Which natural remedies can we use to treat migraine and headaches?
Recently, interest towards natural and herbal medicine is increasing. More people prefer to consult naturopaths before deciding on which treatment to choose for stabilising their health. Growing demand for natural vitamins and supplements has led to increased research in the field. Some research promotes herbal treatments for migraine prevention.
The most commonly prescribed vitamins and supplements are magnesium, riboflavin (Vitamin B2), and Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Those elements are present in a balanced diet and good quality foods, but unfortunately we are not always able to control them if we live in big cities and consume mostly “packaged” food. Therefore, you can find more information below on how to balance your diet and treat migraine and headaches.
Magnesium is an important component of a healthy diet mostly because it is one of the main elements of multiple physiological processes. Magnesium also facilitates calcium absorption.
Generally speaking, leafy vegetables, grains and nuts have higher magnesium content than dairy and meat products. Other rich sources of magnesium include vegetables, nuts, cereals, spices, cocoa beans and tea leaves.
Adverse effects of magnesium can arise only with excessive intake if using magnesium salts for medical purposes. However, side effects are uncommon since the body removes all excess naturally. The most common side effect of excessive magnesium intake is diarrhoea, which ceases when one stops taking it.
Use of magnesium for migraine and headaches
Studies have shown that migraine sufferers have low brain magnesium during migraine attacks and may also suffer from magnesium deficiency . Magnesium deficiency may be an important factor in menstrual migraines. Controlled trials have shown that oral magnesium supplements are effective in headache prevention. According to published research, 3 to 4 months of magnesium supplementation might be effective in obtaining positive results from preventive therapy. (For more information, please consult our Naturopaths).
There are many myths about Coenzyme Q10, very often described as Vitamin Q10 – a vitamin-like substance involved in the important process of forming adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is a major energy source which drives amongst others the process of muscle contraction and protein production. Coenzyme Q10 is also known as a powerful antioxidant.
A sufficient amount of Q10 can be mostly obtained from a balanced diet, however additional supplements are required for individuals with special diets or health conditions. The primary sources of Coenzyme Q10 are oily fish (salmon, tuna), liver and whole grains. Nevertheless, the amount naturally occurring in food is less than could be obtained from supplements.
There are no reported side effects following intake of up to 600 mg for every kg of body weight of Coenzyme Q10. Several minor side effects that may occur with supplementation include a burning sensation in the mouth, loss of appetite, nausea and diarrhoea. According to safety assessments it is recommended to avoid Coenzyme Q10 supplements during pregnancy.
Use of Coenzyme Q10 for migraine and headaches
An important result from many studies with controlled experiments is that Coenzyme Q10 has no significant adverse effects, and moreover appears to be well-tolerated. The study shows that migraine attack frequency after a 4-month treatment was reduced by at least 50% in 48% of patients, as compared to 14% for a placebo. CoQ10 supplementation may also be particularly effective in the treatment of childhood migraine.
The common name for riboflavin is Vitamin B2 which can be found in many daily foods. Like CoQ10, riboflavin is an antioxidant, needed for converting food to energy and cleansing cells of damaged free radicals.
The following products can provide riboflavin in your diet: lean meats, eggs, legumes, nuts, green leafy vegetables and dairy products. The products richest in riboflavin are whole grain breads and cereals. Nevertheless, pasteurised milk products lose about 20% of their riboflavin content, while baking soda and raising agents destroy riboflavin.
B2 also helps the body to absorb iron, therefore most common iron deficiency is often accompanied by B2 deficiency. Riboflavin is necessary for the activation of Vitamin B6. Sulpha drugs, anti-malarial drugs, oestrogen and alcohol may interfere with the riboflavin metabolism.
Use of Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) for migraine and headaches
In the only study involving riboflavin alone, Schoenen and others studied 55 migraine patients and reported that 59% of the participants who took 400 mg/day of riboflavin for 3 months experienced at least a 50% reduction in migraine attacks, compared with 15% for a placebo.
The research statistics show that there is a reduction in migraine attack frequency and the general number of headache days. Only a very low number of adverse effects have been reported.
Consultation with our Naturopaths may give you more information about natural supplements. Please contact us for a free consultation.
Before choosing preferable method of treatment we recommend to consult your GP.
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 Facchinetti F, Sances G, Borella P, et al. Magnesium prophylaxis of menstrual migraine: effects on intracellular magnesium. Headache. 1991; 31:298–301
 Sandor S, Di Clemente L, Coppola G, et al. Efficacy of coenzyme Q10 in migraine prophylaxis: A randomized controlled trial. Neurology. 2005; 64:713.
 Hershey AD, Powers SW, Vockell AL, Lecates SL, Ellinor PL, Segers A, Burdine D, Manning P, Kabbouche MA. Coenzyme Q10 deficiency and response to supplementation in pediatric and adolescent migraine. Headache. 2007 Jan; 47(1):73-80
 Schoenen J, Jacquy J, Lenaerts M. Effectiveness of high-dose riboflavin in migraine prophylaxis. A randomized controlled trial. Neurology. 1998; 50:466-470.