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Coenzyme Q10 Effective for Migraine Prevention





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Although several dietary supplements are sometimes recommended for Migraine prevention, those recommendations are mostly based on anecdotal evidence rather than clinical trial results. With no medications on the market specifically developed for Migraine prevention, the search for effective preventives is perpetual. Along with the various prescription medications, "natural" products are of significant interest to Migraineurs.

An open label trial of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) as a Migraine preventive was very promising.1 The results were published in Cephalalgia. The introduction to the article states:

"At present there are very few efficacious migraine preventives and fewer without significant side-effects. In medicine there has been a trend towards the development of natural therapies that can be safely taken by all who suffer with a disease regardless of age and past medical history. Migraine in particular is a disorder of young people and this patient population is very resistant to taking any form of medication, especially when it needs to be used on a daily basis. Migraine can be a disabling disorder and migraine preventives have been shown to not only reduce headache frequency, intensity and duration but also improve quality of life. Coenzyme Q10 is a naturally occurring substance and essential element of the mitochondrial electron transport chain. It has been the most extensively studied agent for the treatment of mitochondrial disorders and has been shown to have almost no identifiable side-effects in humans. There has been a recent interest in the role that mitochondria may play in migraine pathogenesis ... The objective of this investigation is to assess the efficacy of coenzyme Q10 as a preventive treatment for migraine."1

Dosage and potential side effects:
The dosage recommended and used in the study is 150 mg of coenzyme Q10 daily. As for potential side effects, the study showed:

"In most instances coenzyme Q10 administration has been very well tolerated in doses up to 600mg per day, with an excellent side-effect profile.  The most common side-effects pertain to the gastrointestinal system and include nausea, diarrhea, appetite suppression, heartburn and epigastric discomfort.  In large studies the incidence of gastrointestinal side-effects is less than 1%."1

As for side effects, coenzyme Q10 has few, and rarely is the incidence of side effects of any medication or supplement less than 1%. This is an excellent side effects profile.

Key points from the trial:

  • 61.3% of the patients in the trial achieved at least a 50% reduction in frequency of Migraine attacks by the end of the four-month trial.
  • As with most Migraine preventives, it takes time to achieve optimum results. Data from the study suggest that it takes five to 12 weeks to achieve more than a 50% reduction.
  • Coenzyme Q10 is effective for both Migraine without aura and Migraine with aura.

The bottom line from this study:

"Coenzyme Q10 looks to be an excellent choice for initial therapy for prevention of episodic migraine if confirmed by controlled studies of efficacy. It can be given to almost any age group without fear of significant side-effects."1

Hershey et al study:
Hershey et al conducted a study with the stated objective to, "This study documents the prevalence of CoQ10 deficiency in migraine headache and examines the potential effectiveness of supplementation." They found CoQ10 deficiency to be common in pediatric and adolescent Migraineurs and supplementation to be beneficial.2

What is Coenzyme Q10?
Coenzyme Q 10 is a compound that is made naturally in the body. The body uses it for cell growth and to protect cells from damage. Animal studies have shown that coenzyme Q10 helps the immune system work better and makes the body better able to resist certain infections and types of cancer.3 Studies have shown potential benefits of CoQ10 in treating Migraine disease, Parkinson's, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other conditions. Statin drugs have been shown to reduce natural levels of CoQ10, so it is sometimes recommended that patients taking these drugs supplement CoQ10.

Although research and development of Migraine abortives has made great strides in recent years, work on preventives has been woefully lacking. None of the medications used for Migraine prevention were originally developed specifically for that purpose, and trials of drugs being used off-label for Migraine prevention have been so few that only four medications actually been approved by the FDA for Migraine prevention (Depakote, propranolol, timolol, and Topamax). The Rozen et al trial of coenzyme Q10 is especially important both because of it's excellent results and because it is for a Migraine preventive rather than another Migraine abortive.

Dosages of 300 mg per day are now being recommended by many Migraine specialists. It is recommended that the softgel form be used as CoQ10 is less effective once powdered to make tablets and capsules.


1 Rozen, TD, Oshinsky, ML, Gebeline, CA, Bradley, KC, Young, WB, Shechter, AL & Silberstein, SD. "Open label trial of coenzyme Q10 as a migraine preventive." Cephalalgia 22 (2), 137-141.

2 Andrew D. Hershey MD, PhD, Scott W. Powers PhD, Anna-Liisa B. Vockell RN, MSN, CPNP, Susan L. LeCates RN, MSN, CFNP, Priscilla L. Ellinor RN, MSN, CPNP, Ann Segers RN, Danny Burdine BA, Paula Manning RN, Marielle A. Kabbouche MD (2007). "Coenzyme Q10 Deficiency and Response to Supplementation in Pediatric and Adolescent Migraine." Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain 47 (1) , 73–80 doi:10.1111/j.1526-4610.2007.00652.x

3 Coenzyme Q10 (PDQ®). National Cancer Institute.


© Teri Robert, 2008
Last updated June 15, 2008

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