Those who suffer from migraines commonly experience intense throbbing accompanied by nausea, vomiting and tenderness in the neck and scalp. Approximately 36 million Americans suffer from these severe headaches, according to the Migraine Research Foundation 3. While conventional treatment often uses painkillers that redirect blood flow to treat the problem, practitioners of alternative medicine claim that cayenne pepper can also offer relief. Consult your physician, however, before self-treating.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
One of the world's most debilitating medical conditions, migraines often go undiagnosed and untreated. Besides severe pain and nausea, symptoms typically include visual disturbances; tingling in the face, lips and hands; motor disturbances; and sensitivity to noise and light. While the exact cause:
- of migraines remains unclear
- changes in the environment
- spasms of blood vessels supplying the brain
- seizure disorders may be risk factors
Cayenne is a perennial shrub that reaches heights of 3 feet and bears bright red fruits with white seeds. Indigenous to Central America, cayenne pepper has a lengthy history of therapeutic use, offering benefits as a digestive aid, a toothache treatment and as a remedy for heat stress and chills.
Capsaicin works to desensitize nerve endings by releasing the pain-inducing chemical called substance P, a neurotransmitter that sends pain messages to your brain. When taken by mouth, the capsaicin in cayenne pepper overwhelms your nerves and depletes them of substance P, so that pain transmission stops.
For internal use to treat migraines, take cayenne powder mixed with a starchy food. When taken regularly, cayenne can interfere with the activity of a liver enzyme called CYP1A2. Your body needs this enzyme to eliminate certain medications, so avoid cayenne when taking aspirin, blood-thinning medications and theophylline, a drug for asthma. Cayenne can also cause abdominal irritation, with excessive amounts leading to stomach pain, liver problems and kidney damage. Children, pregnant and nursing women and people with ulcers or heartburn should avoid the herb.
According to Phyllis A. Balch, certified nutritional consultant and author of the book "Prescription for Herbal Healing," capsaicin also reduces platelet aggregation factor, or PAF, which contributes to the onset of migraine headaches by constricting blood circulation in your head. While conventional treatment often uses painkillers that redirect blood flow to treat the problem, practitioners of alternative medicine claim that cayenne pepper can also offer relief. Indigenous to Central America, cayenne pepper has a lengthy history of therapeutic use, offering benefits as a digestive aid, a toothache treatment and as a remedy for heat stress and chills.
- "National Geographic Desk Reference to Nature's Medicine"; Steven Foster; 2006
- "Prescription for Herbal Healing"; Phyllis A. Balch; 2002
- Migraine Research Foundation: Migraine Facts
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