Niacin as a Treatment for Migraines

Niacin is a compound that belongs to the B vitamin group of vitamins. Niacin is also referred to as nicotinic acid and it is available as a supplement, usually in tablets of anywhere from a few milligrams to a few hundred milligrams. Oral niacin has been suggested to be a treatment for tension and migraine type headaches and a number of studies have reported beneficial effects when using niacin for this purpose. The exact mechanism by which niacin causes this benefit is not known, but it may relate to the flushing effects of the skin, and it has been speculated that this may cause changes to cerebral blood flow, thus modifying the conditions under which the headache formed. The flushing effects of niacin are caused by its ability to release prostaglandin D2 in the skin, which leads to increase of its metabolite, 9α, 11β-PGF2, in the plasma. This metabolite may have cellular effects and it has been speculated that this may be the factor that facilitates alleviation of the headache or its symptoms. As beta-alanine also causes flushing, it could be hypothesised that beta-alanine may have the same migraine relieving effects. 

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Prousky, J. and Seely, D. 2005. The treatment of migraines and tension-type headaches with intravenous and oral niacin (nicotinic acid): systematic review of the literature. Nutrition Journal. doi:10.1186/1475-2891: 4-3

About Robert Barrington

Robert Barrington is a writer, nutritionist, lecturer and philosopher.
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