Norman Howard BSc (Hons), qualified medical herbalist        

Migraine case


This write-up is given with the kind permission of a patient I saw a few years ago.  It is a summary and some details have been omitted to

maintain the patient’s anonymity.


A 37 year old professional man came to see me complaining of frequent migraines, occurring in clusters, on return from a mountaineering trip abroad.  He had been asthmatic since childhood and took a steroid inhaler and occasional ‘beta2-agonist’ (salbutamol) and nasal spray.  He had also been prescribed a beta-blocker for migraine, which ironically raised the chances of an asthma attack.  He was also suffering from tension headaches that generally preceded the migraines.  There were also one or two other symptoms in his digestive tract that contributed to an overall state of discomfort, as well as eczema inside an elbow and behind his knees.  The man’s history revealed allergies to Brazil nuts, walnuts, and domestic animals – horses, dogs, cats – as well as house dust and spores.

As with many busy people his diet would have benefited from more fresh fruit and vegetables and less salty snacks (e.g. crisps); he avoided wheat and dairy produce.  He took flax oil caps.  He did not exercise and had recently taken on a new job involving regular travel 3 days a week, and had been married one year.

At the first consultation, it was clear that he had been a little stressed and put the higher frequency of migraines (and possibly the other symptoms) down to this.  He viewed the stress as probably just a temporary thing, owing to his new job, change of living arrangement.  He also wanted to be able to come off the beta-blockers.  Most importantly, he showed a positive outlook and wanted to take responsibility for managing his condition.

He was prescribed a mixture of the following herbs as a tincture, to reduce the incidence of migraines, reduce upper respiratory spasm and infection, to stimulate the liver’s functioning and assist digestion, to modulate the immune system, and to provide some support for coping with stress:

Feverfew leaf                                   Milk thistle

Ginger ‘root’                                   Borage [note: BORAGE is no longer prescribed internally.]

Thyme                                            Vervain.

The dosage was 5 ml to be taken after meals three times a day with a little water.

After four weeks, he reported there had been an improvement followed by two migraines one weekend, following a ‘decaff’ cup of coffee.  The dosage of feverfew was increased (+ 2.5ml/wk of a 1:3 tincture) and ginger slightly (+2ml/wk) and dried meadowsweet was additionally prescribed to take as an infusion twice a day or as required.  He was advised to avoid decaffeinated coffee, as it is possible that the remaining constituents could trigger migraines.

Two months later and he looked better and reported no full migraines, though one had started the day before.  He had also stopped taking beta-blockers a few days earlier.  He had taken the herbal tincture but not the infusion.  He had also stopped consuming salty snacks and started taking exercise in a gym.  No other symptoms were mentioned. 

The overall picture then was much better and important progress had been made. Clearly, the new strategy had begun to work.   The dosage of feverfew was increased to 10 ml/wk and he was advised to monitor his symptoms very carefully over the next 2 weeks, as he had just come off beta-blockers.  He agreed to bin the meadowsweet as he thought the salicylate constituents might trigger a migraine and he was given some dried chamomile flowers to take as an infusion.

Over the next nine months he took several more weeks’ dosages of the tincture mixture, and reported no more full migraines, other than two to three mild ones (one had possibly been triggered by a bright light on a train).  This was a very satisfactory outcome for the patient and the man has since gone on to enjoy a largely migraine-free life without taking beta-blockers; and this has allowed him to achieve more in his work and leisure time.



Norman Howard

This page last updated on 17th January 2017