Do you regularly seek natural products to relieve your migraine pain? Then no doubt you hear about a new “miracle” supplement or superfood every few days or so. But it can be costly and frustrating to continually sample vitamins and supplements, yet see little or no positive results.
Let’s look at some specific vitamins and supplements — what they are and what they are not.
But first, it’s important to note: all of us should consume a daily diet that contains the essential nutrients that the body needs to sustain itself. A nutraceutical (for example, Omega 3) is a concentrated substance commonly found in foods. If, for some reason, a person is unable to consume a certain essential nutrient in their diet, it can often be consumed as a nutraceutical.
If you have regular bouts with migraine, consult with a nutritionist or doctor to be sure your diet is well balanced with essential micro and macronutrients that can help protect against a migraine triggered by poor nutrition. It may help to consume small meals throughout the day to stay nourished and prevent dips in blood sugar.
Most importantly, unless you have a specific health condition or a dietary preference such as vegan or gluten-free, you can likely get all your nutritional needs from whole foods, without the need for daily vitamins and supplements.
The term “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean “no risk” — vitamins and supplements can cause side effects. And if you do consider a particular supplement or nutraceutical to help with pain relief, proper dosage and timing are essential for it to have a helpful therapeutic effect.
Here are some vitamins and supplements that may bring pain relief during a migraine episode, although results will vary depending on the individual:
Magnesium is an essential mineral, critical for regulating important bodily functions such as muscle contraction, insulin production, cardiac events, and neuromuscular activity. A magnesium imbalance can lead to multiple dysfunctions.
Dietary sources of magnesium include nuts, seeds, unprocessed cereals, legumes, fruit, fish, meat, and even water. But research shows that the Western diet in Europe and the United States does not fulfill the recommended magnesium intake.
However, a clinical study investigated the preventive effect of oral magnesium for people with migraine — and results were impressive. For 12 weeks, two groups of people of all ages who experience migraine received either 600mg of magnesium daily or a placebo tablet. In the final three weeks of the study, the magnesium group reported that their migraine episodes had decreased by 41.6%.
Magnesium has also proven quite effective in people who experience visual and sensory changes — aura — with their migraines. Scientists believe that magnesium may prevent cortical spreading depression, the brain signals that initiate aura.
Magnesium is available in many different forms, including magnesium oxide, sulfate, or glycinate. Our bodies absorb each of these differently and at a different rate, making them useful for a wide range of indications. Magnesium oxide in pill form is often used for migraine pain relief and prevention, typically at a recommended dose of 400-600mg per day. Higher doses of magnesium oxide may lead to abdominal cramping and diarrhea.
Consult a medical professional to understand what form of magnesium may give you the best results. The advice of a professional is especially needed if you are using diuretics, antibiotics, muscle relaxants, or heart medications.
CoQ10 is a compound stored naturally in the mitochondria of our bodies’ cells and involved with efficient energy production. Research suggests that it has antioxidant properties that protect against oxidative stress and cell damage.
Most people obtain adequate dietary CoQ10 from meat, fish, and nuts. However, researchers found that people with migraine have lower levels of CoQ10, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and magnesium, which could be contributing to their symptoms. Clinical trials to date suggest that a dose of 100mg, three times a day, may be helpful; however, more randomized controlled trials must be conducted to study CoQ10’s preventive efficacy on migraine and confirm recommended dosages.
CoQ10 is generally safe and well tolerated, although diarrhea and mild stomach upset could be side effects. But more importantly, blood pressure medications, blood thinners, and antidepressants may interact with CoQ10. Treat CoQ10 like any medication and consult your doctor before beginning to use this supplement. They’ll take into consideration your general medical condition and history, including whether you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, dealing with a kidney or liver condition, or have diabetes/glucose management issues.
Like the other B vitamins, Vitamin B2 helps essential bodily functions such as converting food into fuel and supporting brain function. Riboflavin deficiency can render a person more prone to migraine. While more clinical evidence is needed, a small, promising open label study showed that the group who took 200mg riboflavin capsules twice a day over a 6-month period had significantly fewer migraine days, and reduced their migraine medication intake as well. Bright yellow urine is a common side effect.
Again, consulting a medical professional is a good idea before taking riboflavin regularly.
Feverfew helps reduce inflammation in blood vessels and has been used for many years to treat a variety of health issues. Although no conclusive evidence exists to prove it can effectively prevent or treat migraine, a 2002 study found that 6.25mg of feverfew, taken 3 times a day, significantly reduced pain levels in people with migraine. This dosage is still recommended today.
Feverfew shouldn’t be discontinued abruptly as it may lead to a condition similar to medication overuse headache (MOH). To avoid excessive bleeding, it should not be combined with aspirin; care should also be taken in mixing this herb with ragweed, chamomile, and yarrow to avoid side effects. Feverfew is not recommended during pregnancy.
Although often referred to as a “sleep supplement,” melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland that informs the brain when it’s time for sleep. People with migraine commonly experience difficulty falling asleep and have poor quality of sleep and sleep disturbances during the night. For these people, melatonin may prove to be a helpful sleep aid.
A 2016 clinical study reported that 3mg of melatonin was more effective in increasing sleep quality and reducing the frequency of migraine than 25mg of a pain killer and an antidepressant commonly used for people with migraine. 3mg taken before bedtime is recommended; however, dosing with melatonin might cause some dependency and morning drowsiness. A healthcare professional can make the most informed dosage recommendation based on the individual.
For centuries, ginger root has been used to relieve stomach ailments, helpful for people who may experience nausea during a migraine episode.
But ginger may prove useful for more than that. In a 2014 clinical trial of people with migraine (without aura), participants were given either ginger powder or a prescription drug for pain relief. In two hours, both groups reported significant pain relief; in fact, the group that took ginger reported less side effects than the medicated group. The equivalent of a quarter teaspoon of powdered ginger root seems to be an effective dose; ginger in candy or pill form is easily consumed.
Fat-soluble Vitamin D helps the body absorb minerals it needs to build bone and can help control infection and inflammation. Vitamin D deficiency can contribute to mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, as well as cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune conditions, and neurological disorders.
Vitamin D has well-documented anti-inflammatory properties. A 2021 observational study indicates that a vitamin D deficiency may play a role in the progression of pain from transient to persistent. Interestingly, vitamin D deficiency is often observed in people with chronic headache, including migraine, reinforcing researchers’ belief that neuroinflammation may cause migraines to become persistent over time.
The standard recommendation for vitamin D is 1000 IU, taken twice daily. However, consult your doctor to determine how much is appropriate for your needs, as excess dosage could cause adverse side effects such as weight loss, kidney stones, or irregular heart beat.
Omega 3 fatty acids have certain health benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties and the ability to regulate neurotransmitters such as serotonin.
Although Omega 3s aren’t found naturally in the body, they are readily available in certain foods, such as fatty fish, flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. Ketogenic diets — diets that include more Omega 3 and less Omega 6 (found in eggs and vegetable oils) — have been shown to reduce the frequency of migraine episodes.
Most Omega 3 supplements contain two types of Omega 3 — EPA and DHA. For optimal benefit to mood and mental health in adults, a 2:1 ratio — 1000mg of EPA and 500 mg of DHA — is typically suitable each day. A 1:1 EPA/DHA supplement (a total 2000mg per day) may benefit general health and anti-inflammatory effects. Your doctor can help you determine an appropriate dosage for your needs.
When it comes to migraine, long-term relief is the ideal scenario. Migraines are heritable, and understanding why you experience these attacks will move you closer to resolving them.
One very effective way to uncover the cause of your migraine episodes is through Mable, a DNA-guided treatment program that gives you a clearer picture of why and how your migraines occur. Mable can help you find a tailored approach that works more quickly to treat or eliminate your migraine.
Take our quiz to get a migraine treatment plan individualized to you.