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5 Dietary Supplements for Headaches


There are many different types of headaches. Migraine headaches typically are recurrent, pulsating in nature, and can last two to 72 hours. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light, sound, or smell. The pain is generally made worse by physical activity. Up to one third of people can have an “aura” which is a short period of visual disturbance.

These supplements have been evaluated by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) and the American Headache Society (AHS)


At least two clinical trials suggest that butterbur in the daisy family , can help decrease the duration, frequency, and intensity of migraines when taken preventatively. It is the ONLY supplement rated as “established as effective” by AAN/AHS. There is no evidence it helps once a migraine has developed. However, butterbur contains toxic substances (pyrrolizidine alkaloids) so the extracts used in supplements must be carefully purified to remove the toxins. The most studied butterbur supplement, Petadolex from Germany, has no detectable levels of Alkaloids. Other brands may not be safe. Don’t use butterbur if you’re pregnant, nursing, or allergic to plants in the daisy family.


This common flower, also in the daisy family, is rated as “probably effective” by AAN and AHS, which singled out an extract called MIG-99. Feverfew may reduce inflammation as well as levels of the hormone like substances known as Prostaglandins: among other effects, some prostaglandins play a role in producing pain sensations and migraine. A few small studies have shown feverfew can help prevent (not relieve) migraines.


AAN/AHS rated magnesium supplements as “probably effective” for migraine prevention. Researchers have found that people with migraines tend to have low brain magnesium levels during an attack and are more likely to have low magnesium overall. Two studies from the 1990’s found that supplements helped reduce the frequency of attacks, though another study did not. Recommended doses range from 400-600 milligrams a day (the adult recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, is 310-420 milligrams a day). People with kidney diseases should not take magnesium supplements except under medical direction.


This B vitamin has also been rated as “probably effective” by AAN/AHS. Studies have found it effective at megadoses of 400 milligrams a day. That’s about 300 times the daily RDA.

Coenzyme Q-10 (COQ10)

A small study in neurology in 2005 found that this vitamin-like substance, at 300 milligrams a day, helped reduce the number of days per year people suffered from migraines. But the AAN/AHS rated it lower, as only “possibly effective”.

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