Is St Johns Wort a potential migraine treatment?

by | Nov 12, 2023 | headaches and migraine, herbal medicine

Migraine is a common and debilitating condition. Many different prescription drugs and over the counter medications are available. Yet, migraineurs are often not satisfied with their efficacy. Which is understandable since they are sometimes not effective. At the same time, these drugs may have undesirable side effects. So are there other options for migraine treatment?

St. John’s wort as a potential migraine treatment

St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) has been used as medicine for centuries. Recent studies suggest it may be a potential treatment for migraine. Traditionally a tonic herb for conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, and depression. It has lots of other potential medicinal uses. For instance, it helps to relieve headaches, nerve pain, fights viral infections and improves wound healing.

What’s more, research supports many of the traditional uses. Studies show that St. John’s wort is as effective as standard drugs for mild to moderate depression. It also has a low incidence of side effects.

What causes migraines?

The mechanisms that lead to a migraine attack are still under investigation. But there is evidence the early phase results from inflammation and increased sensitivity.

Since St. John’s wort is an effective anti-inflammatory, researchers thought it was worth investigating as a migraine remedy.

They found that even very low doses of St. John’s wort had potential migraine treatment activity. A single dose of a dried extract of the herb reduced sensitivity to pain in mice. The duration of pain was shorter too.

Another trial in humans tested the use of St. John’s wort with sodium valproate. This is a medication for preventing migraine headaches. Some people took only sodium valproate. While others took both the drug and the herb. The study proves the ability of the herb to reduce migraine intensity. Researchers said there was also a marked decline in the frequency of migraines.

So preliminary evidence shows St. John’s wort appears to be a potential migraine treatment. Both as a preventative and also to reduce the intensity of an acute attack.

One feature of St. John’s wort is that it can interact with certain prescription medications. It increases the liver’s detoxification capacity. While sometimes this could be desirable it could also cause problems.

Yet, researchers found that the level of St. John’s wort required to reduce migraines was very low. In fact, lower than the levels that produce significant drug interaction.


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