Q: What vitamins, minerals, and supplements can help me control migraine attacks?
A: Several vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements have been shown to be beneficial in treating migraine including magnesium, riboflavin (vitamin B2), feverfew, coenzyme Q10, and butterbur root. However, all medicines, whether herbal, prescription, or non-prescription, have the potential for harm or benefit. You must discuss planned use of any product with your doctor. A natural product can still have “drug” effects and interact with other medications.
Q: How does magnesium help with migraine?
A: As with prescription migraine medications, exactly how magnesium may help prevent a migraine is not well understood. Like the anticonvulsants prescribed for migraine, magnesium inhibits the spread of electrical activity across the brain. Some scientists think that migraine might be due to low magnesium levels. Doctors have found that 360–600mg of chelated (slow-release) oral magnesium oxide may help in migraine prevention; however, diarrhea may interfere with its uptake. Always check with your doctor before starting any supplements.
Q: Does vitamin B2 (riboflavin) help to prevent migraine?
A: One theory of migraine holds it to be a problem with mitochondria (the energy-producing part of a cell). Vitamin B2 plays an important role in energy production by mitochondria; high doses of the vitamin might correct problems with this process and prevent migraine. Research has shown 25–400mg daily may help reduce migraine attacks. However, excessive use of B-complex vitamins to achieve the right dose of vitamin B2 may be dangerous.
Q: What is coenzyme Q10?
A: Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), like vitamin B2, plays a role in energy production by mitochondria in cells. Research has suggested that CoQ10 may be helpful in preventing migraine attacks. The side effects reported during the studies included nausea, loss of appetite, indigestion, and diarrhea. Ask your doctor about CoQ10 before you start taking this supplement for migraine.
Q: Some people have told me to take feverfew for my migraine. How can it help?
A: The leaves of the herb feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) when dried and taken as a medicine, have an anti-inflammatory effect and work in a way similar to aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Feverfew may help in migraine by reducing constriction of blood vessels in the brain. Research has shown mixed results: some studies suggest it helps prevent attacks, while others disagree. Possible side effects include stomach upset and mouth ulcers and a “post-feverfew syndrome” of joint aches has been described, but it is unclear exactly what this is. Do not start feverfew without consulting your doctor. It is especially important not to mix it with NSAIDs since they cause the same side effects.
Q: Can I take butterbur root to prevent migraine attacks?
A: The root of butterbur (Petasites hybridus), a shrub, is used in traditional remedies. Studies have shown that butterbur root is somewhat helpful in preventing migraine. It may work by blocking the inflammation process. However, the stem and leaves of the plant can cause cancer, liver disease, bleeding problems, and lung damage. For this reason, it is important to buy butterbur root only from a reputable source that has high safety standards. Again, talk to your doctor before using it.
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