About 39 million Americans experience migraine each year. What’s more, more than 4 million people experience chronic daily migraine attacks.
Finding ways to reduce the frequency and severity is key to managing the pain associated with migraine. Because of this, some people try word-of-mouth methods like using cream of tartar to treat migraine. The problem is, remedies like this aren’t backed by science.
In this article, we separate the facts from myths about using cream of tartar for migraine.
What is cream of tartar?
Cream of tartar, or potassium bitartrate, is an odorless, white crystalline powder that’s a byproduct of making wine during the fermentation process.
Most people identify cream of tartar with cooking, since it helps stabilize whipped egg whites. When combined with baking powder, it can act as a leavening agent. It’s also touted as a medicinal purgative or a remedy for constipation, according to a
Some literature also says it’s a natural remedy for conditions like cystitis and smoking cessation, but data is lacking to prove the safety and efficacy of these claims. Nor is there any scientific or medical proof that cream of tartar is beneficial for treating migraine.
There are several treatments for migraine that are both safe and effective, but cream of tartar isn’t one of them. The notion that potassium bitartrate is a remedy for migraine or less severe headaches is a myth.
In 2018, a Facebook post suggested putting cream of tartar under your tongue to treat migraine. The post isn’t affiliated with any hospital, medical doctor, or any other expert that has the authority to comment on treatments for migraine, yet it was shared over 451,000 times.
Additionally, another claim in 2015 asserted that cream of tartar helps minimize migraine attacks triggered by MSG (monosodium glutamine). This is another theory not backed by science or research.
One of the concerns of ingesting too much cream of tartar is the potassium content. According to the
If you’re getting potassium in your diet or through a multivitamin and you add cream of tartar for headaches, the potential amount of potassium could put you over the amount you need each day.
The Adequate Intakes (AI) for potassium ranges from 2,600 mg for adult women to 3,400 mg for adult men per day, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS).
High potassium intake doesn’t pose a significant health risk for healthy people with normal kidney function. That said, if you take certain medications like ACE inhibitors or potassium-sparing diuretics, or you have impaired urinary potassium excretion due to chronic kidney disease, an excess intake of dietary potassium could lead to hyperkalemia.
According to ODS, severe cases of hyperkalemia can cause:
- heart palpitations
- muscle weakness
- cardiac arrhythmias that could be life threatening
Migraine can significantly impact your life. The good news is, there are preventive and acute treatments available to help reduce the number of headaches you get and minimize the symptoms when you do get one.
OTC pain relievers
Excedrin Migraine, another over-the-counter (OTC) product, combines caffeine with acetaminophen and aspirin to treat mild to moderate migraine attacks.
Prescription migraine medications that you take at the onset of a migraine include:
- antinausea drugs
These drugs are for occasional use and don’t prevent migraine attacks.
Prescription migraine medications to prevent migraine attacks include:
These medications are taken regularly and often recommended for frequent migraine attacks.
Eastern medicine and mindfulness
Acupuncture and acupressure may help provide relief for the pain associated with migraine. According to a 2019 research review, acupuncture may be safer and more effective than medication for migraine.
Mind/body treatments like mindfulness meditation, yoga, and tai chi show promise in reducing pain from migraine. According to a 2019 research review, mindfulness meditation was found to be effective in treating medication overuse headaches after the medication is discontinued.
Lifestyle approaches like relaxation exercises, daily physical activity, dietary modifications, and getting enough sleep can help reduce stress, which also lowers the risk for developing a migraine from stress.
OnabotulinumtoxinA, otherwise known as Botox, is safe, effective, and well-tolerated as a treatment for headaches.
According to a 2016 review, treatment with onabotulinumtoxinA can lead to a reduction of monthly headaches.
Finding ways to manage the frequency and severity of migraine attacks requires proven treatments that work, and cream of tartar isn’t one of them.
If you’re living with migraine, a trip to a doctor’s office is the best place to start. They can discuss treatments like prescription medications, OTC pain relievers, and lifestyle modifications that may reduce the number of migraine attacks you experience each month.