Migraine episodes can be debilitating. While many people find relief from taking prescription medications, there is limited evidence that certain vitamins may reduce the severity, duration or frequency of migraine.
Researchers have looked at the impact numerous nutrients have on migraine, with some of the most studied including vitamin B2, magnesium, and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10).
This article looks at vitamins that may help people with migraine. It then looks at how to take those vitamins safely, and when someone should seek advice from a doctor.
It is important to understand that there is not much research on vitamins that may help with migraine. Overall, there is no strong evidence to prove that a specific vitamin or supplement can prevent migraine or relieve symptoms for everyone.
People who experience migraine can have different triggers and nutritional needs, making it difficult to pinpoint one vitamin that will help. People who are low in some nutrients may find one vitamin helpful, while others may not.
However, there are a few vitamins that scientists have researched as potential migraine remedies. Limited evidence suggests that the following vitamins and supplements may help reduce the severity or frequency of migraine episodes:
Among the most frequently recommended vitamins and supplements are vitamin B2, magnesium, and coenzyme Q10.
However, a 2019 review notes that often, studies in this field are small or of low quality, which can make it difficult to determine if vitamins do help.
Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, plays a crucial role in metabolizing food into energy. Foods such as meat, eggs, milk, nuts, and green vegetables are good sources of this antioxidant.
In an older study from the European Journal of Neurology, 23 participants took high doses of riboflavin for 6 months. They reported that both the number and duration of headaches decreased by around 50% after 3 to 6 months.
A 2015 review in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research also concluded that using vitamin B2 could reduce both the frequency and duration of migraine, with no severe side effects.
However, scientists need to carry out more research on a larger number of people to determine if vitamin B2 is effective and to understand how it works.
Neurologists from the American Academy of Neurology recommend that people try 400 milligrams (mg) per day, split into two doses of 200 mg each.
Magnesium is a mineral that is essential for nerve function, blood pressure, and blood sugar control. Over the years, scientists have disagreed over its importance for migraine reduction.
Some of the strongest evidence for its use comes from a placebo-controlled, double-blind study from 1996. In that study, 81 participants took 600 mg of magnesium or a placebo for 3 months. The people taking magnesium experienced just under 42% fewer migraine episodes, compared to 16% in the placebo group.
A more recent 2017 review of previous research identified several studies that showed magnesium could prevent migraine more effectively than a placebo. However, high quality, large scale studies are still lacking.
Good dietary sources of magnesium include beans, almonds, avocado, bananas, broccoli, and spinach. Alternatively, people can try supplements.
The American Migraine Foundation recommend daily doses of 400-500 mg of magnesium, whereas the American Academy of Neurology recommend 600 mg. It is a good idea to start at a lower dose and work up to those levels, as magnesium can cause diarrhea in some people.
CoQ10 is a vitamin-like substance that has a range of functions in the body. For example, it helps with energy generation and acts as an antioxidant.
Research on CoQ10’s impact on migraine is limited. A 2005 trial found that taking 100 mg of CoQ10 three times daily could reduce migraine frequency by around 50%. However, the study was small, with only 42 participants.
Oily fish, organ meat, and whole grains provide enough CoQ10 in many peoples’ diets. However, supplements may be useful for those with migraine.
The American Academy of Neurology recommend trying CoQ10 at 100 mg three times a day.
Research has also looked at other complementary therapies that may help some people who experience migraine.
Biofeedback and relaxation training
Biofeedback is a method people use to gain awareness of bodily functions, such as heart rate and muscle tension. Over time, people undergoing biofeedback learn to control these functions by practicing deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and other skills.
Biofeedback and other forms of relaxation training can reduce muscle tension and chronic pain, and are one of the most well-studied complementary therapies for headaches.
According to the American Migraine Foundation, biofeedback and relaxation training can reduce migraine frequency and severity by 45-60%, comparable to popular migraine medications. However, they work best in conjunction with medication.
Acupuncture involves a practitioner inserting tiny needles into the skin at specific points around the body.
A 2016 review of 22 trials found evidence that acupuncture can reduce the frequency of migraine more effectively than either no acupuncture at all or “sham” acupuncture, where a practitioner performs treatment incorrectly to serve as a placebo.
This suggests that traditional acupuncture may prevent migraine. Additionally, studies comparing acupuncture with preventative migraine medications found that after 3 months, both the people receiving acupuncture and those taking medication had at least 50% fewer episodes.
The researchers noted that compared to drugs, acupuncture was also less likely to cause side effects.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that aims to help people understand how their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors influence each other. People can use it for a variety of mental health conditions, but also to help them cope with physical symptoms, such as pain.
A 2015 systematic review found mixed results on CBT’s effectiveness for migraine reduction. Some studies found CBT could reduce physical migraine symptoms, but others did not.
Vitamins supplements are generally safe within the recommended doses. However, some can be harmful at high dosages. People should always check with a doctor before they take a new supplement to ensure it will be suitable for their needs.
Some supplements can interact with medications or affect pre-existing conditions a person might have. Some are not suitable or safe for use during pregnancy.
Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not review these products’ safety or effectiveness, so it is important to choose a high-quality brand.
If someone is experiencing regular migraine episodes, a visit to the doctor is a sensible step. A doctor can create a treatment plan or refer people to a specialist.
People should seek immediate medical attention if a headache:
- is especially severe
- starts suddenly, like a thunderclap
- also involves speech, vision, or movement difficulties
- coincides with fever, confusion, or neck stiffness
If the person is confused or displaying other neurological symptoms, or if the migraine is secondary to a head injury, seek immediate help.
If a person tries vitamin supplements for migraine and experiences any new symptoms, they should stop taking the supplement and consult a doctor.
Some people may find that using certain vitamins for migraine can ease their symptoms, or decrease the number of episodes they experience.
However, scientists need to carry out more research to understand how effective supplements like B2, magnesium, and CoQ10 are and how they work. Other therapies that may provide relief include biofeedback and acupuncture.