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Medically reviewed by Danielle Aberman, RD
The evidence for nutritional supplements to help with migraine prevention and treatment of active attacks exists. We wish there were bigger studies on migraine supplements so that more doctors in primary care and general neurology would learn some of the things that certified headache specialists know – they work!
So, since social media continues to transform how people with migraine educate themselves, we hope this little summary of the five most effective migraine supplements can help you soothe your own cranky neurons. Please understand that “most effective” means that there has been enough research plus clinical observations in the medical community to deem these 5 supplements as probably or possibly effective for migraine. With that said, experiences will vary like most other treatments for migraine. Might these work for you? You won’t know until you try. If you plan on trying them, do your own research including asking your physician.
While Migraine Strong writes about the latest in migraine treatments, this is not medical advice. We are patient educators and all information you read should be discussed with your doctor.
Magnesium is probably the most accepted by the medical community as being effective. It is often given intravenously for migraine relief in emergency rooms, for inpatient care as well as outpatient care for acute attacks. IV magnesium is used to help blunt pain in for other conditions, too. It is widely accepted as helpful. Oral magnesium supplements are often listed on handouts given to us at doctor’s appointments. What is most important to know about magnesium is that the type and amount taken are very important. Our doctors don’t always know this information. Often, people try magnesium and have gastrointestinal upset or think it’s not effective when they really just needed a better form and/or a higher amount. Also, it may take several weeks for your body to be repleted with this important nutrient, so it’s important to give the magnesium enough time. Here is a blog dedicated to this important and effective nutrient.
The 3 magnesium products that we use the most are:
Magnesium Glycinate from Pure Encapsulations
CogniMag, Magnesium Threonate, from Pure Encapsulations
Life Flo Magnesium Chloride Flakes for foot soaks and baths
Soaking and bathing with magnesium may be an effective way to boost your magnesium levels if you are limited in how much oral magnesium you choose to take. The magnesium chloride flakes mentioned above or epsom salts may help you boost your levels as well as take the time for needed self care.
Ginger – Our favorite migraine supplement for acute relief
We probably know as many ginger-enthusiasts as magnesium-enthusiasts as it can be so helpful for quite a large percentage of us. It’s cheap, available and not limited by prescriptions and insurance coverage! This recent blog will give you all you need to know if ginger should be something for you to consider.
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
Based on the recent review of studies, it seems that riboflavin is effective for a significant percentage of people with migraine. In one study, riboflavin was given to a group of participants and sodium valproate was given to the other group. In another study riboflavin was given to one group while propranolol was given to the other. Riboflavin was considered “non-inferior” to both commonly prescribed and effective medications, sodium valproate and propranolol. Additionally, there were fewer side-effects reported in the riboflavin groups. So, would this “non-inferior” vitamin work for you? Perhaps.
Most of the studies used 400mg/day of riboflavin but some used lower amounts. For reference, the daily recommended intake for an adult woman is 1.1mg, so the dosages used in the studies were quite large. Based on what I read in the referenced review, as well as elsewhere, riboflavin is metabolized and cleared from our bodies quickly. Additionally, it’s unclear if the majority of the 400mg consumed is actually absorbed. That said, my personal approach to taking this supplement is to spread it out in 2-3 doses and hope that doing so makes a difference. Duration was also important as the effects of riboflavin were more pronounced after 3 months.
A nice feature of using riboflavin as a migraine supplement for prevention is its excellent tolerability and low cost. The American Academy of Neurology considers riboflavin a Level B evidence rating. This means that they consider it “probably effective” based on studies.
It’s not easy finding riboflavin in this higher dose, but here are a couple of choices that we like:
Riboflavin (B2) by Integrative Therapeutics (400mg)
Riboflavin (B2) by Solgar (100mg)
Riboflavin (B2) by Douglas Laboratories
The research supporting the use of this herbal migraine supplement, feverfew, is mixed. But, as with many nutritional supplements, especially the herbal ones, there isn’t much interest in doing big, well-designed studies as they are costly. And, if the supplement company sponsors the study, many in the medical community will not put much weight into the results. Apparently, there is enough positive feedback among neurologists for feverfew to be listed as one of the supplements that might help migraine. Dr. John Carey and Dr. Michael Teixido recommend 50 mg/day of feverfew. We promise to do a deep dive about this supplement soon as we believe feverfew may be helpful to some of you.
I was disappointed while attempting to take a dive into the research on CoQ10 as a migraine supplement. There are only a few studies on it but that does not mean it isn’t helpful. It merely means that few studies have been conducted and published about its effectiveness. CoQ10 is an important nutrient for mitochondria (the powerhouse of our cells) and some researchers believe that some people with migraine have mitochondrial dysfunction. Other nutritional supplements that help people with migraine may be helpful to mitochondria, so perhaps this is why many recommend supplementing with CoQ10. It seems to me that a few small studies plus clinical observations made by neurologists are what is behind the recommendation to supplement with this important nutrient. The recommendation from Drs. John Carey and Michael Teixido is to take up to 100mg three times per day.
Coenzyme Q10 is expensive. It’s is commonly packaged in a gelatin capsule that some people with migraine do not tolerate well. Here is one that we like:
Pure Encapsulations CoQ10
We urge you to shop for the best prices on quality supplements. For convenience and savings for our friends and visitors, we offer discounts on a tremendous selection of supplements and other items in our dispensary.
This has been written by a registered dietitian. It is not a substitute for individualized medical advice. Please do your own research including consulting your healthcare providers before adding or changing your supplements and medications in your regimen.
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