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Cayenne Pepper: A Potential Pain Reliever for Migraines

Heather Suhr
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Cayenne pepper has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years as a pain reliever. Both its pain relieving properties and its spicy flavor come from capsaicin. Today it is used in the production of many pain relieving products and is being studied for additional medicinal uses. (1)

Capsaicin is used as an ingredient in pain relieving creams and ointments that are applied topically to the skin. It relieves pain from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, nerve pain, pain from shingles, pain from surgery, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, and low back pain. It can also be used to treat psoriasis to reduce inflammation and itching. (1)

But can cayenne pepper alleviate migraine headaches?

Capsaicin equalizes blood pressure throughout the body

More than 37 million American suffer from migraine headaches, with nearly 5 million of them experience attacks at least once a month. In addition, the incidence is more prevalent for women than men. Most of the women that experience migraine attacks have reported to be connected to their menstrual cycle. (2)

In an observational study that included 170 participants discovered that those who experienced migraine attacks have different blood vessel structures causing lack of balance in the hemispheric cerebral blood flow than those who do not get migraines. (3)

One of the glorious claims is that cayenne pepper has the ability to equalize blood pressure throughout the body and relieve pressure in the head region. Whilst this may not be the cure, but it’s an effort worth trying. (4)

Additional benefits & precautions

In addition to being a pain reliever it is currently being studied for use to treat ear infections, heartburn, and circulatory disorders. The results for these uses are not clear yet. Further research is needed to decide if capsaicin can be applied in this manner. (5)

A word of caution when using cayenne pepper and capsaicin: it should never be applied to broken skin or open wounds. It should also not be used or fed to children under the age of two and only used with extreme caution with older children. It is hard to get off and may cause irritation when applied to the skin, these symptoms subside quickly for most people but not for all so testing a small area of the skin before use is recommended. (6)

Also keep in mind to never use it with a heating pad, heated blanket, or after exposing your skin to hot water, such as showering. Capsaicin can also interact with some prescription medications. Always check with your doctor before using a new product. (6)

How to incorporate it into your routine

Dr. Joseph Mercola recommends taking anywhere between 1/2 to 3 teaspoons of cayenne pepper in a cup of hot or cold water. Drink up! Your brain releases endorphins immediately when the cayenne pepper hits the stomach lining. (2)

In order to build up some tolerance, you may consider starting with 1/2 teaspoon, working your way up. Also, consider starting with one cup of hot/cold water daily and working up to two or three cups a day, depending on the need. (4)

Sources for this article include:
(1) www.webmd.com
(2) articles.mercola.com
(3) www.plosone.org
(4) www.cayennepepper.info
(5) www.globalhealingcenter.com
(6) umm.edu

Image source: flic.kr

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