Vitamins and Supplements for Headache Treatment

If you have migraines, you know these throbbing, pulsing headaches can put a damper on an otherwise good day. While medications can help you manage them, there can be side effects.

That’s why some people with migraines like to go “all natural” to find relief.

The good news is there is some evidence these supplements, which include things like vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, and enzymes, may help. But the science is limited.

Remember, “all natural” doesn’t necessarily mean safe. Any supplement you take should be discussed with your doctor.

It’s important to note that the FDA doesn’t have the authority to review these kinds of products for safety and effectiveness before they’re put on the market. So your best bet may be to look for a “USP Verified” label. That means it’s at least been tested by the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention for things like purity and potency.

Magnesium

It seems that people with migraines have lower levels of magnesium than the rest of us. Magnesium is naturally found in foods like spinach, nuts, and whole grains. It helps control blood pressure and blood sugar, and your muscles and nerves need it to work properly.

Researchers have tested magnesium supplements for treating and preventing migraines. So far, the results are mixed.

If you want to try it, you should take about 400 milligrams each day. You have to take it for at least 3 months to know whether it works for you.

Too much magnesium from supplements can bring side effects including:

Magnesium supplements can also interfere with some antibiotics.


 

Riboflavin

Better known as vitamin B2, this may make migraines less frequent and less severe for some people. It’s found naturally in foods like:

  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Green veggies
  • Nuts
  • Enriched flour

And like many of the other B vitamins, it’s also found in daily vitamin pills.

Riboflavin plays a key role in metabolism, the process by which our bodies make energy. Research has shown that people with migraines may have a glitch in that process. That glitch could be responsible for the headaches.

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Riboflavin is considered most likely safe for most people, but it can turn your urine an orange color.

To help prevent migraines, you should take about 400 milligrams of riboflavin a day. That’s much more than what is in a multivitamin. Don’t take more multivitamins to get that much riboflavin. You’d also be taking too much of everything else in that vitamin. And that can cause problems.

Taking more than 400 milligrams every day probably won’t do you more good. If you’re taking antibiotics, specifically tetracycline antibiotics, riboflavin may interfere with them.

Feverfew

This plant, which looks like a daisy, has a long history in treating -- you guessed it -- fevers, as well as aches and pains due to inflammation.

Research shows that feverfew may treat and prevent migraines. But most results have been mixed. 

None of the studies showed that feverfew caused any serious side effects.

If you want to try it, start at a low dose of about 50 milligrams a day. It may take a few months to see any results.

Don’t take feverfew if you take an anticoagulant drug.

Coenzyme Q10

Like riboflavin, coenzyme Q10, sometimes called coQ10, is a part of metabolism. Foods like liver, whole grains, and oily fish like salmon are the primary food sources for this vitamin.

Some studies do show it may help prevent migraines.

In one small study, people with migraines were given coenzyme Q10 each day. More than 60% of them had a 50% drop in the number of days they had a migraine.

CoQ10 doesn’t have many major side effects, though you could get an upset stomach or nausea. Doses higher than 300 milligrams daily may affect your liver. And if you take the anticoagulant warfarin, coQ10 may make it less effective.

Melatonin

You may have popped some melatonin to get a good night’s rest after a stress-filled week or taken it to adjust your sleep-wake cycle during a bout of jet lag.

Melatonin, a natural hormone, is similar to indomethacin, an anti-inflammatory drug used to treat aches, pains, and migraines.

Some research shows that those with chronic migraines have very low levels of melatonin.

One study compared melatonin to amitriptyline (a medicine used in migraine prevention) and to a placebo. The results of that study showed that melatonin was better than a placebo in preventing migraines. It also had fewer side effects than amitriptyline and was just as effective.

Melatonin generally works well with your body, but it can cause daytime sleepiness. In rare cases, it can cause abdominal discomfort and even short bouts of depression.

If you take an anticoagulant, an immunosuppressant, diabetes medications, or birth control pills, talk to your doctor since it can interact with these drugs.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on June 19, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

FDA: "Dietary Supplements: What You Need to Know."

U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention.

National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements.

Association of Migraine Disorders.

The Migraine Trust.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: "Does Vitamin B2 Prevent Migraines?"

National Library of Medicine.

UCLA Headache Treatment and Research Program.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

Cochrane.

National Headache Foundation.

Telgen, L. Cephalalgia, September 2015.

Rozen, T.D. Cephalalgia, March 2002.

Sandor, P.S.  Neurology, February 2005.

The Mayo Clinic.

Masruha. M. Headache, March 2010.

Peres, M. Neurology, August 2004.

Peres, M. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, published online May 2016.

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