Supplements for treating migraine
What they are used for
A dietary supplement is a product that contains ingredients to supplement your diet. The “dietary ingredients” in these products may include: vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, and substances such as enzymes. People take supplements for a variety of reasons, but usually to ‘boost’ their diet or to try and help with their health.
Many people with migraine try supplements to help their symptoms. There are many different supplements that claim to be helpful for migraine and headache. However, there is limited evidence about how effective these are. Only a few have some evidence to show potential benefit including riboflavin (B2), magnesium and Co-enzyme Q10.
What is a supplement?
Riboflavin plays an important role in cellular energy production in the body. Its role in mitochondrial energy metabolism suggests it may be effective in migraine. From the evidence available it is well tolerated and potentially effective as a preventive treatment for migraine. NICE Clinical Guidelines for managing headache state that riboflavin (400mg a day) may be effective in reducing migraine frequency and severity in some people.
Magnesium plays an important role in a range of biological processes in the body. The evidence available suggests it may be effective as a preventive treatment for migraine. Some people do experience side effects including an upset stomach or diarrhoea.
Co-enzyme Q10 plays an important role in cellular energy metabolism in the body. The available evidence suggests it may be an effective preventive, but more research would be helpful.
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(Take from the British Association for the Study of Headache – National Headache Management System for Adults 2019)
Feverfew is a medicinal herb. There is limited evidence that it may be effective in migraine. From the studies available it’s not clear what is an effective preparation or dose.
There are a range of other supplements that are mentioned as treatments for migraine. These include melatonin, vitamins B6, B9 and B12, vitamin E and vitamin C. At the moment there is a need for more research into whether these have any benefit for migraine.
If you’re going to start a supplement for migraine speak to your GP to make sure there are no reasons it may be unsafe for you (e.g. interacting with other medications).
For most people, most supplements are unlikely to cause any harm. If you notice a change in your symptoms or other potential side effects speak to your GP.
As with other preventive treatments for migraine it is likely to take time to see if it is helping (usually 6-8 weeks). It may take up to three months to see the full benefit.
The available evidence suggests supplements are most effective in less severe presentations of migraine. They may be more effective for people with episodic migraine.
Make sure you buy any supplements from a reputable place such as a health food store.