The Simple Guide to Migraine Supplements
Medication isn’t the only answer to the problem of migraine pain. Many people also use supplements to prevent or relieve migraine symptoms — but do they really work?
Generally speaking, supplements are defined as anything you take to add nutrients to your diet or lower your risk of health problems, including vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, and enzymes. Supplements aren’t medication, and you don’t need a prescription to take them. You should, however, consult your healthcare provider first.
Dr. Deena Kuruvilla, medical director at the Westport Headache Institute, recommends finding a provider who’s open to discussing complementary or integrative approaches. “I think it really starts off with finding a provider who’s managing migraine from a mainstream therapy standpoint and an integrative medicine therapy standpoint,” she says, and then asking your provider about the pros and cons of particular supplements.
Keep in mind, too, that migraine — and migraine treatments — can be highly individual. What works for someone else may or may not work for you. For most nutraceutical supplements, Dr. Kuruvilla advises trying a therapeutic dose for six to eight weeks. After that period, you should be able to tell if it’s making a difference.
Which supplements are most commonly used to relieve or prevent migraine?
Research studies have shown that the following dietary supplements and herbs have been shown to have some benefit for migraine.
Magnesium: Magnesium is a mineral with many crucial functions in the body. People with migraines often have lower levels of magnesium, compared to the general public. Magnesium deficiency is also associated with cortical spreading depression (CSD), a wave of altered brain activity that’s thought to be linked with migraine aura.
The most common magnesium supplement for migraine is magnesium citrate, but magnesium glycinate may be better if you experience stomach upset. Talk to your healthcare provider before taking it, because magnesium can interact with certain medication and health conditions.
Some people apply a liquid form (often called magnesium oil) to their skin. However, Dr. Kuruvilla said at the 2021 Migraine World Summit that “magnesium in oil form does not have enough evidence to back it up to specifically use on muscles and in people with migraine.”
Vitamin B-2/Riboflavin: Riboflavin, also known as B-2, may help reduce the frequency of migraine headache attacks by about 2 attacks per month, according to the National Institutes of Health. Taking riboflavin along with other vitamins and minerals may also reduce migraine pain.
Riboflavin is generally safe and well-tolerated, although it may interact with some medications.
Coenzyme Q10: Also called ubiquinone, CoQ10 is an enzyme that naturally occurs in the body. One small study found that migraine patients who took 100 mg of CoQ10 three times a day had fewer attacks in three months than those who took a placebo. The participants taking CoQ10 also had fewer days with headache and fewer days with nausea.
Ginger: Many people rely on ginger to help with migraine symptoms. To date, a few small studies have suggested that ginger can be effective in helping relieve migraine pain, either on its own or when combined with medications.
Feverfew: Parthenolide, the active ingredient in feverfew, “may prevent migraine through its vascular smooth muscle relaxation and anti‐inflammatory properties,” Dr. Kuruvilla and Dr. Rebecca Erwin Wells write.
Butterbur: This shrub appears to help reduce the frequency of migraines in adults and children, according to the NIH, but some butterbur products contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) which can damage the liver. Look for butterbur labeled PA-free.
Other supplements for migraine include:
- Turmeric, a spice with anti-inflammatory properties
- Melatonin, a hormone associated with sleep
- L-Theanine, an amino acid found naturally in tea
- Probiotics, which are beneficial microorganisms in the gut
- Vitamin D, a vitamin that’s low in many people with migraine
- Omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties
This is just a partial list. If you’re interested in trying supplements to ease migraine symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider about how to do it safely. If you’re searching for a drug-free migraine treatment, consider trying CEFALY.