You might have heard of capsaicin – the "active" ingredient in hot peppers – as a pain causer but also a pain reliever. How can that be? And, could it be useful to fight a migraine?
Here’s the short story. Capsaicin is a proven pain-reliever. However, the evidence that it will specifically fight migraine is not as strong. However, some people do feel it helps them, and it is a natural option that you might want to try.
Capsaicin creams are often used for arthritis and cluster headache. As you might expect, it causes a slight burning feeling – particularly at first (with repeated use it gets better). But then something surprising happens – it may actually relieve pain. Why?
Capsaicin, it seems, has the ability to interrupt pain messages going to the brain. The effect is not long term, but for many people it’s long enough.
Cluster headache patients sometimes apply this cream to the nostrils. Arthritis patients put the cream over the area that hurts. It can be used several times a day.
Strangely enough, taking capsaicin supplements (such as Nature’s Way CapsiCool Controlled Heat) or even putting cayenne or other peppers in your food may help fight migraine, indirectly. Such supplements are believed to help with digestion, fight heart disease, fight bacteria, and act as an antioxidant.
You may have heard of the popular Sinus Buster products as well, which deliver the capsaicin in a nasal spray. I’ve been a little biased against Sinus Buster, partly because more than once someone has spammed me trying to promote it. Also, I have yet to see good evidence for their new product, Headache Buster, which adds feverfew and peppermint to the mix. (Don’t get me wrong – feverfew is an excellent migraine preventative. But the evidence is for specific formulations of feverfew taken as a supplement).
However, taking capsaicin in this form is an option, and it has helped some. You could try the original Sinus Buster for migraine.
Capsaicin could be tried both as an abortive or preventative for migraine. One short study on capsaicin in 2003 suggested that daily administration to the nostrils (the same as with cluster headache patients) did bring about an improvement in migraine symptoms.
If you’re thinking about using capsaicin, as always, talk to your doctor. You may want to start with a mild cream (apply using gloves to avoid irritating the skin on your hands – and don’t get it in your eyes! Ouch!) and then go to something stronger. Intranasal civamide is another newer option you can ask your doctor about.
Some available options:
- Capzasin HP Creme – branded for arthritis, but a cream you could use for migraine as well. 1% capsaicin.
- Sinol-M Fast Headache Relief Nasal Spray
- Original Sinus Buster Nasal Spray
- Sinus Buster Headache Buster (currently buy-one-get-one-free)