should minimize the harmful effects. Still, there may be other side effects (ie drowsiness), and there's evidence that the reproductive and immune systems may be impacted by butterbur.
You still want to try it? Here are some precautions. If you're pregnant or nursing, please stay on the safe side and avoid butterbur. Caution should also be taken about giving butterbur to children, before puberty. Whatever you do, talk to your doctor, especially if you're taking butterbur for any length of time.
Also, try a butterbur supplement with the dangerous alkaloids removed. The brand should be free of Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids (PAs). That would include products such as Petadolex (which was actually used in a migraine study) and Migravent. Watch for more products to appear (good, bad and ugly) as the media mill keeps talking about butterbur.
More studies are needed, for sure. It seems at this point that butterbur helps alleviate muscle spasm and inflammation, and this may keep the migraine attack from really picking up steam. It may be something to try if you're looking for another alternative in your treatment.
Say what?! OsmophobiaUh oh, now what am I supposed to be scared of? No, it's not exactly a fear, it's a common migraine symptom. Osmophobia is an increased sensitivity to odors. Yes, odors can trigger a migraine attack. But once an attack has started, many people report that their sense of smell is heightened, or that certain smells bother them that they wouldn't normally notice. This goes along with photophobia (an increased sensitivity to light - the most common) and phonophobia (sensitivity to sound), all three migraine symptoms.
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