Migraines – Basics

A migraine headache is characterized by an intense, throbbing pain in one area of the head and can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines can be triggered by sudden exposure to light, stress, and anxiety, lack of food or sleep, or hormonal changes. A migraine can last from 1 to 4 days, and is sometimes preceded by indicators such as visual disturbances, tingling sensation, impaired speech or muscle weakness. This set of indicators before a migraine is called an aura.

Below you will find alternative and natural treatment options including those from a Chinese Medicine perspective for migraines.

Commonly used formula: Chuan Xiong Cha Tiao Wan, Tong Qiao Huo Xue Wan, Yue Ju Wan


Acupuncture seems to be at least as effective as conventional preventative medication for migraine and is safe, long lasting, and cost-effective (citing Witt et al 2008) (Da Silva 2015 – Narrative review of large high quality RCTs)(1)

Acupuncture reduces migraine frequency. Acupuncture superior to sham and may be as effective as prophylactic drugs; subgroup analysis showed larger effect size when 16 or more treatments given (Z = 4.06) compared to 12 treatments or less (Z = 2.32); Moderate quality evidence (Linde 2016 – Cochrane SR of 22 RCTs of at least 8 weeks duration)(2)

Acupuncture superior to sham in effectiveness and reduced risk of recurrence; Moderate to high quality evidence (Yang 2016 – SR of 10 RCTs)(3)


1. Da Silva AN. Acupuncture for migraine prevention. Headache. 2015 Mar;55(3):470-3.

2. Linde K, Allais G, Brinkhaus B, Fei Y, Mehring M, Vertosick EA, et al. Acupuncture for the prevention of episodic migraine. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016(6):Cd001218.

3. Yang Y, Que Q, Ye X, Zheng G. Verum versus sham manual acupuncture for migraine: a systematic review of randomised controlled trials. Acupunct Med. 2016 Apr;34(2):76-83.