An estimated 6 million people in the UK suffer from migraines, with a staggering 190,000 migraine attacks experienced every day in England alone.(1) Put simply, if you’re a migraineur, you’re not alone. You’ve probably also tried a lot of home remedies for migraine. Here, we look at magnesium, riboflavin (B2), and coenzyme Q10 for migraine.
Table of contents:
- What is a migraine?
- What causes migraines?
Magnesium and migraines
- Magnesium for migraine prevention
- Coenzyme Q10 and migraines
- Riboflavin (B2) and migraine prevention
- Putting it all together – B2, magnesium, and coQ10 for migraine
What is a migraine?
Migraines are more than just a headache. This debilitating condition involves pulsating pain, nausea, photophobia, vomiting, and other symptoms. Sufferers are frequently bed-bound during a migraine episode, sometimes for days at a time.
Migraines are a disorder of the central nervous system, can be chronic, and affect women more frequently than men.
What causes migraines?
Factors thought to play a role in migraine include:
- Hormonal changes
- Diet – including some food allergies and sensitivities
- Low blood sugar
- Metabolic disorders
Several genetic variants have been linked to an increased risk of migraines, including MTHFR mutations, CACNA1A, and others.
Several foods and beverages have also been linked to an increased incidence of migraine in susceptible individuals. These include:
- Dairy (especially certain kinds of cheese)
- Alcohol (especially with sulfite preservatives)
- Tea and coffee
- Processed meats
- Citrus fruits
In some cases, histamine overload may be a migraine trigger. Many things can increase histamine levels in the body, including foods and beverages, mold and spores, and nutrient deficiencies. This means that you might feel okay after eating citrus one day but find it triggers a migraine the next. Anyone who lives in a damp house with mold, has a sensitivity to pollen or spores, or who has food sensitivities may find that migraines are more frequent and intense at certain times of the year.
As well as elevated histamine, migraineurs often have elevated levels of lactic acid in their blood and cerebrospinal fluid. Lactic acid is a normal product of metabolism and is cleared efficiently in healthy individuals. When mitochondrial metabolism is impaired, however, lactic acid may build in the blood and CSF and trigger a migraine.
While genes and other factors contribute to metabolic issues, a lack of certain nutrients can also play a role. These nutrients include magnesium, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), and coenzyme Q10.
Magnesium and migraines
We need magnesium for hundreds of essential biochemical processes in the body. These include metabolic processes such as the Krebs cycle that helps produce cellular energy. Magnesium is vital for the health of the central nervous system, with roles to play in:
- Neurotransmitter regulation
- Nerve receptor sensitivity
- The “fight, flight, or freeze” stress response
- Muscle relaxation
Low levels of magnesium have long been linked to increased anxiety, depression, irritability, insomnia, constipation, cramps and spasms, facial tics and eye twitches, high blood pressure and, yes, migraines.(2)
Despite its importance in almost all body systems, many people don’t consume enough magnesium for good health. Magnesium absorption can also be affected by low stomach acid, certain drugs and medications, and excess calcium.
Magnesium for migraine prevention
Coenzyme Q10 and migraines
Just as magnesium is essential for cellular energy production, so too is coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). This powerful antioxidant helps to support mitochondrial metabolism that appears to be impaired in migraineurs.
Several studies have looked at the benefits of coQ10 for migraine headaches.
In one open label study, 32 adults (26 women, 6 men), all with a history of migraines, received 150 mg of coQ10 daily for three months.(3) Of the 31 adults who completed the study, nearly two-thirds (61.3%) had a 59.8% reduction in the number of days per month with migraine headache.
Put another way, coQ10 reduced the average number of monthly migraine days from 7.34 to just 2.95. The same study found that coQ10 treatment reduced the monthly number of migraine attacks from 4.85 at the start to just 2.81 after three months.
In another study, this time with a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled design, 42 migraineurs received either placebo or 100 mg of coQ10 three times daily for three months. Nearly half (47.6%) of those taking coQ10 had at least a 50% reduction in migraine attack frequency, compared to just 14.4% of those taking a placebo.(4)
Overall, the research strongly suggests that coQ10 helps to reduce migraine frequency and the duration of migraine attacks, with no noted side effects.
Riboflavin (B2) and migraine prevention
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) is an essential nutrient for mitochondrial function. As such, low vitamin B2 levels are thought to contribute to migraines linked to impaired mitochondrial metabolism. This connection is borne out by clinical trials using vitamin B2 to prevent migraines in adults.
One review of seven studies involving adults and four involving children concluded that vitamin B2 was both well-tolerated and helped to reduce the frequency and duration of migraine attacks.(5)
In another analysis of nine clinical trials, vitamin B2 was found to significantly decrease:
- Migraine days
- Migraine duration
- Migraine frequency
- Pain scores.
The authors concluded that migraineurs were likely to experience most benefit with a daily dose of 400 mg vitamin B2 for at least three months.
Putting it all together – B2, Magnesium, and CoQ10 for migraine
We’ve looked at the potential benefits of vitamin B2, magnesium, and coQ10 for migraine as individual supplements, but what about when they’re used together?
Fortunately, one study looked at just that, combining these three nutrients with the herb feverfew and andrographis paniculata (an Ayurvedic herb) for migraine prevention.(7) The study involved 113 adults who took the combination supplement for three months. Results after three months showed significant decreases in:
- Migraine days per month - from 9.4 to 6.1 days
- Days of peak headache intensity – from 5.7 to 4.9 days
- Days using acute headache medications – from 8.9 to 5.7 days.
More than half (56.6%) of participants had at least a 50% reduction in migraine frequency and there were no noted side effects.
All in all, the evidence strongly suggests a role for vitamin B2, magnesium, and coQ10 in migraine prevention. If you’re suffering with migraines and sick of being sick, consider topping up with these nutrients. Give the new regimen a good run for three months at least to see if it helps reduce your migraine attacks, the intensity of migraine headaches, and your need to rely on painkillers.
- National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence – NICE. Botulinum toxin type A for the prophylaxis of headaches in adults with chronic migraine. Available: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ta260/documents/migraine-chronic-botulinum-toxin-type-a-final-scope2
- Mauskop, A., & Varughese, J. (2012). Why all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium. J Neural Transm, 119(5), 575-9.
- Rozen, T.D., Oshinsky, M.L., Gebeline, C.A., et al. (2002). Open label trial of coenzyme Q10 as a migraine preventative. Cephalgia, 22(2), 137-141.
- Sandor, P.S., Di Clemente, L., Coppola, G., et al. (2005). Efficacy of coenzyme Q10 in migraine prophylaxis: a randomized controlled trial. Neurology, 64(4), 713-715.
- Namazi, N., Heshmati, J., Tarighat-Esfanjani, A. (2015). Supplementation with Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) for Migraine Prophylaxis in Adults and Children: A Review. Int J Vitam Nutr Res, 85(1-2):79-87.
- Chen, Y.S., Lee, H.F., Tsai, C.H., et al. (2022). Effect of Vitamin B2 supplementation on migraine prophylaxis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutr Neurosci, Sep;25(9):1801-1812.
- Vikelis, M., Dermitzakis, E.V., Vlachos, G.S., et al. (2020). Open Label Prospective Experience of Supplementation with a Fixed Combination of Magnesium, Vitamin B2, Feverfew, Andrographis Paniculata and Coenzyme Q10 for Episodic Migraine Prophylaxis. J Clin Med, Dec 27;10(1):67.