Riboflavin

Riboflavin (vitamin B2) for migraine headaches: an introduction

Riboflavin, also known as Vitamin B2, is essential for the body and plays a role in energy production, metabolism of fats and drugs, and the normal function, growth, and development of cells. Riboflavin is found naturally in some food sources, is added to other foods, and is available as a dietary supplement. Riboflavin is also produced by bacteria present in the large intestine during normal digestion.1

Some studies have found that riboflavin supplementation can reduce migraine attacks, and certain people with migraine take riboflavin to help control their migraine symptoms.

Sources of riboflavin

Foods that are rich in riboflavin include:

  • Eggs
  • Organ meats (liver and kidneys)
  • Lean meat
  • Milk
  • Green vegetables1


Foods that are often fortified with riboflavin in the U.S. include grains, breads, and cereals. Riboflavin is also available as a supplement, and many multivitamins contain riboflavin.1

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) and migraine headaches

Riboflavin plays an important role in the functioning of the mitochondria, the energy powerhouses of the cells. Because the dysfunction of mitochondria is believed to play a role in some migraine attacks, researchers have been studying the effect of riboflavin to treat or prevent migraine.1

Studies on riboflavin and migraine

One 1998 study of 55 patients who suffer from migraine found that 400 mg of riboflavin worked better at preventing migraine attacks than an inactive placebo pill. After three months, patients in the riboflavin group experienced fewer migraine attacks and deceased severity of migraine attacks than those in the placebo group. Of those taking riboflavin, 59% had their number of migraine days reduced by at least 50%, compared to just 15% of those taking placebo. Side effects were minor, including diarrhea and an increase in urine production.2,3 However, other studies have not shown a benefit to riboflavin supplementation.4

Based on the available evidence of riboflavin, guidelines from the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society state that riboflavin is “probably effective” for migraine prevention.4

Riboflavin side effects and other precautions

Some people who take riboflavin may notice that their urine becomes bright yellow. A small number of patients experience diarrhea and increased urine. As with any natural remedy, prescription or over-the-counter treatment, you should first check with your doctor before taking riboflavin to learn if it might interact with anything else you’re taking or learn if it will have a dangerous impact on any condition you have.

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As always, the best source for advice on treating migraine is your own migraine specialist. These descriptions of natural remedies are provided only for informational purposes. You should begin no medication or supplement without first checking with your physician.

Written by: Emily Downward | Last review date: May 2018
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