Anyone who has experienced a migraine before understands how severe the throbbing or pulsing pain that can coincide. Migraines are intense, debilitating headaches that affect more than 10% of individuals worldwide.
The exact cause of this recurrent disease is not well understood. Therefore, available conventional drugs are limited. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs however, are two modalities that have a history of providing symptom relief without the common side effects associated with conventional drugs.
Acupuncture for Migraine Relief
Acupuncture for migraine relief
Acupuncture has been utilized to prevent migraines without aura due to its analgesic effects. A randomized controlled trial studied 150 patients with episodic migraines without aura.
The participants were either randomly assigned to receive 20 sessions of manual acupuncture, 20 sessions of sham acupuncture, or usual conventional care for 8 weeks. The group that received acupuncture experienced a significant reduction in the average number of migraine days.
Since migraines can be severely debilitating and prevent an individual from carrying out normal activities, even a decrease in half a day is clinically beneficial. All the decreases noted in this study were of at least 2 days.
Even just a reduction of an hour would be appreciated!
A meta-analysis completed in 2016 evaluated 22 trials that included 4985 participants. The review found that the addition of acupuncture to the treatment of migraine attacks reduced the frequency of the attacks.
In a subset of the analysis after treatment, headache frequency at least halved in 41% of participants receiving acupuncture and 17% receiving no acupuncture.
A randomized controlled trial in 2008 looked at 37 patients with migraines. The study compared acupuncture to sham acupuncture for migraine prophylaxis over 6 months.
Initially, the acupuncture group showed significant improvement compared to sham acupuncture group. Over the following months, the improvements in both groups appeared to equate. A further study is necessary to evaluate the differences in a larger sample size.
Herbal Remedies for Migraine Prevention
Herbs for migraine relief
Numerous clinical trials have explored the effectiveness of Chinese herbs for prophylactic migraine management. If a regular form of medicine could prevent a migraine from occurring in the first place, migraine relief would be unnecessary.
Many Chinese herbs contain sedative and anti-inflammatory agents that help relieve migraine related symptoms and causes. One formula commonly used included Chuan-Xiong-Chai-Tiao-San.
A population-based study in 2014 evaluated traditional Chinese medicine perceptions for migraine patients. The study randomly sampled one million subjects from the National Health Insurance scheme in Taiwan. 24.2% of the 89.3% participants who utilized Chinese herbs took them for the purpose of migraine-related issues.
A meta-analysis in 2020 evaluated 35 randomized controlled trials with 2,840 participants. Subgroups of participants were randomized to either receive flunarizine, a calcium channel blocker prescription for migraine prevention, or Chinese herbal medicine. The analysis concluded that the Chinese herbs were comparable with flunarizine in reducing the frequency of episodic migraine attacks.
These results are significant because they support Chinese herbs as equivalent forms of medication based on therapeutic efficacy. The Chinese herbs included in these studies ranged significantly and included Chai Hu, Bai Shao, and Ba Ji Tian.
Herbs for migraine relief
Kampo formulas, traditional Japanese herbal medicine, are additionally utilized to relieve and prevent migraines. A 2006 clinical trial explored the efficacy of one of those formulas – goshuyuto.
The researchers conducted a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study for 12 weeks. This study included participants with chronic headaches, a greater category than solely migraine attacks.
After narrowing down the subjects from 91 to 60 to limit the study to those who appeared to respond to goshuyuto for 2 weeks, about half were assigned the goshuyuto group while the remaining were assigned to the placebo group.
The participants who received the goshuyuto had a decrease in headache episode days by 2.6 +/- 3.7 versus 0.3 +/- 4.0 days in the placebo group (p=0.034).
This study, similarly to the first one listed for acupuncture, reveals a significant reduction in the time experienced from headaches.
Individual experiencing a migraine
Consider acupuncture and Chinese herbs as effective migraine relief options. No one has time for the pain and disruption that a migraine attack can elicit. When searching for the appropriate prevention and treatment option for you, do not forget to consider these two forms of medicine!