5 Supplements Every Chronic Migraine Suffer Should Know


Not every chronic migraine syndrome sufferer is a good candidate for every treatment option. For some, medications cause harsh side effects that add to their struggle for quality of life. 

For others, they cannot qualify for certain medications or treatments due to pregnancy or a pre-existing condition. There is little worse than being told that treatments are available, but none that fit your unique situation.

 Time to shed some light on an alternative treatment route that is gaining in popularity – natural supplements. Whether you’re looking for a stand-alone aid, prefer to keep things natural or are simply wanting a boost to your current regimen, if you suffer from chronic migraine syndrome, here are 5 supplements you need to know about!

1. Feverfew (Tanacetum Parthenium)

What is it? Feverfew is an herb with yellow green leaves and white flowers that resemble chamomile. It can be taken in capsule form or chewed in its natural state. Historically, Feverfew was used to reduce fever, hence the name. Today, studies suggest it may help to reduce migraine frequency.

As it relates to migraines: In one study, 17 migraine sufferers who were already taking feverfew split into two groups. 8 Patients continued their feverfew regimen while 9 went off feverfew and were put on a placebo treatment. Those taking the placebo treatment experience a significant increase in migraine frequency while feverfew reduced frequency and severity by 24%.

Side Effects: In general, side effects associated with taking feverfew are minimal. Some individuals experience an increase in heart rate, upset stomach or mouth ulcers if chewed in its natural state. Feverfew should not be taken if you have diabetes, alcohol dependency or liver disease as processing may include sugars and alcohol. Pregnant or breastfeeding women and children under the age of two should also stay away from the consumption of feverfew.

2. Magnesium

What is it? Magnesium is a naturally occurring element that plays a central role in many of the body’s physiological processes. It is taken in by the gastrointestinal tract through specific foods and spices and aids in the body’s absorption of calcium. 

As it relates to migraines: Migraine studies have revealed that during an episode, sufferers tend to have low magnesium levels in their brain and many sufferers also have magnesium deficiencies. Additionally, it is believed that magnesium levels influence menstrual migraines. Generally speaking, results have varied but some showed that magnesium prevented attacks in the acute treatment of patients with auras. Individuals report that a high dose taken for at least 3-4 months is necessary before results are noteworthy.

Side Effects: Magnesium, when absorbed naturally through diet, has no side effects. However, when taken in supplemental form, excess amounts can result in diarrhea as the body rids its self of surplus. Magnesium is also known to interfere with the body’s ability to absorb antibiotics and furthermore, when mixed with antibiotics can cause muscle issues. This supplement is also not recommended for individual taking blood pressure medication, as the combination can cause hypotension (a severe drop in blood pressure). Magnesium should also not be taken in conjunction with muscles relaxers, as it has a similar affect on muscles.

3. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

What is it? Coenzyme Q10 is a vitamin-like supplement that can be found in whole grains, meat and fish and possesses antioxidant qualities. Additionally, it aids in the creation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a leading energy source for cells. ATP also supports an array of other biological processes like muscle contraction and the development of protein.

As it relates to migraines: In one study, 32 migraine sufferers were treated with 150 mg of Coenzyme Q10 per day. 61.3% of the patients treated had a greater than 50% reduction in migraine frequency (13% after one month of treatment an 55% after three months). What this study suggests is that Coenzyme Q10 is effective at decreasing migraine frequency, with signs of improvement showing as early as four weeks into routine consumption. However, best results were experienced after 5-12 weeks.

Side Effects: While there do not seem to be side effects in smaller supplemental doses (up to 600mg), it is still highly recommended that you consult a physician before taking Coenzyme Q10, especially if pregnant, planning to be pregnant or breastfeeding. In larger doses, mild side effects were reported including: a burning sensation in the mouth, appetite loss, nausea and diarrhea.

4. Riboflavin

What is it? Riboflavin is a vitamin (also known as B2) that is found in trace amounts in different foods like lean meats, eggs, legumes, nuts, leafy greens and dairy products. Riboflavin is an essential component in converting food to energy. Like Coenzyme Q10, it also acts as an antioxidant. 

As it relates to migraines: Only one study has been conducted using riboflavin alone. 55 migraine patients were given 400mg per day for 3 months. Over half (59%) reported at least a 50% decrease in migraine frequency.

Side Effects: No serious side effects have been reported in 3 month doses up to 400mg per day. If taken in excess amounts, riboflavin is a water-soluble vitamin and as such, can be flushed from the system. However, its foetal toxicity is uncertain and it is recommended that pregnant women consult with a physician before taking riboflavin. Beyond 400mg, side effects could include: itching, numbness, burning/prickling sensation or urine discoloration. 

5. Butterbur (Petasites hybridus)

What is it? Butterbur is a European shrub (also located in parts of Asia and North America) generally found in wet, marshy regions. Historically, Butterbur was used to reduce pain, fever and spasms. The shrub contains liver-toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are removed during processing so the shrub can be safely sold as a commercial product under the name Petadolex®.

As it relates to migraines: The first trial was published in 2004. 245 migraine sufferers where divided into three groups, one receiving a placebo, one 50 mg of commercial butterbur and the last 75mg of commercial butterbur. Peak response occurred after 3 months with the 75mg dosage of butterbur, reducing the frequency of attacks by 58%. In general, 71% of butterbur recipient responded to treatment. The safety and positive effects of butterbur root have raised the question – could this be useful to children with chronic migraine syndrome? 

A study to find out was published in 2005. In it, 108 children, ages 6-17 were given between 50mg and 150 mg of butterbur root extract according to their age for 4 months. 77% of all participants reported a decrease in migraine frequency by at least 50%. 91% of participants reported feeling at least somewhat better after the four-month period.

Side Effects: Commercially available butterbur has tested safely when used short-term through oral application within the recommended dosages. Raw butterbur should never be eaten as it can cause liver damage. This includes teas, extracts or capsules that contain raw butterbur. No studies have been conducted to test butterbur’s interaction with other drugs.

It is extremely important to discuss any changes to your current migraine treatment with your physician, as many supplements still produce side effects (although more mild than prescription medications) and may interfere with other medications or impact pre-existing conditions. These alternative treatment methods have turned up interesting scientific results that point to the fact that, when taken regularly and in the correct dosage, they may significantly impact the frequency and duration of your chronic migraines. But as with all medications, certain risks apply.

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