CoEnzyme Q10 for Migraine Prevention

CoQ10 is safe and may be effective for warding off episodic headaches

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Coenzyme Q10, also known as CoQ10, is one of a number of non-drug nutritional supplements found to be effective in preventing migraines. As with other "natural" migraine preventives (such as riboflavin), CoQ10 is considerably less likely to cause side effects than prescription drugs. That is one of the reasons for its growing popularity among people with frequent migraine headaches.

Side effects of coenzyme Q10
Verywell / Gary Ferster 

CoQ10 has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for migraine prevention. However, the American Headache Society (AHS), the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), and the Canadian Headache Society feel confident enough in its safety and potential efficacy to offer specific recommendations for its use in prophylactic migraine therapy.

Uses

Coenzyme Q10 is a compound that is found in mitochondria—the tiny organelles that exist in nearly every cell from which food combines with oxygen to create energy. In fact, mitochondria are often referred to as "the powerhouses of cells."

When these tiny structures don't function properly, nearly every system in the body can be affected. Mitochondrial problems are linked to a variety of diseases and conditions.

It is thought that CoQ10 has antioxidant properties that may thwart oxidative stress in the brains of people with migraines—especially those with severe variants (such as hemiplegic migraine) or who have metabolic abnormalities (such as diabetes or metabolic syndrome) that make them vulnerable to migraine triggers.

Because these metabolic imbalances take place not only during migraine attacks but also may exist in between them, supplementation with CoQ10 may stabilize imbalances, potentially preventing migraines.

Effectiveness

Only a few studies have looked at coenzyme Q10 as a migraine prophylactic, but some studies suggest that they may be beneficial in preventing episodic migraines (occurring in fewer than 15 days per month).

In an early study published in the journal Neurology, 43 people with episodic migraines received either 100 milligrams (mg) of CoQ10 or a placebo three times a day for three months. At the end of the study, the participants who received CoQ10 self-reported around 50% fewer migraine attacks than those who took the placebo.

A 2019 review of studies reported similar findings. The review, published in Acta Neurologica Scandinavica, analyzed five studies involving a total of 346 participants (120 children and 226 adults).

According to the researchers, CoQ10 was able to reduce the number of attacks per month along with their duration. What it was not able to do is reduce the actual severity of the symptoms.

Coenzyme Q10 has been found to have enough potential to be listed as a level C drug, meaning it is "possibly effective" for preventing episodic migraine headaches per the guidelines set by the AHS and the AAN in 2012.

Side Effects

One thing that makes CoQ10 supplementation attractive to people with migraines is that it has few side effects, and those that have been documented have been mild.

The most commonly reported side effects of CoQ10 include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Heartburn
  • Appetite loss
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia and other sleep problems
  • Irritability
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Skin rash
  • Elevated liver enzymes

Dosage

As a nutritional supplement, coenzyme Q10 is sold as a pill, capsule, or gelcap to be taken by mouth. To ensure quality and purity, opt for brands that have been voluntarily tested and certified by an independent authority like the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab, or NSF International.

Per the AHS/AAN guidelines for the prevention of migraines, the recommended dosage of CoQ10 is 100 mg taken three times per day.

Coenzyme Q10 can also be derived from food sources, including oily fish, organ meats, and whole grains. But it would be difficult to get the recommended therapeutic amounts from food sources alone.

Warnings and Interactions

There are few medications known to potentially interact with coenzyme Q10 supplements. They include:

  • Blood thinners: CoQ10 may make blood thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin) less effective. 
  • Insulin: CoQ10 may lower blood sugar. While potentially beneficial to people with diabetes, CoQ10 may lead to hypoglycemia (abnormally low blood sugar) in people on anti-diabetes drugs.
  • Cancer treatments: The use of CoQ10 before or during chemotherapy or radiation may interfere with cancer treatment.

Advise your doctor if you take these or any other medications before trying coenzyme Q10 to prevent migraine headaches.

Coenzyme Q10 has not been established as safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding. So if you are pregnant, planning to conceive, or are breastfeeding, it is best not to take this supplement just to be safe.

A Word From Verywell

If you have episodic migraine headaches, taking coenzyme Q10 supplements might be a natural and effective way to prevent them. Before taking any supplement, however, speak with your doctor to ensure you can take them safely based on your individual health concerns.

Once you start taking this supplement, be patient. It may take several weeks before you notice any difference in the incidence or duration of migraine symptoms. Let your doctor know if you experience any side effects, particularly fatigue, nausea, vomiting, jaundice, or any other signs of liver toxicity.

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