Herbs that can help with migraine: 6 types
Scientists have found evidence that various natural remedies — including herbs — may help reduce the pain of migraine and prevent it from occurring.
It is worth noting that while these remedies are mostly safe to use, there is not enough research to confirm their effectiveness, and some may have adverse effects. It’s best to check with a doctor before using a new remedy.
This is a flowering plant that people sometimes use to treat migraine, asthma, allergies, and general pain.
A 2012 study found it to be an effective nontraditional therapy to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. A 2020 review also found evidence to support the use of butterbur but noted that more studies are necessary.
Scientific name: The scientific name for Butterbur is Petasites hybridus.
How it helps: Its anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic properties are what help prevent migraine from occurring. It also widens blood vessels, which helps decrease pressure and tension.
How to use: The root extract is available in pill form. The typical dose is 50–75 milligrams twice per day.
The active ingredient in peppermint, menthol, may help treat migraine symptoms. One 2010 study found that applying a 10% solution of peppermint oil to the temples and forehead might help prevent migraine.
Other names: The scientific name is Mentha piperita, and Bo He in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
How it helps: Peppermint has a cooling effect on the skin, which can assist with migraine, and it also has been known to boost energy levels.
How to use: Take peppermint capsules or use peppermint leaves to make tea. Alternatively, apply diluted peppermint essential oil on the skin.
When using essential oils, it is important to dilute the oil in a carrier oil, such as jojoba, coconut, or almond oil. It is advisable to do a patch test first by diluting a few drops and trying it on a small area of skin.
3. Willow bark
An extract of this tree’s bark helped develop the common pain reliever aspirin. A 2015 study found it a safe and effective way to reduce inflammation and pain.
Other names: The scientific name is Salix. In TCM, it is Bai Liu Pi.
How it helps: Willow bark extract has anti-inflammatory properties that make it a powerful herbal remedy for migraine.
How to use: The extract is available in capsule form. It is also sometimes available as a chewable bark.
If you need help covering the cost of medications, the free Optum Perks Discount Card could help you save up to 80% on prescription drugs. Follow the links on drug names for savings on that medication, or search for a specific drug here.
Free prescription coupons
Seriously … free. Explore prices that beat the competition 70% of the time.Get free card
Ginger is well-known for its anti-inflammatory effect on the body. An older study comparing ginger to the prescription migraine drug sumatriptan found it had a similar impact with fewer side effects.
Other names: The scientific name is Zingiber officinale. In TCM, it is Sheng Jiang.
How it helps: Ginger has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving compounds. It can also help prevent migraine by increasing serotonin levels in the brain.
How to use: Fresh or dried ginger root or extract is used in ginger capsules or ginger tea and is readily available.
The flowers of the lavender plant have been used since Egyptian times to treat headaches, fatigue, and stress. A study found that inhaling lavender essential oil can help to treat acute attacks of migraine headaches.
Scientific name: The scientific name is Lavandula.
How it helps: Lavender reduces stress and tension, which are often contributing factors to migraine.
How to use it: You can inhale the essential oil or dilute it with a carrier oil and apply it to the skin, remembering to do a patch test first. You can also use lavender flowers to make a tea.
Well-known for its bright yellow-orange color, turmeric comes from the root of a flowering plant in the ginger family called Curcuma longa.
Other names: The scientific name is Curcuma longa. In TCM, it is Jiang Huang.
How it helps: Curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties that make it an effective pain reliever.
How to use: Often used as a spice, the dried root is also available in tea or capsule form.
Other treatment options
Once a migraine attack begins, both over-the-counter (OTC) medications and prescription drugs can help address pain.
Options for treating migraine symptoms include but are not limited to:
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen
- triptans, such as sumatriptan for severe pain
- antiemetics to treat nausea and vomiting — for instance, metoclopramide
Need a refill for sumatriptan succinate (Imitrex)? You may be able to get an online prescription through Optum Perks in as little as 15 minutes with no video or appointment needed. Learn more here.
Other medications can help to prevent a migraine, such as:
- beta-blockers — for instance, propranolol
- antidepressants like amitriptyline and venlafaxine
- anticonvulsants — for example, valproate and topiramate
Lifestyle tips that can help avoid migraine include:
- getting enough sleep
- eating regular meals
- avoiding triggers, such as alcohol
- managing stress
When to contact a doctor
Speak with a healthcare professional if a migraine:
- lasts for more than a few days
- increasingly worsens
- recurs often
Seek medical care immediately if your headache results from a concussion or head trauma. A severe “thunderclap” headache can indicate a stroke and needs urgent medical attention.
Migraine can be a disabling condition. Many people find OTC and medical treatment can help manage it.
However, herbal remedies have received attention from the medical community. Some of these may offer a safe, effective path toward prevention and pain reduction.
It’s always best to check with a medical professional before using any herbal or alternative remedies.
Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.
- Acaberi M, et al. (2021). Turmeric and curcumin: From traditional to modern medicine. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34331682/
- Borhani Haghighi A, et al. (2010). Cutaneous application of menthol 10% solution as an abortive treatment of migraine without aura: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20456191/
- Lopresti AL, et al. (2020). Herbal treatments for migraine: A systematic review of randomised-controlled studies. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32310327/
- Pescador Ruschel MA, et al. (2023). Migraine headache. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560787/
- Sasannejad P, et al. (2012). Lavender essential oil in the treatment of migraine headache: A placebo-controlled clinical trial. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22517298/
- Shara, M. (2015). Efficacy and safety of white willow bark (salix alba) extracts. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25997859/
- The facts about migraine. (2019). https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/migraine-facts/