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B-Vitamins for Migraines

February 9, 2009 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

New research out of Australia combines the use of cutting edge technology with old-school nutrition. Today’s headline comes from the Genomic Research Center (GRC) of Griffith University. The GRC’s purpose is to identify genes that are involved in diseases and other health conditions. Based on their findings, they attempt to find ways of modifying disease risk and, possibly, even combating various health threats ranging from high blood pressure to cancer.

An example of how genetics can be applied to integrative medicine can be found in some newly released material presented by Lyn Griffiths, the head of the GRC. Previous research by the GRC had discovered an association between a specific gene (known as MTHFR) and migraine headaches. They noted that migraine sufferers who had this gene also had a higher level of an amino acid called homocysteine in their blood. You may recall that I recently covered the possible role of homocysteine in heart disease and depression.

Homocysteine & B-VitaminsIt’s well known in both the alternative and conventional medical communities that certain b-vitamins such as vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid can help to lower homocysteine levels. Based on this knowledge, Dr. Griffiths enrolled 50 chronic migraine sufferers in a supervised trial where they were given b-vitamins for a period of 6 months.

Dr. Griffiths summarized the findings of the trial in the following manner, “Results showed a drastic improvement in headache frequency, pain severity and associated disability for those treated.” She also noted that homocysteine levels decreased in the study volunteers and that a larger and longer study would be undertaken as a result of this successful, but preliminary trial.

This new research comes on the heals of other positive findings regarding b-vitamins and migraines. For instance, another recent study found that folic acid could help improve migraine symptoms in children. There’s also some evidence that vitamin B2 (riboflavin) may help reduce the frequency of migraine attacks.

Types of Headaches

This is good news indeed because migraines are notoriously difficult to manage successfully. It’s also a well known fact that many of the prescription medications used to treat migraines can bring about significant side effects. B-vitamins on the other hand have been shown to be very safe and are much less expensive.

If you suffer from migraines or if you know someone who does, please consider the research I presented today. There are many nutritional supplements (and even prescription medications) that can help to manage elevated homocysteine levels. One thing to keep in mind is that b-vitamins are water soluble and do not stay in your system very long. Therefore, many holistic doctors recommended spreading the dosage over the course of a day (2-3 times daily). This will provide for a more continuous supply of these much needed nutrients.

Be well!


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10 Comments & Updates to “B-Vitamins for Migraines”

  1. Ana Says:

    Thanks for publishing this information. What dosages of the vitamins do you recommend?

  2. JP Says:

    Hi, Ana.

    The dosages used in the clinical studies vary. IMO, one approach worth considering is to take a high-potency b-complex and possibly adding some additional riboflavin.

    The first study linked to below mentions a homocysteine lowering drug/supplement that emphasized folic acid and vitamins B6 & B12.

    Also, please search my site for other columns about natural headache relief. There are several other alternatives besides b-vitamins.




    Be well!


  3. jessie Says:

    i am 12 and was diagnosed with migraines at age 7, but when i get a migraine it isn’t only one side of the head. its usually my whole forehead, but the two halves feel different but equally painful. is that normal?

  4. JP Says:

    Hi Jesse.

    I’m not an expert in migraines. But, based on what I’ve read, pain patterns vary to some degree among migraine sufferers. If your doctor and parents are unaware of your specific symptoms, please make sure to let them know. Any change in your condition or symptoms is important to note.


    Be well!


  5. evy Says:

    are you familiar with the different types of b’s and the way they work (i.e. methylcobalamin being readily available to the body vs. cyanocobalamin that needs to be converted)?


  6. JP Says:

    Hi Evy,

    Yes, I am familiar. This variety of B vitamins is frequently referred to as the “active” or coenzyme form. In some instances, it appears that these bioavailable forms of said vitamins are more effective because they do not require conversion in order to be utilized by the body.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Update: In related news, EFT, a mind-body therapy, may be helpful …


    Explore (NY). 2013 Mar-Apr;9(2):91-9.

    Effect of the emotional freedom technique on perceived stress, quality of life, and cortisol salivary levels in tension-type headache sufferers: a randomized controlled trial.

    OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the short-term effects of the emotional freedom technique (EFT) on tension-type headache (TTH) sufferers.

    DESIGN: We used a parallel-group design, with participants randomly assigned to the emotional freedom intervention (n = 19) or a control arm (standard care n = 16).

    SETTING: The study was conducted at the outpatient Headache Clinic at the Korgialenio Benakio Hospital of Athens.

    PARTICIPANTS: Thirty-five patients meeting criteria for frequent TTH according to International Headache Society guidelines were enrolled.

    INTERVENTION: Participants were instructed to use the EFT method twice a day for two months.

    OUTCOME MEASURES: Study measures included the Perceived Stress Scale, the Multidimensional Health Locus of Control Scale, and the Short-Form questionnaire-36. Salivary cortisol levels and the frequency and intensity of headache episodes were also assessed.

    RESULTS: Within the treatment arm, perceived stress, scores for all Short-Form questionnaire-36 subscales, and the frequency and intensity of the headache episodes were all significantly reduced. No differences in cortisol levels were found in any group before and after the intervention.

    CONCLUSIONS: EFT was reported to benefit patients with TTH. This randomized controlled trial shows promising results for not only the frequency and severity of headaches but also other lifestyle parameters.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Update: Mindfulness meditation offers another mind-body approach to reducing headache pain …


    Nurs Midwifery Stud. 2014 Sep;3(3):e21136. Epub 2014 Sep 20.

    Effect of mindfulness-based stress reduction on pain severity and mindful awareness in patients with tension headache: a randomized controlled clinical trial.

    BACKGROUND: Programs to improve the pain and health status in illnesses with pain such as headache are still in their infancy. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a new psychotherapy that appears to be effective in treating chronic pain.

    OBJECTIVES: This study evaluated efficacy of MBSR in improving pain severity and mindful awareness in patients with tension headache.

    PATIENTS AND METHODS: This study was a randomized controlled clinical trial that was conducted in 2012 in Shahid Beheshti Hospital of Kashan City. Sixty patients who were diagnosed with tension-type headache according to the International Headache Classification Subcommittee were randomly assigned to treatment as usual (TAU) or MBSR groups. The MBSR group received eight weekly treatments. Any session lasted 120 minutes. The sessions were based on MBSR protocol. Diary scale for measuring headache and Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) were administered at pretreatment, and posttreatment, and three-month follow-up in both groups. The data was analyzed using repeated measures analysis of variance.

    RESULTS: The mean of pain severity was 7.36 ± 1.25 before intervention that was significantly reduced to 5.62 ± 1.74 and 6.07 ± 1.08 after the intervention and follow-up (P < 0.001). In addition, the MBSR group showed higher scores in mindful awareness in comparison with the control group at posttest session. The mean of mindful awareness before intervention was 34.9 ± 10.5 and changed to 53.8 ± 15.5 and 40.7 ± 10.9 after the intervention and follow-up sessions (P < 0.001).

    CONCLUSIONS: MBSR could reduce pain and improve mindfulness skills in patients with tension headache. It appears that MBSR is an effective psychotherapy for treatment of patients with tension headache.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Update 05/06/15:


    J Headache Pain. 2015 Dec;16(1):516.

    Improvement of migraine symptoms with a proprietary supplement containing riboflavin, magnesium and Q10: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicenter trial.

    BACKGROUND: Non-medical, non-pharmacological and pharmacological treatments are recommended for the prevention of migraine. The purpose of this randomized double-blind placebo controlled, multicenter trial was to evaluate the efficacy of a proprietary nutritional supplement containing a fixed combination of magnesium, riboflavin and Q10 as prophylactic treatment for migraine.

    METHODS: 130 adult migraineurs (age 18 – 65 years) with ≥ three migraine attacks per month were randomized into two treatment groups: dietary supplementation or placebo in a double-blind fashion. The treatment period was 3 months following a 4 week baseline period without prophylactic treatment. Patients were assessed before randomization and at the end of the 3-month-treatment-phase for days with migraine, migraine pain, burden of disease (HIT-6) and subjective evaluation of efficacy.

    RESULTS: Migraine days per month declined from 6.2 days during the baseline period to 4.4 days at the end of the treatment with the supplement and from 6.2.days to 5.2 days in the placebo group (p = 0.23 compared to placebo). The intensity of migraine pain was significantly reduced in the supplement group compared to placebo (p = 0.03). The sum score of the HIT-6 questionnaire was reduced by 4.8 points from 61.9 to 57.1 compared to 2 points in the placebo-group (p = 0.01). The evaluation of efficacy by the patient was better in the supplementation group compared to placebo (p = 0.01).

    CONCLUSIONS: Treatment with a proprietary supplement containing magnesium, riboflavin and Q10 (Migravent® in Germany, Dolovent® in USA) had an impact on migraine frequency which showed a trend towards statistical significance. Migraine symptoms and burden of disease, however, were statistically significantly reduced compared to placebo in patients with migraine attacks.

    Be well!


  10. JP Says:

    Update 06/11/15:


    Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:920353.

    Acupuncture for Frequent Migraine: A Randomized, Patient/Assessor Blinded, Controlled Trial with One-Year Follow-Up.

    Objectives. This study aimed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of manual acupuncture as a prophylaxis for frequent migraine. Methods. Fifty frequent migraineurs were randomly allocated to receive 16 sessions of either real acupuncture (RA = 26) or sham acupuncture (SA = 24) during 20 weeks. The primary outcomes were days with migraine over four weeks, duration, and intensity of migraine and the number of responders with more than 50% reduction of migraine days. The secondary outcomes were the relief medication, quality of migraine, quality of life, and pressure pain thresholds. Results. The two groups were comparable at baseline. At the end of the treatment, when compared with the SA group, the RA group reported significant less migraine days (RA: 5.2 ± 5.0; SA: 10.1 ± 7.1; P = 0.008), less severe migraine (RA: 2.18 ± 1.05; SA: 2.93 ± 0.61; P = 0.004), more responders (RA: 19 versus SA: 7), and increased pressure pain thresholds. No other group difference was found. Group differences were maintained at the end of the three-month follow-up, but not at the one-year follow-up. No severe adverse event was reported. Blinding was successful. Discussion. Manual acupuncture was an effective and safe treatment for short-term relief of frequent migraine in adults. Larger trials are warranted.

    Be well!


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