Migraine is one of the most common neurological disorders, affecting an estimated 35 million people in the US¹.
Over-the-counter and prescription medications are available to help treat migraines, but many people find they don’t offer complete relief from symptoms.
However, limited evidence suggests certain vitamins and supplements like melatonin, riboflavin B2, and magnesium may also help effectively treat and prevent migraines.
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A migraine is a type of headache that ranges in severity. It’s often accompanied by throbbing pain on one side of the head, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and vomiting.
While the cause of migraines is unknown, they are believed to be related to changes in the levels of certain chemicals in the brain.
A migraine occurs in four stages:
The prodrome is the pre-headache part of the migraine. This stage mostly involves sensory symptoms, such as pain or changes in vision and smell.
Auras are visual distortions or illusions which occur just before a migraine attack.
The next stage is a headache. Headaches are defined as throbbing pains that affect one side of the head.
The final stage is post-dome, which causes aftereffects like confusion and tiredness. You might hear this referred to as a “migraine hangover.”
Migraines generally start occurring between the ages of 10 and 45, but they can, in rare cases, begin at any time in life.
They most often affect women, although men also get migraines.
Recognizing signs and symptoms is the first step in treating migraines or preventing them from resurfacing.
Migraines can be mistaken for headaches caused by tension, stress, or dehydration. However, people who get frequent migraines tend to experience the same symptoms each time (with aura and postdrome).
Migraine symptoms may include:
Sensitivity to light and sound. A dark, quiet room may provide relief from these symptoms.
Nausea and vomiting. Many migraine sufferers (up to 60%²) experience nausea and vomiting with their migraines.
Sensitivity to smells. Most people who get migraines are sensitive to smells, and this sensitivity often comes on during a migraine attack.
Sensitivity to touch. Light touch can be extremely painful, and changing position often helps.
Temporary loss of feeling in a small area of one side of the body (sensory symptoms). This can come in the form of tingling, numbness, coldness, or pain.
Loss of balance and/or coordination. You might feel dizzy when you are having a migraine.
A multi-pronged approach is the most effective way to treat and prevent migraines. This may involve taking medications when you have a migraine attack and proactively working on the underlying triggers that lead to migraines.
In addition, vitamins and supplements play a role in normal, healthy body functions and can help reduce the severity of migraines and prevent them.
It is thought that the physical and chemical connections between the gut and brain (the gut–brain axis³) may impact migraines, but more research is needed. This is why different dietary approaches to preventing and tackling migraine symptoms have been studied.
However, if you’d like to try supplements to help with your migraines, speak to your doctor first to ensure it’s safe.
Here are some of the dietary vitamins and supplements that could help reduce your migraines:
Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, is commonly found in green leafy vegetables, eggs, milk, and cheese. It helps regulate the production of new cells and energy, which helps the body dispose of waste products.
This vitamin has been shown to effectively reduce migraine frequency. Research indicates a vitamin B2 deficiency may lead to an increase in free radicals that can damage cells and therefore cause an increase in migraines.
Research⁴ found vitamin B2 significantly decreased pain related to migraine attacks. The beneficial effects were seen after one month of 400mg daily doses.
Magnesium is a mineral with many health benefits. You can find it in green vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
The mineral is involved with more than 300 enzymatic reactions, helping your body function properly. Its role in the body has also been linked to migraine prevention.
Most people don’t get enough magnesium in their diet. Some experts⁵ believe magnesium deficiencies may influence the development of migraines.
A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicenter trial⁶ published in 2015 studied the effects of magnesium, riboflavin, and Q10 in adults aged 18 to 65 with migraine (with or without aura). Researchers found those who took the supplement had less migraine pain and suffered fewer migraines than those who took a placebo.
The relationship between vitamin D levels and migraines is unclear, but some limited research⁷ indicates a pattern between migraines and vitamin D deficiency.
Research⁷ has also linked vitamin D with pain and anti-inflammatory effects.
Vitamin D is important as it allows your body to absorb magnesium in your intestines. Magnesium is thought to be beneficial for migraines, so getting enough vitamin D could also help ensure you have sufficient magnesium levels.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a substance naturally produced by the body. Its main function is to act as an enzyme activator. It also helps cells generate energy and protect against oxidative stress, which may be a factor in migraine episodes.
A study was carried out to establish CoQ10’s effect on migraines. Researchers⁸ found that patients taking 100mg of CoQ10 three times per day had fewer migraine attacks than participants who took a placebo over three months.
The study author suggested migraines could occur when brain cells don’t have enough energy. CoQ10 helps provide energy to these cells.
A more recent meta-analysis⁹ of studies found that CoQ10 supplementation could reduce the frequency and duration of migraine attacks. However, the meta-analysis did not conclude that CoQ10 could reduce migraine severity.
Riboflavin is found in dairy, liver, and eggs, but you can also take it as a supplement. It’s a vitamin that helps the body convert food into energy and reduces pain related to migraines.
Riboflavin is thought to help reduce the frequency of migraine attacks by around two per month. It is also thought that taking riboflavin with other vitamins and minerals could reduce migraine pain.
Speak to your doctor before supplementing riboflavin. They may recommend taking 400mg per day to help with your migraines.
Inconclusive evidence suggests the herb feverfew (Euphrasia officinalis) may help prevent migraines and the vomiting and nausea you may experience alongside them.
Feverfew appears to work by stopping the release of serotonin and prostaglandins. These are inflammatory substances. In this way, the herb lessens the constriction and spasming of blood vessels in the head.
Possible side effects of feverfew include nausea, digestive problems, and bloating. Not enough is known about how feverfew affects pregnant or breastfeeding women, so speak to your doctor before taking it if you are pregnant.
Melatonin is a natural hormone found in the body. It helps regulate sleep and the body’s circadian rhythm (the cycle around the 24-hour day).
You can take melatonin supplements as a preventative measure against migraines. Several research studies¹⁰ have shown melatonin may have a positive effect on the prevention of migraine headaches by decreasing inflammation and relieving pain.
Melatonin has been found to raise heart rate and blood pressure¹¹ in people with hypertension taking nifedipine monotherapy. Therefore, speak to your doctor before taking feverfew if you have high blood pressure.
Please don’t take supplements to treat your migraines without seeing a doctor first, as they could interact with other health conditions or medications you are currently taking. Always follow your doctor or pharmacist’s guidance and don’t take more than your recommended dose.
Some supplements, such as vitamin A, could cause birth defects if you take too much. Be sure to tell your doctor if you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant.
Here are some tips that can help you prevent migraines:
Migraine triggers vary from person to person. They may include stress, certain foods, hormonal changes, alcohol, skipping meals, the lighting or temperature in the environment you’re in, and low blood sugar.
Try keeping a migraine diary for a few weeks to help you understand what your triggers are.
Drinking plenty of water can help prevent headaches. This is because proper hydration can dilate blood vessels which reduces pressure on the head and brain.
Research¹² has shown a link between constipation and migraines, although the nature of this link is unclear. People with migraines often have constipation too.
You can take steps to manage constipation, such as drinking enough water, exercising regularly, and consuming a high-fiber diet.
Experts believe sleep and migraines are linked. One theory is that migraine is a balancing mechanism¹³ that occurs if you have been getting too little or too much sleep.
To ensure you are getting enough high-quality sleep, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Make your sleeping environment peaceful and calming. Avoid distractions late at night, like phones and TV.
Incorporating dietary supplements into your daily routine may help reduce the recurrence and severity of migraines. You might find they help if over-the-counter and prescription painkillers don’t work for you.
There are other steps you can take to help prevent migraines, including getting enough high-quality sleep, drinking enough water, and avoiding your individual migraine triggers.
While the vitamins and supplements discussed here are generally well-tolerated, you could experience side effects from long-term use, and they may not suit you. For instance, if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, taking medication, or have an underlying health condition, you should take supplements with caution. Your doctor may advise against it.
Migraine overview | The Migraine Institute
Vitamin B-2 | National Headache Foundation
Magnesium and migraine | American Migraine
Study shows coenzyme Q10 may prevent migraine | American Academy of Neurology
Migraine and sleep | The Migraine Trust
What is migraine? | The Migraine Trust
How a migraine happens | Johns Hopkins Medicine
Migraine | NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Feverfew | University of Rochester Medical Center
Dietary supplements for headaches: What the science says | NIH: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
Feverfew benefits | Herb Wisdom