Riboflavin (vitamin B2) for the treatment of migraine headaches: an introduction

Riboflavin is a B vitamin that is essential for growth. Riboflavin, also known as Vitamin B2 or B2, can also be produced synthetically. It is often used as food coloring and to fortify foods including baby foods, cereals, and cheese. Riboflavin is destroyed by light, so food containing this vitamin shouldn’t be stored in clear containers.

Food containing Riboflavin

  • Milk
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Turnip greens
  • Spinach
  • Eggs
  • Almonds
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Whole grains
  • Poultry
  • Lean meat

Riboflavin and migraines

Riboflavin supplements have been used for more than three decades as natural remedy for newborns with jaundice and ariboflavinosis (riboflavin vitamin deficiency). More recently, Riboflavin, in high doses, has been identified as a vitamin that can help migraine sufferers.

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) and migraine headaches

Riboflavin is necessary for growth and for the production of red blood cells. Riboflavin also plays an important role in how our bodies gets energy from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Migraine sufferers may not have enough Vitamin B2. This makes Riboflavin a potential treatment option. Because migraines can be caused by many events in the body, Riboflavin is often used in combination with other migraine treatments.


Studies on Riboflavin and Migraines

One 1998 study of 80 patients who suffer from migraine with aura or migraine without aura found that 400 mg of Riboflavin worked better at preventing migraines than an inactive placebo pill. After three months, patients in the Riboflavin group experienced fewer migraines and deceased severity of migraines than those in the placebo group. Here’s a breakdown of how many patients benefitted:

  • Riboflavin cut the number of headache days at least in half : Riboflavin 50% , Placebo 15%

A 2004 study, which didn’t compare Riboflavin to a dummy placebo pill or any other treatment, found that patients who took 400 mg of Riboflavin daily experienced significantly fewer headaches and used fewer migraine pain killers or abortive medications for migraines. However, total headache hours and headache intensity did not change significantly. Here’s a summary:

  • Headache days per month : Before Riboflavin 4 days , After three months of Riboflavin 2 days
  • Pain killers used per month : Before Riboflavin 7 units , After three months of Riboflavin 4.5 units

Formulations of Riboflavin available

Riboflavin is available as:

  • Capsules
  • Tablets
  • Tablets, Enteric Coated

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. There isn’t a large amount of side effect information available on Riboflavin as it relates to people with migraines. 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.

Who should not take Riboflavin

Always check with your doctor before taking Riboflavin. Because its use in migraine sufferers is relatively new, there isn’t a lot of information on warnings for the supplement.

People with cataracts shouldn’t take more than 10 mg of Riboflavin per day.

The effects of Riboflavin will likely be decreased if you smoke, drink alcoholic beverages, take tricyclic antidepressants, phenothiazines and probenecid antimalarial drugs.

Contraceptives can increase the breakdown of Riboflavin.

As always, the best source for advice on treating your migraines 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. Again, this information should in no way substitute or be mistaken for medical advice.