Osler on migraine

Can J Neurol Sci. 2015 Mar;42(2):144-7. doi: 10.1017/cjn.2015.6. Epub 2015 Feb 27.


William Osler's 1892 textbook The Principles and Practice of Medicine became the dominant medical text in the English-speaking world. Osler was labeled a therapeutic nihilist by some. The topic of migraine, including treatment, was succinctly covered in his text. The objectives of this study were to review Osler's thoughts on migraine, and outline his therapeutic recommendations. Preventively Osler mentioned bromides, iron, arsenic, nitroglycerin, and cannabis. Acutely he recommended coffee, chloroform, cannabis, antipyrin, antifebrin, phenacetin, caffeine citrate, nux vomica, or ergot. He thought cannabis was the most satisfactory remedy. Osler was not a therapeutic nihilist when it came to migraine, and his treatment recommendations were similar to other writers of his time. Osler did not draw upon his personal experience to contribute new knowledge about migraine. Regardless, given the popularity and clarity of his text, Osler's well-summarized migraine chapter had a great influence on practicing physicians.

Keywords: William Osler.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait

MeSH terms

  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • England
  • History, 19th Century
  • Humans
  • Migraine Disorders / history*
  • Migraine Disorders / physiopathology
  • Migraine Disorders / therapy
  • Textbooks as Topic / history*

Personal name as subject

  • William Osler