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Medically reviewed by Danielle Aberman, Registered Dietitian (RDN).
The statistics on the prevalence of migraine are quite shocking. According to the Global Burden of Disease study, headache disorders are among the most prevalent and disabling conditions worldwide.
Fortunately, in the past few years, people living with migraine have more choices for both preventive and acute medications. However, some people with less severe migraine disease who experience infrequent attacks may find an effective regimen without the need for prescribed medications.
Additionally, those with more frequent and severe attacks may discover adding a nutritional supplement to a prescribed medication routine can lead to even better results than taking medication alone.
We have written a great deal about the benefits of magnesium, ginger, melatonin, vitamin D, turmeric and other proven natural migraine remedies. This article will explore the CoQ10 migraine link to assist you in understanding its potential to help you find even more consistent relief.
** 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.
What is CoQ10?
CoQ10, or Coenzyme Q10, is a nutrient that our body makes on its own. It has several roles, but the 2 main actions that get the most attention are in cellular energy production and its important anti-oxidant abilities.
CoQ10 is a key enzyme used in the mitochondria. If you think back to your high school biology days, you may recall that the mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cells whos main job is to convert energy. The energy made in these organelles is called adenosine triphosphate, ATP. CoQ10 is an important part of making ATP. When cells need fuel, stored energy (i.e. carbohydrate and fat) is converted to ATP. Then, ATP shuttles the energy to the parts of the cell where it’s needed.
As if that didn’t make it important enough, CoQ10 also helps our cells stay healthier longer by serving as an antioxidant. An important job of antioxidants is neutralizing free radicals and other substances that can cause cell damage and premature aging. Health professionals often recommend wholesome, colorful foods. This is because colorful foods tend to be high in antioxidants. They are vital for our overall health and wellbeing.
CoQ10 supplements either alone or with other medications and supplements is not only beneficial for those with migraine disease. It’s potentially helpful in preventing or treating a number of chronic diseases including heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, periodontal disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Evidence to support the CoQ10 migraine relief link
In 2021, a meta-analysis was published that looked at 6 small studies evaluating coQ10 for migraine. The studies differed in several ways including the CoQ10 migraine dose provided, but the reviewers still noted some positive conclusions from the data.
The duration and frequency of migraine was reduced with supplementation of CoQ10. Additionally, one study noted that nausea associated with the migraine attack was also less when coenzyme q10 was taken. What was not observed was a reduction in the severity of migraine headache.
They also noted a significant benefit of CoQ10 for migraine. There were no significant negative side effects reported when compared to people taking the placebo. How great is that?
What is the theory behind the effectiveness of CoQ10 for migraine?
One coenzyme Q10 study noted a reduction in inflammatory markers. Specifically in the CoQ10 migraine study participants showed lower levels of calcitonin gene related peptide, CGRP. Anti-CGRP meds are newer to the market and quite helpful for many people with migraine. Perhaps this enzyme may help migraine by naturally reducing CGRP levels.
Another theory about the mechanism of migraine is related to mitochondrial dysfunction. It is known that CoQ10 is needed for proper function of the cell’s powerhouses, the mitochondria. Perhaps supplementing corrects a deficiency. Or, maybe the boost in CoQ10 improves the cell biochemistry enough to prevent or reduce migraine attacks.
According to one study looking at the possible mechanism of migraine “Increasing evidence points towards the role of mitochondrial function, energy metabolism and oxidative stress in migraine.” As stated earlier, CoQ10 has important roles in all three areas, mitochondrial function, energy metabolism and oxidative stress. When considered together, the potential for CoQ10 as a migraine preventive seems more favorable.
We certainly need bigger, better studies. It would be especially helpful to hone in on the most effective coenzyme q10 dosage. But for now, there seems to be enough positive potential for migraine relief with CoQ10 to be worth discussing it with your neurologist.
A little controversy regarding CoQ10 and “statins”
One of the most prescribed types of drugs for middle-aged and older people in the US are the cholesterol-lowering medications called “statins.” Some studies show lowered serum coQ10 levels with older people who are on these medications. There is also noted mitochondrial dysfunction associated with these statins in some studies (sound familiar?). The controversy is about supplementation with coQ10 as some studies showed benefit while others did not. My personal opinion is that being on a statin drug while also having a diagnosis of migraine are two good reasons to have a conversation with your doctors about giving the supplement a try.
The best CoQ10 supplement
The nutraceutical industry in the United States is tremendous but not tightly regulated. You have an overwhelming number of options. When choosing the best coQ10 supplement, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, choose a manufacturer that has high quality standards. You want the claim on the label about the quality and quantity to match what is inside the container. Choose companies that regularly send their products for testing through high-quality, third-party independent labs.
Second, the best coQ10 supplement does not have to be the most expensive. Coenzyme Q10 is one of the more expensive proven supplements for migraine, so shop and compare prices. The study mentioned above mainly looked at research that was done when the coQ10 for migraine was taken for 6 weeks. So, there is no need to buy a container with more than enough for 42 days. Assuming you track your attacks, you should know if this supplement is helpful in reducing your attack intensity and frequency in that time frame.
Ubiquinol versus CoQ10
Coenzyme Q10 (as ubiquinone in supplements) is the active form that our cells use. Ubiquinol is another form that is readily used by our body. There are studies that report that ubiquinol is superior yet other studies saying that they are equal. Given the lack of a clear “winner,” I suggest trying the less expensive one. We have plenty of other ways to spend money to help find migraine relief!
What is the recommended coenzyme Q10 migraine dosage?
In the meta-analysis discussed earlier, some studies used a dose of 400 mg per day, while other studies, used a150 mg per day dose.
In a very helpful handout about migraine from Johns Hopkins Headache Center, Dr. Michael Teixido and Dr. John Carey, MD recommend the coenzyme Q10 migraine dose of 100 mg taken up to 3 times per day. We suggest talking with your migraine specialist to determine the best dose for you in this uncertain area.
How to take optimize your dose
Coenzyme Q10 is a fat-soluble nutrient. This means that it is best absorbed by the GI tract when accompanied with at least a little fat in a meal or snack. So, if you and your doctor decide to give CoQ10 a try, plan on taking it with food that has good fat content.
Finding relief from migraine without the need for prescribed medication is wonderful especially when someone cannot take many of the migraine medications. However, if you have not consulted with a headache specialist or neurologist skilled at managing migraine, we urge you to not wait. Sometimes people delay proper care too long.
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