Coenzyme Q10 for Migraines

Supplementing with coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) can reduce the frequency of migraines in chronic sufferers, reports a study in Neurology (2005;64:713-5). The results of this study add to the growing list of nutritional and herbal remedies that have been proven effective for migraine prevention. Energy production in brain cells is impaired in migraine sufferers, and as CoQ10 can enhance energy production, it has the potential to correct this defect and possibly to prevent migraines. Research has shown two other nutrients that play a role in cellular energy production-riboflavin and magnesium-to be effective for migraine prevention. CoQ10 was also reported in a preliminary trial to reduce the recurrence rate of migraines; however, in that study the possibility of a placebo effect could not be ruled out.

In the new study, 42 migraine sufferers were randomly assigned to receive 100 mg of CoQ10 three times a day or a placebo for three months. Migraine frequency decreased progressively in the CoQ10 group, whereas no change was seen in the placebo group. During the third month, the difference in migraine frequency between people receiving CoQ10 and those receiving placebo was statistically significant. The response rate (defined as the proportion of participants who experienced at least a 50% reduction in attack frequency) was 47.6% in the CoQ10 group and 14.4% in the placebo group. There was no difference between groups in the severity or duration of migraines.

Additional research is needed to determine the most effective amount of CoQ10, and whether combining CoQ10 with magnesium and riboflavin would be more effective than using any one of these alone. Although nutritionists have observed that combinations of nutrients frequently work better than single nutrients, a recent study found that riboflavin by itself (25 mg per day) worked as well as, and possibly better than, the daily combination of riboflavin (400 mg), magnesium (300 mg), and the antimigraine herb feverfew (100 mg). It is possible that one or more of the substances in that combination product interfered with the effects of the others, or that massive doses of riboflavin are less effective than more moderate doses. In addition to migraine prevention, CoQ10 has been found in some, though not all, studies to be effective for treating congestive heart failure. It has also been used successfully for high blood pressure and periodontal disease, and to slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

CoQ10 is generally well tolerated, but it can interfere with the effects of anticoagulant drugs such as warfarin (Coumadin). 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.

Author: Alan R. Gaby