Riboflavin Relieves Migraine Headaches
by By Alan R. Gaby, MD
headache prevention because researchers observed that migraine sufferers tend to
have impaired energy production in brain cells, which riboflavin has the potential to
enhance as it is a component of a key substance involved in the body’s energy
production. Another nutrient important for producing energy (magnesium) has
already been shown to reduce migraine recurrence. In earlier studies with riboflavin, a
very high dose was chosen, presumably to give the vitamin the best chance of
working. While riboflavin does not appear to cause any significant adverse effects
even at high doses, it is possible that taking large amounts of any single nutrient
might cause subtle imbalances in body chemistry. For that reason, if lower doses are
equally effective, they are preferable to higher amounts.

Fifty-two people suffering from recurrent migraines participated in the three-month
study. They were randomly assigned to receive either a daily combination of riboflavin
(400 mg), magnesium (300 mg), and the herb feverfew (100 mg), or 25 mg of
riboflavin per day. Each of the three components of the combination product has
been shown in earlier research to reduce the recurrence rate of migraines. A positive
response was defined as a reduction in the frequency of migraines by 50% or more.
Forty-two percent of participants responded to combination therapy and 44%
responded to low-dose riboflavin. In addition, the average headache severity and the
number of days with tension headaches decreased significantly in the low-dose-
riboflavin group, but not in the group receiving combination therapy.

Because there was no control group in the new study, one cannot rule out the
possibility that the beneficial effects of low-dose riboflavin were due to a placebo
effect. However, the researchers considered that possibility unlikely, because the
effects of riboflavin were greater than those found with a placebo in previous migraine
studies.

In addition to riboflavin, magnesium, and feverfew, coenzyme Q10 has been found in
one preliminary trial to reduce the recurrence rate of migraines. Dietary factors also
appear to be important migraine triggers in susceptible people. For some, tyramine-
containing foods such as certain wines and aged cheeses are the main offenders. For
others, allergic reactions to common foods such as wheat, oranges, egg, coffee, tea,
and beef seem to be the main triggers.

For more information about riboflavin as well as other vitamins and herbs, visit
.


About The Author

Alan R. Gaby, MD, an expert in nutritional therapies, testified to the White House
Commission on CAM upon request in December 2001. Dr. Gaby served as a member
of the Ad-Hoc Advisory Panel of the National Institutes of Health Office of Alternative
Medicine. He is the author of Preventing and Reversing Osteoporosis (Prima, 1994),
and co-author of The Natural Pharmacy, 2nd Edition (Healthnotes, Three Rivers
Press, 1999), the A–Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions (Healthnotes, Three
Rivers Press, 1999), Clinical Essentials Volume 1 and 2 (Healthnotes, 2000), and The
Patient’s Book of Natural Healing (Prima, 1999). A former professor at Bastyr
University of Natural Health Sciences, in Kenmore, WA, where he served as the
Endowed Professor of Nutrition, Dr. Gaby is the Chief Medical Editor for Healthnotes,
Inc.
Supplementing with relatively
small amounts of riboflavin
(vitamin B2) may reduce the
frequency and severity of
migraines in chronic sufferers,
reports a study in Headache
(2004;44:885–90). Previous
studies showing that riboflavin
can prevent migraines used 400
mg per day, which is at least 200
times the amount in a typical
diet. In the new study, 25 mg
per day appeared to be effective.

Riboflavin was originally
considered for migraine
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