Feverfew

novelist(5A)July 31, 2009

Greetings,

My wife has suffered from continuous migraines for over four years now. They are daily, most days she has managed to find a way to do what she needs to do, but several days a month she is debilitated. She is 44 and we have a lot of children (7 natural and 3 adopted) so she is busy.

She has seen neurologists, gotten MRIs done - in the process found two benign tumors  gone to the headache center and seen many, many specialists. They have her on Topamax, but it has had diminishing returns as of late. She is getting worried that she will be miserable the rest of her life.

I grow herbs, mostly for enhancing our meals (I have over 100 herbs in a large 500 sq ft area). I had planted some feverfew last year because she likes Daisys and they have a similar look.

In desperation, several weeks ago, I started giving her  with her permission of course  some Feverfew. I harvest the leaves, dry them in my herb drier, crush them and put them in capsules. She canÂt stand the taste of tea, so I made pills. She gets three pills a day  about one good sized leaf in each.

A few days ago she started her period about two weeks early. She also said it was really heavy bleeding. Not "go to the hospital" bleeding, but unusual for her. Being a guy, IÂm not sure of the exact details.

Anyway, I know Feverfew can have menstrual effects, but I wonder if my dosage is too high. Should she discontinue? She isnÂt all that concerned, but she did ask me if this was going to be her new normal.

I have noticed that she has not had a "bad" migraine in almost two week (4 total on the Feverfew), but it seems too early to attribute it to my herb. She is also a lot more chipper and seems in less pain from day to day. She says she doesnÂt feel a whole lot different, but I see subtle changes in her behavior and moods. So, IÂd like to keep using it, but if this is bad for her I want to stop. IÂm a cooking herbist dabbling  dangerous, I know, but weÂre desperate here. Modern medicine has given up on her and told her to try and manage the pain.

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herbalbetty

Hi Novelist,

Feverfew acts as a vasodilator, which makes it good for vasoconstrictive migraines. However, it might be adding to the amount of flow to your wife's periods. If she has another month or two of heavier-than-normal periods, she should make sure nothing else is causing that.

Some other things to consider: does your wife eat anything with MSG (monosodium glutamate) in it? It's in so many things - chips, crackers, lunch meat, packaged soups, frozen meals, salad dressings, etc. That can give migraines to many people.

Also, some people are affected by chocolate, wine and aged cheeses. Has she ever kept a food diary to see what her triggers may be?

Is she on prescription medications? Birth control pills give migraines to many women. As do some other drugs. Always talk to your doctor before changing any medications.

There are also sleep deprivation migraines. With 10 kids, that's a real possibility!

Best of luck to her and to you.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 7:57PM
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apollog

Oxygen (high flow rate in a non-rebreather) can be quite effective for aborting cluster headaches and migraines. Unfortunately, few doctors are aware of this, and are reluctant to prescribe it.

Kudzu, magnesium, CoQ10 and B-vitamins might be of help.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 12:23PM
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rusty_blackhaw(6a)

Uterine contraction can be a side effect of feverfew (which is why it's not a good idea for pregnant women to use it), and increased bleeding has been linked in some instances to use of feverfew. Of course there are other causes of increased menstrual bleeding that may have to be considered.

It doesn't appear that there's good agreement on what dosage of feverfew is best for migraine prevention. I've seen figures ranging from 6.25 to 300 mg recommended, up to several times a day (or a few fresh leaves daily). See this site for more info.

Migraines have a bunch of different triggers in different people, and while there are dietary and lifestyle alterations that are effective in many people, others don't respond well. The same goes for various vitamins and other supplements that have been the subject of encouraging reports in the literature. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is just one of these interventions, that has been looked at in a handful of small studies and has not been sufficiently validated as an effective therapy.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cochrane review - feverfew

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 12:07AM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

A few months ago I listened to a TED talk (that I cannot find right now) in which an inventor talked about a migraine gun, that provided a very high strength electromagnetic field and potentially moved it around, but the affect was supposed to be that it would cause the voltage gated ion channels in the neuronal axon's to dump out and this mass discharge in the area where the migraine was occurring would stop the problem. Thought, ideas, and reflections?

O2 is probably not the answer.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2009 at 9:31PM
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rusty_blackhaw(6a)

Is he having any trouble finding volunteers to test out his "migraine gun" and discover what the long-term effects are of blasting part of the brain with a "very high strength electromagnetic field"?

    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 8:29AM
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apollog

I don't about that TED speaker in particular, but I do know that a number of places (including the Medical University of South Carolina) are experimenting with focused magnetic waves to treat depression, anxiety, and other conditions that are related to brain function (migraine would fall in that category).

Compared to previous approved medical treatments (like electroshock therapy), this approach seems quite safe. In terms of total exposure to magnetic fields, a course of treatment is likely much less than an MRI - probably acceptable for severe depression or migraines that are resistant to other approaches.

Here's a study on using carefully controlled magnetic pulses to treat migraine, from an Italian University.

Here is a link that might be useful: rTMS of the prefrontal cortex in the treatment of chronic migraine: a pilot study.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 9:36AM
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rusty_blackhaw(6a)

I don't recall hearing that electroshock therapy (ECT) was ever considered appropriate treatment for migraines.

As for that "pilot" study of magnetic pulses, the operative word is "pilot" - meaning the therapy was tested on a tiny number of patients (about a half-dozen getting the actual treatment) for a short period of time. Similarly, a host of other therapies have been touted based on limited evidence.

Despite the fact that they are far from cure-alls, I'd be far more likely to try out supplements like feverfew, magnesium and riboflavin, or a relatively low-risk drug like a calcium channel blocker to cut down on migraine frequency, rather than being a guinea pig for something like "focused magnetic waves".

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 5:24PM
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simplemary

Migraines can also be related to hormone fluctuations. If feverfew had an affect on both menstruation & headaches, looking at hormone levels might be a path to pursue. Chaste tree (vitex agnes castes) and wild yam could be of potential herbal benefit-- check them out & see if they would apply to your wife's situation.

Thyroid levels affect hormone levels, so a thyroid check could be in order. Thyroid levels can be affected by stress & vitamin levels, leading to lower immunity, which leads to higher stress & more pain. Big circle not necessarily indicating disease so much an imbalance (the first being chronic, the second 'curable', although this may take some time.)

Sometimes just a change in lifestyle or coping mechanisms will work-- We think we're doing great, but our bodies tell us otherwise. Recognizing how stress affects our bodies can be the first step to better health.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2009 at 11:58PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

I thinkthis is it . I also seem to remember someone else (might have been Al Gore) on TED talking about how biofeedback proved to be very helpful with migraines, although this information is again third hand through a foggy memory of the report (that might have been epilepsy). Biofeedback is very very safe, if you can find someone doing a study you should sign up.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2009 at 2:08AM
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rusty_blackhaw(6a)

Well, the relative I finally convinced to try feverfew for her migraines has stopped taking it. She developed itching and decided she was allergic to it. Which could happen (some people are allergic not only to feverfew but to other plants that are members of the Compositae).

    Bookmark   August 15, 2009 at 3:37PM
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