The People's Perspective on Medicine

Surprising Remedy: Chili Peppers to Combat Migraines

It may seem strange to use chili peppers to combat migraines, but many people find this remedy works if used at the first sign of a headache.

A migraine headache can really ruin a person’s day. Not only does it bring racking head pain, it is often accompanied by severe nausea and inability to tolerate light or noise. Medications such as rizatriptan (Maxalt) or sumatriptan (Imitrex) can help if they are taken early enough in the course of the migraine, but people don’t always have one on hand. And of course, there are others who don’t tolerate such drugs or who are taking other medicines that would interact with them in a dangerous fashion.

That is why we are always excited to learn about a home remedy that works to stop a migraine in its tracks. This reader offered her compelling story:

Q. I was not a fan of chili peppers before we moved to the state of New Mexico (not to be confused with the country of Mexico).

A short time after we moved here, I developed a migraine so bad that I could not lift my head off the pillow. I was very sick!

Since I wasn’t able to cook, my husband had the nerve to insist on taking me out to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant! The restaurant served chips and salsa that contained chili peppers as an appetizer that is part of each meal. I barely dipped the edge of each tortilla chip in the salsa, but started to feel less ill before my meal arrived.

I was surprised that I was able to eat anything, but I did, and felt much better after eating. The migraine was gone!

Chili Peppers to Combat Migraines:

Since that time, I have used salsa with chili peppers to combat migraines. I now eat salsa about once a week and no longer get migraines. It may not work for everyone, but it works for me.

A. Thanks for sharing your story. We have heard from other readers who have found that eating hot spicy soup at the first hint of a migraine can prevent the pain. One person preferred gumbo, while another chose Chinese hot and sour soup. Perhaps it is capsaicin, the compound that gives chili peppers their kick, that seems to help.

Spicy Soup with Chili Peppers to Combat Migraines:

One reader shared this story:

“I was fascinated to read the letter linking spicy gumbo to relief for migraine headaches. I have a similar history of migraines which occur in clusters or cycles. Over the past 40 years doctors have given me a variety of medications, many with side affects more debilitating than the headaches. Between headaches during these cycles, most of the medications kept me feeling drugged or ‘hung-over.’

“Several years ago I was in the middle of a migraine cycle, feeling as if my head was under water. I had a bowl of Chinese Hot and Sour soup and my head instantly cleared. In addition, the cycle of headaches ended.

“Since then I have used this soup to halt migraines-and the cycle-in mid-stream. I order the soup extra hot and my favorite restaurant provides a small container of extra red pepper in oil. The best part of the soup is that there is no drugged feeling afterwards.”

Going to the Other Extreme, Using Cold to Ward Off Migraines:

Sometimes we hear from readers who have found that cold ice cream or ice water consumed at the first hint of a migraine can stop it in its tracks. Anna told her story:

“About 2 months ago I was at work and on my third day of a migraine headache. My coworker and I were eating lunch and even though I usually avoid sweets like ice cream during a migraine, I was craving something cold, so I grabbed some ice cream. After several bites, I developed a terrible brain freeze headache, but when the brain freeze left, so did my migraine!

“My migraines are usually the most intense and unbearable during the first day, during which I do not feel like eating or drinking anything due to nausea, so I don’t know yet if it works when the headache is that intense. I drank a frappe the other day when I felt a headache was coming on and it took care of it!”

Those who don’t find that these foods help may be interested in some of the other natural remedies that can alleviate headaches, including magnesium, butterbur, feverfew, riboflavin and ginger. There are details about all of these in our Guide to Headaches and Migraines.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
Headaches & Migraines
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I used to have migraine in cycles, very debilitating, for years!!! But a few days ago I was starting to feel sick again and I tried Tabasco Sauce, it’s miraculous!
I eat my breakfast with some Tabasco Sauce everyday now and feel great!

I have had bouts of severe migraines brought on my underlying sickness, which whilst was being improved took time. Some painkillers like Tylenol wasnt good with my medication. I visited a Jamaican friend who offered me very spicy food just as one of the raging migraines set on.

Out of politeness, I ate, and to my surprise the headache was completely gone for an hour or two. I tried to replicate this at next headache by adding lots of hot sauce and same thing happened. Headache gone. The I switched to Tabasco and orange juice which I now keep handy, though fortunately my illness is under control and headaches much less.

I read this article on capsaison while dealing with an all-day migraine ‘aura’ where the pain gives me a stiff neck and low-level ache around one eye (and eventually ramps up). I bit the bullet and swallowed about a half teaspoon of straight red Tabasco sauce to see if it would help. Whew! That was an eye-opening experience. However, my headache was entirely gone in ~20 minutes. I’d say the Tabasco burn was minimal compared to the misery of a migraine, and the after-burn didn’t last very long.

HOW COULD SHE GO OUT TO DINNER IF SHE COULD NOT LIFT HER HEAD OFF THE PILLOW? WHO’S HUNGRY WHEN THEY HAVE A MIGRAIN?

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