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Supplements for Migraine: Your Guide

Posted on January 03, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Amit M. Shelat, D.O.
Article written by
Elizabeth Wartella, M.P.H.

Migraine is a common neurological disorder that affects about 1 in 7 people in the U.S. With symptoms such as throbbing head pain, visual disturbances, nausea, and vomiting, migraine is ranked the sixth most debilitating disease in the world. There are conventional treatments for migraine symptoms, but many people seek relief with supplements as either an alternative or complementary therapy to prescription medications.

“I am trying different supplements and natural remedies as I have maxed out on the dosage for my medications,” wrote one MyMigraineTeam member. Another shared, “I’m purchasing a combination of vitamins and supplements to try for my migraines. I’ll try anything at this point.”

Here’s what you need to know about common dietary supplements used for migraine headaches, including their potential benefits, associated research findings, and possible side effects and safety concerns. Always consult your doctor before trying any new vitamin or supplement regimen for your migraine symptoms. While certain supplements may help some people find relief from migraine symptoms, they are not guaranteed to benefit everyone.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a micronutrient that plays an important role in several processes connected to migraine. For instance, it’s thought that magnesium deficiency contributes to the development of migraine symptoms, though it is difficult to accurately assess levels of magnesium in the brain.

“Magnesium is so important for so many bodily functions. My doctor recommends I take it daily,” wrote one MyMigraineTeam member.

A form of magnesium known as magnesium oxide may be an effective migraine prevention supplement, particularly for people who have migraine attacks with aura or migraine related to their menstrual cycles. One study found decreased frequency of migraine attacks when participants took high daily doses (600 milligrams per day) of magnesium. Doses up to 400 milligrams per day are considered safe for pregnant people.

Higher doses of magnesium may cause side effects like cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. Talk to your health care provider before taking magnesium supplements. They can help determine whether magnesium is appropriate for you and what your proper dosage is.

Read more about magnesium and migraines.

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)

Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, is found naturally in food and can also be taken as a supplement. Some studies have found that it is moderately effective for reducing the frequency and duration of migraine attacks as well as disability due to migraine symptoms. The American Academy of Neurology and American Headache Society included riboflavin supplements in the “probably effective” roundup of possible drug therapies.

Because riboflavin has a high efficacy and low risk of side effects, it may be a good option for many people with migraine.

“I started a new migraine medication and riboflavin and magnesium supplements. Migraines have cut down, including their severity!” wrote a MyMigraineTeam member.

The Johns Hopkins Headache Center recommends taking up to 400 milligrams of riboflavin per day for migraine and headache prevention. Side effects are uncommon but may include diarrhea and excessive urination.

Coenzyme Q10

“My neurologist recommended taking Coenzyme Q10 in addition to magnesium and my migraine medicine,” wrote a member of MyMigraineTeam.

Migraine has been linked to mitochondrial dysfunction. (Mitochondria produce energy within your body’s cells). Since Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a naturally occurring substance that supports mitochondria, some think it might help people with migraine. In fact, research has found CoQ10 to be more effective than a placebo (substance with no therapeutic value that is used for comparison in research studies) in reducing the duration of a migraine attack. However, CoQ10 has not been found to decrease the severity of migraine symptoms or the number of migraine episodes per month.

Coenzyme Q10 supplementation may cause mild side effects such as insomnia or digestive upset, but no serious side effects have been observed.

Talk to your doctor before using CoQ10. This supplement may interact with medications such as anticoagulants, insulin, and chemotherapy agents.

Melatonin

Compared to the average person, people with migraine may have reduced levels of melatonin, a hormone associated with the sleep-wake cycle. A 2016 randomized controlled trial in Brazil included nearly 500 people with migraine. Doctors gave a portion of the participants melatonin and gave another subgroup placebos or amitriptyline (a conventional medication used to treat migraine). Comparing the results showed that people who took 3 milligrams of melatonin per day experienced less frequent migraine headaches and, thanks to experiencing fewer side effects, they could better tolerate attacks, too.

While more research needs to be conducted, taking melatonin about one hour before bedtime may help prevent migraines. It is currently unclear whether melatonin itself helps prevent migraines or whether an improvement in sleep quality leads to a reduction in migraines.

One MyMigraineTeam member said, “It is my understanding that melatonin is only OK to take for short periods of time. Some people seem to do well on it, but I found that it seems to increase my chance of waking migraines if I ever do fall asleep.”

Melatonin supplements are considered relatively safe, but there are potential interactions with other medications. Consult your doctor before adding melatonin to your regimen.

Feverfew

Feverfew is a plant promoted for its effect on some health conditions including headaches and migraines. However, research on feverfew and its effectiveness on migraine symptoms is limited.

One MyMigraineTeam member commented on their experience trying feverfew. “I used to drink feverfew tea but never noticed a difference. I bought the supplements and still no effect on my migraines,” they said.

No serious side effects from feverfew use have been reported, but mild side effects like nausea, bloating, digestive issues, and mouth ulcers may occur.

Butterbur

Butterbur is a shrub that has been studied for its effects on migraines and other health conditions. Butterbur has been found to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks in adults and children.

However, this supplement may also cause liver problems. Butterbur extract contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), substances that cause liver damage in humans and that have been shown to cause cancer in animal studies. Only butterbur products that have had the PAs removed are considered potentially safe for use.

Because of the risk of liver damage, people with migraine should not take butterbur unless they are recommended to do so — and are closely monitored — by a doctor. Due to safety concerns, the American Academy of Neurology stopped recommending butterbur for migraines in 2015. Products containing butterbur have been withdrawn from markets in the United Kingdom.

“Saw my neurologist today. No more butterbur for my headaches since it causes liver damage,” wrote a member of MyMigraineTeam.

Vitamin D

Research studies have found that levels of vitamin D are often lower in people with migraine compared to the general population, but there is not yet enough evidence to say whether vitamin D supplementation may help prevent migraine attacks or improve symptoms.

Combination Products

Sometimes supplements are combined into one product. Products like these can be purchased over the counter (without a prescription).

A member of MyMigraineTeam wrote about their experience with a combination supplement (Migratone) that includes PA-free butterbur, coenzyme Q10, feverfew, riboflavin, and magnesium: “I think it’s phenomenal! You need to take it for at least three months for maximum benefits, but you might see results before then.”

Talk With Others Who Understand

Find compassion and so much more with MyMigraineTeam, a community of over 73,000 people living with migraine. Members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with migraine.

Have you used any of these supplements to manage your migraine symptoms? What tips do you have to share? Leave a comment below or start a conversation on your Activities page.

References
  1. The Efficacy of Herbal Supplements and Nutraceuticals for Prevention of Migraine: Can They Help? — Cureus
  2. The Prevalence and Burden of Migraine and Severe Headache in the United States: Updated Statistics From Government Health Surveillance Studies — Headache
  3. Migraine Facts — Migraine Research Foundation
  4. Dietary Supplements for Headaches: What the Science Says — National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health Clinical Digest
  5. Improvement of Migraine Symptoms With a Proprietary Supplement Containing Riboflavin, Magnesium, and Q10: A Randomized, Placebo-controlled, Double-blind, Multicenter Trial — The Journal of Headache and Pain
  6. Magnesium in Headache — Magnesium in the Central Nervous System
  7. Magnesium — American Migraine Foundation
  8. Magnesium in Migraine Prophylaxis — Is There an Evidence-Based Rationale? A Systematic Review — Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain
  9. AAN/AHS Updates Recommendations for Migraine Prevention in Adults — American Family Physician
  10. Migraine: More Than a Headache — John Hopkins Medicine
  11. Migraine and Tension Headache Guideline — Kaiser Permanente Washington
  12. Randomised Clinical Trial Comparing Melatonin 3 mg, Amitriptyline 25 mg and Placebo for Migraine Prevention — Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry
  13. Melatonin — Mayo Clinic
  14. Feverfew — National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
  15. A Guide to Common Medicinal Herbs — Stanford Children’s Health
  16. Butterbur — National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
  17. Butterbur — Kaiser Permanente Washington
  18. Safety of Petasites (Butterbur) — Neurology
  19. Vitamin D Serum Levels in Patients With Migraine: A Meta-Analysis — Revue Neurologique
All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Amit M. Shelat, D.O. is a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology and the American College of Physicians. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Elizabeth Wartella, M.P.H. is an Associate Editor at MyHealthTeam. She holds a Master's in Public Health from Columbia University and is passionate about spreading accurate, evidence-based health information. Learn more about her here.

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