More than 39 million people in the United States experience the disabling effects of migraine headaches. Many people living with migraine seek alternative therapies to relieve their symptoms. Sometimes these strategies — perhaps recommended by friends, family, or social media — are not scientifically proven ways to reduce migraine headaches.
This article explores cream of tartar, which was suggested as a home remedy for migraine relief in a 2018 Facebook post that’s since been flagged for containing false information. We will explain why this ingredient — typically used for baking and cleaning — has not been shown to be effective for treating migraine attacks. In fact, if consumed in large quantities, cream of tartar may cause dangerous side effects.
A MyMigraineTeam member saw the Facebook post and asked others about it. “Has anyone heard of this new rave of cream of tartar all over Facebook? I guess you put a little under your tongue.” Other team members responded with “I tried it with no relief” and “I had received this last week as well on Facebook. I didn’t try it. I’m reading up on the contents of cream of tartar to see if it was good to try it or not.”
Cream of tartar, also called potassium bitartrate or potassium hydrogen tartrate, is what is left over during the fermentation process of winemaking. It is considered a mild tartaric acid and can be mixed with baking soda to create baking powder.
Cream of tartar is used as a stabilizing and leavening agent in many recipes for pies, cookies, cakes, and cookies. It is considered a staple in a pastry chef’s kitchen, especially for mastering the art of turning egg whites into meringue and to inhibit sugar from crystallizing.
Cream of tartar is also helpful with cleaning. For example, a solution made by boiling water with cream of tartar and combining it with lemon juice may help remove rust stains and break down buildup on aluminum cookware.
The origin of the myth that cream of tartar helps stop migraine headaches is unknown. Some people have wrongly suggested that tartaric acid is part of the chemical structure of dihydroergotamine (sold as Migranal), a widely used medication to treat acute migraine attacks. They’ve thus proposed that tartaric acid must also work to stop migraine headaches. However, tartaric acid is not the active ingredient in dihydroergotamine, and no scientific evidence supports the idea that tartaric acid can treat or prevent migraine headaches.
A MyMigraineTeam member posted, “I have had four or five people send me the post from Facebook. I didn’t try it because I figured it was just another crazy myth like all of the others.”
Although cream of tartar has not been found to reduce migraine attacks or symptoms, some people have suggested it has few health benefits. The ingredient’s laxative, diuretic, and antibacterial properties have been said to treat heartburn, high blood pressure, constipation, and more. However, there is little to no scientific evidence for these uses.
It is always important to seek medical advice from a licensed health care professional before using cream of tartar to treat any medical condition.
Cream of tartar is high in potassium, an electrolyte that is critical to muscle, nerve, and heart functions. However, consuming a large amount of this nutrient can result in a dangerous condition called hyperkalemia.
Hyperkalemia, or high levels of potassium in the blood, can be life-threatening if not treated properly. The most common causes of hyperkalemia include kidney disease, medications that inhibit potassium excretion, and a diet rich in high-potassium foods (such as bananas, melon, spinach, broccoli, avocado, and chicken).
According to the National Academy of Medicine, the adequate daily intake of potassium ranges from 2,300 to 2,900 milligrams (mg) for women (depending on age and if pregnant or lactating) and 3,000 to 3,400 mg for men.
Potassium is typically eliminated through the urine. However, people who have a large amount of this mineral in their blood may need to take medications such as diuretics, which help the kidneys eliminate excess potassium. If left untreated, hyperkalemia can produce dangerous symptoms, including:
Although cream of tartar is not a proven remedy for migraine pain, a few natural strategies have received researchers’ seal of approval to help relieve migraine symptoms.
The American Migraine Foundation supports a few alternative therapies to help prevent and treat migraine attacks. These include acupuncture and taking magnesium supplements.
Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle while avoiding your migraine triggers are other natural ways to manage migraine headaches. Implementing small changes in your day-to-day activities can make a big difference in preventing migraine attacks and will contribute to your overall health and well-being.
Ways to relieve or reduce migraine symptoms include:
MyMigraineTeam is the social network for people with migraines. More than 77,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their experiences with others who understand life with migraines.
Have you tried natural remedies to help combat your migraine symptoms? Has anything worked well — or not at all? Share your experience in the comments below or on your Activities page.