Botulinum is one of the most toxic substances in the world. So why has the FDA recently approved it for the treatment of headaches?
The answer, it seems, is because drug manufacturer Allergan asked the agency to. Botox is one of Allergan’s top-selling drugs, accounting for more than $1.3 billion of the company’s $4.4 billion sales last year.
Botox, short for BOtulism TOXin, is a purified form of botulinum. It blocks the connections between nerves and muscle, temporarily paralyzing the muscle. The FDA approved the drug for patients who experience fifteen or more days of migraine headaches per month. Doctors are directed to inject patients in the neck or head every twelve weeks to dull future headaches.
Why are natural solutions for headaches being ignored? One of the most researched is Petadolex, made by Enzymatic Therapy from butterbur, a Swiss alpine plant.
Vitamin B2 may also help. In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, individuals taking a total of 400 mg of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) daily had a 53% reduction in the number of headache attacks, 53% reduction of headache days, and 46% reduction of severity of remaining attacks. (Commenting on this remarkable study, holistic physician Jonathan Wright, MD, added, “Remember, whenever a member of a vitamin complex is used at a higher-than-usual amount, it’s wisest to back it up with the entire complex. In this case, I recommend at least a B-complex 50 twice daily.”)
Beyond butterbur and B2, it is worth considering that your body may be trying to signal that something is wrong, so try to understand your triggers. Is it hormonal (i.e., does it coincide with your menstrual cycle)? Is it associated with certain foods (especially MSG, lots of sugar, highly processed foods)? Could it be stress-related (emotional/physical), caused by a lack of exercise, or due to an allergic reaction?
Once you hone in on the triggers, there are other natural treatments:
- Maca, a root vegetable that nutritionally fuels the endocrine system to regulate hormone production, has been shown to help hormone-related migraines.
- Anti-inflammatories like fish oil, ginger, cherry juice (also available as a supplement), and lemongrass can help. Willow bark (the original source of aspirin but natural and easier on the stomach) and feverfew can facilitate normal flow of blood to brain.
- Massaging specific acupressure points can relieve headaches quickly.
- Ayurvedic medicine says soaking a cloth in warm mustard oil and applying it directly to your forehead relieves pain.
- And one of the greatest headache-producers is chronic dehydration. Drinking pure water helps the kidneys to function properly and detoxifies the body, which prevents and eases headaches.