If you’ve searched for natural migraine remedies online, you’ve probably heard a lot of big claims about how some supplements can put a stop to your debilitating headaches. As we all know, not everyone on the internet is careful about spreading information, even when the evidence is thin or just plain nonexistent.
That’s why we’ve done our research and decided to tell you all about one of the few vitamins that really can help prevent migraine headaches: riboflavin (a.k.a. vitamin B2).
Ready to learn all there is to know about this natural migraine treatment? Let’s dive in.
Riboflavin is a vitamin that you need to stay healthy. Like fellow B vitamins niacin and thiamin (also spelled “thiamine”), it helps your cells develop and function properly by keeping energy production running smoothly.
Your body doesn’t produce riboflavin on its own, so you can only get it from food or dietary supplements.
How much riboflavin you should be getting depends on your age and sex, but most healthy adults need a little over 1 mg per day (1.1 for women and 1.3 for men), according to the National Institutes of Health’s RDA, or recommended dietary allowance.
Most people get all the riboflavin they need from their diet, but certain medical conditions and dietary restrictions, like thyroid hormone deficiency or veganism, can put you at risk of riboflavin deficiency.
If you’re probably getting enough riboflavin from your diet, shouldn’t you already be getting all of its migraine prevention benefits? Not exactly.
In studies of riboflavin’s effect on migraine headaches, participants are typically asked to take a lot more riboflavin than you’re likely to get from your diet—400 mg. At that dose, riboflavin has been shown to reduce the number of migraines people experienced each month, although not enough research has been done to know how or why it works.
The evidence for riboflavin’s effectiveness is far from overwhelming—there have only been a few clinical trials—but the Canadian Headache Society still recommends it for prevention of migraine because the potential for negative side effects is low.
Even though riboflavin is touted as a miracle cure for all sorts of conditions (from tinnitus to anxiety to mouth ulcers) in some corners of the internet, there isn’t much evidence that it helps with most of those issues. Like plenty of other nutrients, it is good for your vision, and might even help prevent cataracts.
Good food sources of riboflavin include:
Some cereals and grains are also fortified with riboflavin—meaning it’s added in to make your breakfast a bit more balanced.
But, to be totally honest, eating cereal all day every day probably wouldn’t give you enough riboflavin to cut down on your headache days.
For people who need more riboflavin than they can get from food, supplements are the best choice. Keep in mind that if you’re using riboflavin for migraine treatment, the supplements you can get at the pharmacy may not make the cut—they’re usually 100-200 mg doses, but you’ll need 400 mg of riboflavin for migraine prevention.
Getting a supplement that combines riboflavin with another vitamin is a great way to kill two birds with one super healthy stone, but not all multivitamins are created equal. Magnesium and coenzyme Q10 (a.k.a. coQ10) can enhance riboflavin’s preventative benefits, but there’s less evidence for the effectiveness of other additives, like butterbur and feverfew.
Riboflavin supplements are generally safe for most people, but pregnant women and women who are breast-feeding may want to talk to a doctor before starting them.
It’s pretty unlikely that you’ll see serious adverse effects from taking riboflavin. Studies of people taking high doses of riboflavin have shown that it can cause diarrhea, polyuria (excessive urination), and yellow-orange urine, which can be surprising to see (to say the least) but isn’t a sign of a medical issue.
Like other supplements, riboflavin doesn’t come with as many side effects as prescription medications. That said, you may not see as much of a difference in the frequency of your migraines from taking a supplement as you’d expect from a prescription medication.
It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting a new treatment, but it’s likely safe to take riboflavin along with other preventative or acute migraine medications.
Riboflavin isn’t the only supplement with a proven track record of blocking migraines before they start: Magnesium can also help cut down your headache days.
Are you feeling like a riboflavin expert yet? That may have been a lot to take in, but to sum it all up, riboflavin is a relatively safe, clinically-proven treatment to reduce your migraine frequency. Plus, it’s safe to use with prescription preventative medications.
Want to be the first to know when we launch Cove riboflavin supplements? Sign up for early access here.
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.