Do natural supplements really help treat, ease or prevent migraine symptoms? The truth is, no one is exactly sure.
That said, many migraine sufferers do report a decrease in both the frequency and severity of their migraine attacks when taking natural remedies, like magnesium and riboflavin.
In light of this, there has been a growing demand for natural, drug-free alternatives to help treat migraines. But how much can we trust these ingredients to do the job? And, more importantly: are they safe?
To find out, all you need to do is a little research — and we’ve done it for you. In this guide, we’ll break down the facts behind three of the most popular supplements for migraine treatment, and determine whether or not they’re worth a try.
Migraine supplement #1 — Magnesium
Magnesium is naturally found in foods like nuts, leafy greens and wholegrains, and is usually easily absorbed by a balanced diet. Studies have suggested, however, that migraine sufferers are prone to lower levels of this important mineral.
A lack of magnesium could potentially trigger migraines, as it plays an important role in controlling blood pressure and supporting the function of muscles and nerves.
In that case, it makes perfect sense to take a magnesium supplement to treat your migraines, right? Well, the efficacy of magnesium supplements will depend on the type of migraines you experience, your existing magnesium levels and other migraine treatments you take.
For example, it has been suggested that magnesium could help those suffering with menstrual migraine, and also those who experience aura symptoms. But too much magnesium could be bad for you, so consult your doctor before making any decisions.
To work out if magnesium could help prevent your migraines, you should try a supplement of around 400 milligrams per day. You need to take it for at least three months, though, to notice any results.
What to be aware of when taking magnesium for migraine
Most supplements come with side effects to consider — and magnesium is no exception. Take a few too many magnesium supplements and you could find yourself struck down with nausea, cramping and diarrhea. Very unpleasant indeed! Fortunately, magnesium rarely causes unwanted effects, as the body naturally removes excess amounts.
That said, it’s still worth consulting your doctor to identify your existing levels of magnesium. If it’s already high, taking a supplement should be avoided.
Magnesium supplements can also interfere with some antibiotics. Aminoglycosides, for example, are known to affect the muscles, as is magnesium. So taking these together could cause muscle problems. And since magnesium naturally decreases blood pressure, taking it with medication for high blood pressure should also be avoided.
Migraine supplement #2 — Riboflavin (or vitamin B2)
Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, is found in foods like vegetables, meat, almonds, eggs and milk, and is often used as a dietary supplement to help maintain energy.
A lack of energy supply to the brain can trigger a migraine, and so it is thought that taking a riboflavin supplement could help to decrease or prevent the occurrence of migraine symptoms over time.
Supporting this theory, in the only study that tested riboflavin as a sole treatment for migraines, it was found that over half (59%) of those who took 400mg per day of the vitamin for three months experienced at least a 50% reduction in migraines.
But here’s the catch: seeing as this is the only study looking at vit B alone, there’s no conclusive evidence to say it helps alleviate migraines.That said, research is on-going and many patients do report the benefits of taking this supplement — and so it is certainly worth a try.
If you choose to test this vitamin as a migraine treatment, you should take 400mg per day and do so for three months until determining the results.
What to be aware of when taking riboflavin for migraine
There are very little side effects to taking riboflavin.
Possible reactions to high doses (over 400mg) include itching, numbness and yellow urine, though these are rare and are not long-lasting.
As it is metabolized in the liver, taking riboflavin with certain antidepressants could inhibit its effectiveness. And drinking alcohol, for this same reason, could also decrease its effect.
Migraine supplement #3 — Coenzyme Q10 (or CoQ10)
Coenzyme Q10 is a compound made by the body and stored in its cells. It serves to protect us from disease-causing bacterias or viruses, and helps to produce energy.
Since it is produced in the body, it is difficult to obtain CoQ10 from food (though fish like salmon and tuna do contain it) and so a supplement is the best way to boost your levels.
Why should a migraine sufferer consider taking CoQ10, though?
Studies have suggested that, when taken as a supplement, this compound can help to reduce both the symptoms and the frequency of migraine attacks.
In one study, 32 migraine sufferers were treated with CoQ10 at a dose of 150mg per day. At the end of the trial, over 60% reported that the frequency of their migraines had decreased by more than 50%. Not bad, at all!
It’s worth noting, though, that the data from this experiment suggests CoQ10 usually takes between 5-12 weeks to deliver significant results. So, if you plan on using this supplement to treat your migraines, take a dose of 150mg per day for around three months before judging its effect.
What to be aware of when taking Coenzyme Q10 for migraine
Again, there are very few side effects related to taking CoQ10. Over supplementation could result in a burning sensation in the mouth, loss of appetite and nausea, though this is unusual and very unlikely.
In fact, this compound is usually extremely well-tolerated in migraine patients, and has no adverse health risks related to it. What’s more, in terms of interfering with other migraine treatments, there is no crossover to be aware of — great news if you have a wide repertoire of other coping mechanisms.
So are natural supplements right for you?
The science in this article suggests that taking supplements would be a safe, and potentially very helpful, addition to your migraine treatment plan. That said, it is important to consult your doctor to be sure that you are the right candidate for incorporating supplementation into your daily life.
And as well as trying natural remedies to decrease the frequency and severity of your migraine attacks, it is also worth paying attention to your lifestyle and trying to make changes wherever possible.
Eating healthily, exercising, sleeping well and avoiding any triggers (like alcohol, stress and computer screens) will all help to manage your migraine condition.
So, find a balance that’s right for you. Seek the right treatments and make the right lifestyle changes, and in time, you should begin to notice a decrease in migraine symptoms.