Treating migraines naturally – does it work? Information from the Migraine Trust suggests it might!
An information sheet published on their website provides detailed information regarding clinical trials of various vitamins, minerals and herbs in the treatment and management of migraine.
Here’s a summary of what they found in regards to treating migraines naturally (remember: all supplements, even natural products, can cause side effects or impact other medications or conditions. Talk to your doctor before taking any new supplements):
- Magnesium: studies have shown that migraineurs have low brain magnesium during migraine attacks and may also suffer from magnesium deficiency, which itself may play a particularly important role in menstrual migraine. In general, published trials yielded mixed results, with favourable effects reported for acute treatment of patients with aura and possibly also menstrual migraine prevention. High-dose supplementation (over 600mg) for a minimum of 3 to 4 months may be needed to achieve any benefit from preventative therapy.
- Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium): 17 migraine patients who already used feverfew daily as migraine prophylaxis enrolled in a controlled trial in which eight patients continued to receive feverfew while nine stopped taking their feverfew and no further active treatment was received. Those who received placebo had a significant increase in the frequency and severity of headache (an average of 3.13 headaches every 6 months when taking placebo vs. only 1.69 headaches every 6 months when taking feverfew), nausea, and vomiting, whereas there was no change in the group receiving feverfew. In a larger study of 72 patients, feverfew was associated with a 24% reduction in the mean number and severity of attacks although the duration of the individual attacks was unaltered.
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): 32 patients diagnosed as having migraine with or without aura were treated with CoQ10 at a dose of 150 mg per day in a controlled experiment. No adverse events were associated with CoQ10 therapy, and as a result of the treatment, 61.3% of the patients treated had a greater than 50% reduction in number of days with migraine headache. The data suggest that CoQ10 starts to work within 4 weeks but usually takes 5 to 12 weeks to yield a significant reduction in days with migraine. In another study, migraine attack frequency after 4 months of treatment was reduced at least 50% in 48% of patients as compared to 14% for placebo. Favourable effects have also been reported in childhood migraines.
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2): The only study involving riboflavin alone (involving 55 patients) reported that 59% of the participants who took 400 mg/day riboflavin for 3 months experienced at least 50% reduction in migraine attacks compared with 15% for placebo, with low rates of adverse events.
- Butterbur (Petasites hybridus): A large trial (involving 245 migraine patients with and without aura) revealed that participants found relief from migraine symptoms with butterbur, given for 4 months twice daily with either placebo or 50 mg or 75 mg commercial butterbur. Maximum response was achieved after 3 months resulting in an attack reduction of 58% with a 2×75 mg/day dosing, compared to the placebo response of 28%. The percentage of patients responding to the therapy was 71% after treatment with butterbur. Two other trials with a total of 289 patients demonstrated the safety and efficacy of the butterbur root extract in adults, prompting an exploration of the prevention of migraine in children also, where positive effects have since been demonstrated.