Triptan migraine drugs, their benefits and side effects, natural alternatives, medication for headache, by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
April 12 2016


Triptan: A class of drugs introduced in the 1990s for the treatment of migraine that act as agonists for 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) receptors. The triptans are often very effective in relieving migraine but do not prevent future attacks or lessen their frequency. The antimigraine activity of the triptans likely lies in their agonist effects on the 5-HT receptors in the intracranial blood vessels and nerves of the trigeminal system which result in cranial vessel constriction and inhibition of pro-inflammatory neuropeptide release. The presence or absence of skin sensitivity (cutaneous allodynia) reportedly helps predict how a person with migraine will respond to a triptan. For most migraine patients without skin sensitivity, triptans work, regardless of when they take the drug. But in migraineurs with skin sensitivity, the triptans work best when taken early, within 20 minutes of the start of the migraine.


Natural options to treating migraine
There are a number of dietary and lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk for migraine headaches. See migraine web page for more info on natural ways to reduce or treat migraine headaches. There are certain natural supplements that may be helpful is some migraine sufferers.


Alternatives to triptan migraine drugs
5-HTP may be helpful - 5-htp concerts into serotonin which influence migraine headache
Feverfew may help a small percentage of users. One feverfew capsule 3-4 x/day for one month, then decrease dosage to 25 mg of dried herb twice daily.
Petasites also known as butterbur. A product with a standardized extract of butter is called Petadolex and is available for sale.

Types of Triptan medications

The triptans include sumatriptan (Imitrex), rizatriptan (Maxalt), naratriptan (Amerge), zolmitriptan (Zomig), eletriptan (Relpax), lmotriptan (Axert), and frovatriptan (Frova).


Triptan migraine drugs include Glaxo's Imitrex and Amerge, Johnson & Johnson's Axert, Endo Pharmaceutical's Frova, Merck and Co Inc's Maxalt, Pfizer's Relpax and AstraZeneca Plc's Zomig.


Triptans are effective for migraine relief. Standard dose triptans are associated with better outcomes than ergots, and most triptans are associated with equal or better outcomes compared with NSAIDs, ASA, and acetaminophen. Use of triptans in combination with ASA or acetaminophen, or using alternative modes of administration such as injectables, may be associated with slightly better outcomes than standard dose triptan tablets.


Cluster headache
Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013. Triptans for acute cluster headache. Based on limited data, subcutaneous sumatriptan 6 mg was superior to intranasal zolmitriptan 5 mg or 10 mg for rapid (15 minute) responses, which are important in this condition. Oral routes of administration are not appropriate.

Drug interactions

Triptan medications should not be taken the same time as SSRI medications.