If you suffer from migraines, you know they aren’t ‘just a bad headache’–but instead, intense, debilitating, and throbbing pain in the head that can last hours or days at a time. Going through a migraine is not a walk in the park; that’s for sure. And unfortunately, if you’ve just about tried every generic migraine management advice–like 'Drink lots of water,' 'Get enough sleep,' and 'Lower your stress levels'–out there, you’d know that relief doesn’t always come easy. So, does this mean that there’s nothing you can do to cut down on the pain while you wait out the attack in a dark and quiet room for hours on end? Thankfully, no.
Research has shown quite a few all-natural vitamins and supplements to relieve migraine pain effectively. To get the lowdown on the exact supplements that'll help expand your headache-free times, continue reading.
What Are Migraines?
A Migraine is a neurological condition that is frequently characterized by intense, debilitating headaches (1, 2, 3). The pain is often described as 'throbbing' or 'pulsing' and typically occurs only on one side of the head. Most migraines last about 4 hours, but severe ones can wreak havoc for more than 3 days. And as you probably know by now, a migraine is usually accompanied by other uncomfortable symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, difficulty speaking, numbness, tingling, and sensitivity to light and sound. Interestingly, migraines are observed to run in families and affect all ages.
The Problem With Headache Drugs
For many people who've adopted every possible lifestyle change for migraine relief to no avail, medications–such as over-the-counter painkillers, ergotamine, and triptans–can seem like a gamechanger. When they do work, they provide quick relief from many migraine symptoms, including pain, nausea, and sound and light sensitivity. But there's a problem. A big one. And that is: taking any of these migraine medications too often can lead to a medication overuse headache (aka a rebound headache) (4). That is, headaches that arise from the overuse of drugs, which then necessitates additional and often stronger medications. It's a vicious cycle.
How To Relieve Migraine Pain Without Medications
Admittedly, the risk of developing rebound headaches varies depending on the migraine medication you use. For example, OTC painkillers (e.g. Tylenol, Advil, and Aleve) are known to have a lower risk of contributing to rebound headaches than triptans (e.g. Imitrex and Zomix) and ergotamine (e.g. Ergomar). But the truth remains that any acute migraine medication has the potential to lead to medication overuse headaches. So, why take the chance? Why not try the following all-natural vitamins and supplements–and see if they work for you?
#1 – Vitamin C
While scientists haven't quite figured out the exact causes of migraines, a promising theory suggests that neurogenic inflammation–a form of inflammation triggered by nerve activation–could be a significant contributing factor (5, 6, 7). And this is precisely why vitamin C supplementation can help. This vitamin, which is commonly found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, is an antioxidant. It helps eliminate free radicals that can damage cells and tissues, which means fewer triggers for inflammation (8).
Many studies highlight that vitamin C is inversely associated with one of the major markers for inflammation in the body–C Reactive Protein; the higher the amount of vitamin C, the lower the inflammation (9). And, of course, with reduced inflammation, the pain level of your migraines will naturally decrease.
#2 – Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin)
Even though researchers aren’t sure how or why vitamin B-2 (also known as riboflavin) helps relieve migraine pain, it’s thought that the vitamin exerts a positive effect on the way cells metabolize energy. To lend credence to this hypothesis, a 2016 study published in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research concluded that vitamin B-2 could play a positive role in reducing the frequency and duration of migraine attacks, with no side effects (10). An older study published in 1998 also showed that when vitamin B-2 was compared with placebo in 55 adult participants, vitamin B-2 reduced the frequency of migraine attacks–and even the number of headache days (11).
You shouldn’t just look out for vitamin B-2 the next time you’re at the supplement store, though. Various research also shows that various vitamin Bs (including B-1, B-5, B-6, B-9, and B-12) can also play a pivotal role in reducing both migraine attack pain and frequency (12).
#3 – Copper
Just so you know, copper is a mineral that is essential for your body’s proper functioning. It plays many roles in the body: it helps promote strong and healthy bones, maintain a healthy metabolism, and ensure that your nervous system works properly. And of all these, there is one of particular importance to migraine pain relief. That is, copper helps your body absorb iron from the gut (13). When your copper levels are low, your body may absorb less iron. This causes iron deficiency anemia–a condition in which the body is unable to carry enough oxygen.
And this, in turn, can lead to a worsening in migraine pain, as it’s commonly thought that–in addition to inflammation theories–a migraine can also be caused by blood flow changes in the brain (14, 15). That’s why copper supplementation may prove to be beneficial.
#4 – Butterbur Extract
If you're well-versed in alternative remedies, you'd be familiar with butterbur–a plant named as such because the broad leaves of the shrub were traditionally used to wrap butter and stop it from melting in summer. While butterbur extract is commonly used to treat a range of conditions, including wounds, coughs, and asthma, its therapeutic value truly shines when used to treat migraines (16).
For example, a 2011 study published in The Journal of Head and Face Pain found butterbur to be a safe and effective treatment for migraines, especially at high doses (17). While researchers note that the mechanism through which butterbur works to relieve migraines is unknown, they postulate that it's linked to its anti-inflammatory effects.
#5 – Magnesium
Similar to copper, magnesium is an essential mineral your body needs for optimal functioning. More importantly, however, low magnesium levels are linked to migraines; people who have migraines tend to have lower levels of the mineral than people who don't get headaches. In line with this, studies have consistently found that the regular intake of magnesium supplementation can reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks (18, 19, 20, 21). Some scientists hypothesize that magnesium works by blocking the signals that cause migraines in the brain.
#6 – Feverfew Extract
As can be inferred from its name, feverfew was traditionally used to treat fevers and other inflammatory conditions. It's even known as the 'medieval aspirin' by some people. So, naturally, feverfew extract would be an effective natural treatment for migraines. Studies have shown that feverfew compounds–including parthenolide and tanetin–help halt prostaglandin (pro-inflammatory molecules) production (22).
Impressively, research has also shown that the active compounds in feverfew can inhibit serotonin receptors, stop blood vessels in the brain from widening, and stop smooth muscle spasms (X, X). All these factors have been linked to migraines (23, 24).
#7 – Quercetin
Quercetin may sound all foreign to you, but it’s actually a plant pigment (flavonoid) found in many plants and foods, including red wine, onions, green tea, apples, and even berries (25)! So, how does it help with migraine pain relief? Well, it’s beneficial as it’s known to exert antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which might help reduce inflammation–which, as you should know by now, is thought to be a contributor to migraines.
#8 – Coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme Q10 (also known as coQ10) is a substance that plays crucial roles in your body, like protecting cells from oxidative damage and generating energy in cells (26). Even though researchers aren't exactly sure of the mechanism, studies have found that coQ10 can reduce the severity and frequency of migraines. In a study where 30 participants with migraines were given coQ10 supplementation daily, more than 60% of them reported a 50% drop in the number of days they had a migraine. CoQ10 is also classified in the American Headache Society's guidelines as 'possibly effective' (27).
#9 – Ginger Root Extract
As it turns out, ginger is not just good at combatting indigestion; this spicy, aromatic root can also be used to relieve migraines! And that’s because ginger contains specific healthful chemical compounds–including gingerols and shogals–that exert anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects (28, 29). These active compounds can also help alleviate nausea and vomiting, 2 symptoms associated with migraine attacks.
To illustrate ginger root's effectiveness: a 2018 study found that the supplementation of 400-mg of ginger extract, with ketoprofen, decreased migraine symptoms better than taking ketoprofen alone (30). This is supported by a 2014 study, which highlighted that 250-mg of ginger powder supplement decreased migraine symptoms nearly to the same extent as the prescription drug, sumatriptan (31).
The All-In-One Migraine Supplement You Need
With that many vitamins and supplements listed above, you might have thought that popping 9 pills (or more!) a day would become the norm to catch a break from your migraines. But guess what? There's no need for multiple pills! With Dr. Danielle’s Holistic Migraine Supplement, all you need is one. Get ready to enjoy long stretches of migraine-less days.