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Melatonin May Help Prevent Migraine

The over-the-counter supplement melatonin, best known for its sleep-inducing properties, has shown mixed results in preventing and treating migraine.

Most recently, a multicenter, randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study in Brazil found the hormone to be as effective as the drug amitriptyline, which is frequently prescribed to prevent migraine. Melatonin also proved to be better tolerated than the medication.

“Melatonin 3 mg was significantly better than placebo with no difference compared to amitriptyline with respect to migraine prevention,” lead researcher Mario Peres, MD, PhD, reported at the recent American Academy of Neurology conference, which was held last month in San Diego.

For this study, Dr. Peres and his colleagues enrolled 196 migraineurs, both with and without aura, who experienced between two and eight migraine attacks each month. After a one-month study of their headaches at baseline, the group was divided into thirds for three months, with a nearly equal number of participants assigned to take 3 mg of melatonin, 25 mg of amitriptyline or a placebo. One hundred seventy-nine people finished the study.

Headache frequency decreased by roughly the same amount in the active treatment groups, 2.7 in the melatonin group and 2.18 in the amitriptyline group compared to 1.18 in the placebo group.

The side effect profile for melatonin was much lower than for amitriptyline, the researchers reported, and unexpectedly, individuals taking melatonin lost weight while individuals in the other two groups gained weight.

Dr. Peres, who has been studying migraine and melatonin for several years, offered many reasons that melatonin may be effective and noted that low urine and plasma levels of melatonin have been linked to several types of headache disorders, including migraine. He also noted that for optimal use, melatonin should be taken in its fast-acting form between 10 and 11 p.m.

Given his positive results, Dr. Peres recommends further research.

These results have not yet been published, and should be considered preliminary until they appear in a peer-reviewed journal.

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