Migraine is a recurring neurological condition usually marked by headaches that cause moderate to severe pain.
There are many medications available to treat migraines, but they may not work the same for everyone and may have unwanted side effects. Supplements or natural alternatives to prevent or treat migraine episodes are becoming increasingly popular.
A growing body of research suggests that certain supplements or individual nutrients, such as vitamin B2 and melatonin, may help with migraines.
This article reviews information on the effectiveness and safety of supplements for migraine headaches.
The term “migraine” refers to a condition characterized by recurrent attacks or episodes of painful headaches. Other symptoms may accompany the headache, such as:
- Light sensitivity
Migraine pain is often throbbing and moderate to severe. It can occur on just one or both sides of the head. Migraine headaches last between 4 and 72 hours, depending on whether they have been successfully treated.
Some people with migraines may also experience flashes with their headaches. Aura refers to visual disturbances, such as seeing flashes of light, or sensory phenomena, such as tingling and numbness.
According to estimates, more than 20% of women and 10% of men experience migraines at some point in their lives.
Migraines appear to have a genetic basis. Some migraine episodes may occur without any particular trigger, while others may be triggered by dehydration, stress or dietary factors.
Migraine attacks can be debilitating. Effective treatments that are safe and well tolerated can be extremely helpful for migraine sufferers.
1- Vitamin B2
In the body, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) participates in many metabolic processes. Specifically, this water-soluble vitamin may play a role in pathways involved in the development of migraines.
For example, migraine episodes are thought to be associated with oxidative stress and brain inflammation. Oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body that can lead to an inflammatory response.
Experts are interested in vitamin B2’s ability to help reduce oxidative stress and brain inflammation in migraines.
An analysis of nine studies showed that taking 400 mg of vitamin B2 daily for 3 months significantly reduced migraine attacks, as well as the duration and frequency of episodes.
Moreover, vitamin B2 is well tolerated and has no serious side effects. Some health organizations, including the American Headache Society, recommend vitamin B2 specifically for migraines.
Magnesium is a major mineral that’s vital for maintaining nerve function, blood pressure, and muscle function. Deficiency of magnesium has been linked to mild and moderate headaches and migraine.
As a result, magnesium is thought to play a role in preventing and treating migraine through a number of mechanisms.
For one, magnesium may help prevent the excessive activation of brain cell receptors and reduce pro-inflammatory signaling involved in the development of migraine.
Taking magnesium supplements may be particularly effective in treating premenstrual migraine headaches, according to older research. This is likely because magnesium deficiency may be linked to this type of migraine in women.
One observational study in more than 10,000 adults found that women with the highest dietary intake of magnesium had a lower likelihood of having migraine compared with those who had the lowest magnesium intake.
Furthermore, magnesium is helpful in treating migraine episodes that are not associated with menstruation.
A review of 21 studies concluded that receiving intravenous magnesium can significantly alleviate acute migraine, while taking oral magnesium supplements helps prevent migraine attacks, significantly reducing frequency and intensity.
A 2021 study in 63 people found that taking 500 mg of magnesium oxide daily for 8 weeks was about as effective at preventing migraine as the medication valproate sodium and did not have adverse side effects.
The potential of magnesium in treating migraine is also supported by the American Migraine Foundation. They recommend taking 400-600 mg of magnesium oxide supplements per day as a preventive option for migraine.
Keep in mind that magnesium supplements can cause diarrhea. This is usually a sign that you are taking too much.
If you are interested in taking magnesium to help with migraine episodes, speak with your healthcare professional to figure out the best dosage and form for you.
3- Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to migraines.
This is likely due to its role in fighting inflammation in the brain. In addition, vitamin D can improve magnesium absorption and reduce the production of substances that increase during migraine attacks.
Taking vitamin D supplements can help prevent and treat migraine attacks, especially in people with vitamin D deficiency.
A 2021 analysis of five high-quality studies found that taking vitamin D supplements significantly reduced the duration, frequency, and severity of migraine headaches compared to taking a placebo.
Another review study concluded that taking 1,000-4,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day may help reduce the frequency of migraine events.
However, more research is needed to investigate the effectiveness, safety, and dosage of vitamin D in the treatment of migraine.
4- Coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a vitamin-like compound that has antioxidant effects in the body.
As an antioxidant, it may protect against the oxidative stress associated with migraines. Coenzyme Q10 may also reduce the levels of enzymes that increase during migraine attacks and cause nerve inflammation.
Therefore, coenzyme Q10 can help treat migraines.
A study of 20 adults with migraines found that taking 200 milligrams of coenzyme Q10 daily for 60 days significantly reduced the duration, frequency, and pain of people’s headaches.
Participants also tolerated the supplement well and reported no side effects.
An analysis of six studies also found that coenzyme Q10 reduced the duration and frequency of migraine attacks. However, this did not diminish their intensity.
Finally, combining coenzyme Q10 with other supplements, such as L-carnitine, feverfew, and magnesium, also appears to be beneficial in treating migraines.
Before combining supplements, it’s a good idea to talk to a health care professional, such as your doctor or pharmacist, to make sure they’re safe for you to take.
Melatonin is a hormone released by the pineal gland in your brain at night. It helps you sleep.
The development of headache and migraine episodes may be related to abnormalities in the pineal gland that result in low melatonin levels.
Taking melatonin can help prevent migraine attacks, possibly by protecting the brain from toxic molecules, regulating neurotransmitters, relieving pain and more.
A study of 49 people with migraines or chronic headaches found that taking 4 mg of melatonin 30 minutes before bedtime for 6 months significantly reduced headache frequency.
Some research suggests that melatonin may be just as effective at preventing migraine attacks and is better tolerated than the drug amitriptyline.
However, research on the use of melatonin in migraine prevention is still limited. Melatonin is generally considered safe, but more studies are needed to evaluate potential side effects and effectiveness.
Migraine prevention Tips
In addition to medications and supplements, certain dietary and lifestyle tips can help prevent migraine attacks.
- Monitor your food intake. Note anything that triggers a migraine, and limit or avoid that food or drink in the future.
- Cut back on alcohol and caffeine. These substances can trigger migraine attacks in some people. Try switching coffee to decaf tea and making an alcohol-free mocktail instead of an alcoholic mixed drink.
- Try not to skip meals. Some people may find that skipping meals or not eating at regular intervals can trigger migraines. Aim to eat your meals at the same time each day.
- Stay hydrated. Dehydration can trigger attacks. Carry a water bottle with you throughout the day and refill regularly.
- Reduce stress levels. Try meditation, journaling, cooking, yoga, and other forms of relaxation. If you’re having trouble managing your stress on your own, talk to a mental health professional.
- Limit exposure to bright lights. If bright lights make your migraine headaches worse (or bring them on), stay away from bright lights, such as in nightclubs or other places. Take regular breaks from your computer and TV throughout the day.
People who have migraines may be interested in dietary supplements to prevent or treat attacks, especially if they cannot tolerate medications.
Some research supports the use of vitamin B2, magnesium, vitamin D, coenzyme Q10, and melatonin to help with migraines. However, information on the effects of long-term use is not available.
If you’re interested in trying a supplement for migraines, talk to your healthcare professional about safety, dosage, and possible side effects.