Latest Headache Research on Headache

Reviewing headache literature today I came across several stories that patients might find interesting.

A New Herbal for Migraine Prevention?

Eric Eross, a headache neurologist that I worked with at Mayo Clinic a number of years ago, went on a search to find a herbal that could replace indomethacin in a very narrow class of headaches that are called “The Indomethacin Responsive Headache Disorders.” This class of headache is neither migraine nor tension-type headache but have in common that they are treated, quite dramatically, by taking indomethacin daily.  However, indomethacin is hard on the GI track and can be dangerous.

Dr. Eross first told me about his paper presented in Berlin a number of years ago that showed patients, who previously only responded to indomethacin, also responded to the herb in Gliacin®.  I was skeptical at first, but after several trials with my patients I became convinced that it did work. Gliacin® is a branded preparation of the herb boswellia which comes from the same family of small trees from which  frankincense is derived.

Dr. Eross had several research articles presented at the Scientific Meeting of the American Headache Society and published in the Headache Journal today, that showed benefit in other headache types as well, including migraine. The daily dose ranged from 750 to 3,375 MG per day.

CGRP Antibodies, the Migraine “Vaccine”

CGRP is one of the most important chemicals which nerve endings use to create a migraine. Work is continuing on developing an antibody injection that can block this chemical and thus block migraines from coming.  A couple of new studies, published today, showed this injections appears to be very safe and effective.  Larger studies are just beginning and when they are done, I hope this will be approved by the FDA. While not a true vaccine, it acts like one. Injections may be required monthly or possibly every 90 days, but it would be a simple injection rather than a series (more than 30) like Botox®.

External Vagal Stimulator 

A device that sends an electrical shock through the neck and into the vagal nerve appears to be effective in stopping the onset of migraine.  More studies are needed.

Magic Mushrooms and Cluster Headache Prevention

We now use many derivatives from “magic mushrooms” in headache treatment, precisely the mushrooms from the ergot family. There have been rumors on the Internet that “magic mushrooms” (a related species to the ergot family) or extract from them have been helpful in cluster headache. A recent poll (very different from a true scientific study) showed that a very large number of cluster headache patients report that they significant relief from using them. These are illegal to use or sell in the US at this time, because they are a schedule I drug.  However, the researchers believe that there is enough evidence to do a large nation-wide study to see if these experiences are real or just wishful thinking (placebo). I do not advocate buying illegal and poorly controlled magic mushrooms, but to be patient until the studies are done.  Hopefully, if proven effective they would be made available as a natural supplement and not an expensive prescription medication.