In the 21st century, intranasal medications for the treatment of migraines have been increasingly prescribed to certain patients. The intranasal administration of migraine medications is often considered to provide faster and more efficient relief, but a 2004 study by researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York suggests that most patients prefer oral medications when it comes to the reactive or preventative treatment of migraines. Still, there is one peculiar intranasal medicine that some migraine patients find very effective, and it essentially involves a quick insufflation of a substance found in very pungent red peppers.
Capsaicin is a crystalline compound taken extracted from capsicum, which is the substance that gives peppers their spiciness. For example, jalapeno peppers do not have as much capsicum as the Scotch Bonnet variety that is traditionally grown in the Caribbean, and cayenne peppers have an even greater degree of capsicum. This is the same substance used in the pepper spray used by law enforcement personnel to subdue suspects and in riot control situations.
Creams made with capsaicin are sometimes recommended to patients who suffer from cluster headaches, which are often more painful and debilitating than migraines, and to people who suffer from extreme arthritis. When a patient who suffers from cluster headaches applies capsaicin cream to his or her nostrils, the initial feeling is of irritation and burning followed by pain relief.
Why Hot Peppers Are Good for HeadachesNutritional research studies on the benefits of diets that include hot peppers suggest many long-term benefits. As a medicinal substance, capsicum has been known to promote healthy circulation as well as helping the body to manage low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol more efficiently. To a certain extent, capsicum can be considered to be a cleaner of arteries.
Since there is a strong vascular factor associated with some headaches, it stands to reason that patients who incorporate hot peppers to their diets can benefit from not falling victim to the cephalalgia condition as often.
How Intranasal Capsaicin Works
Hot pepper nasal spray is an experimental and alternative method for the treatment of migraines. One such spray is branded as Ausanil, which in addition to capsaicin includes ginger as well. Ausanil does not claim to improve vascular function as its sole health benefit; it actually works by numbing the trigeminal nerve.
Earlier this year, Ausanil was introduced at 66th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. As the properties of this nasal spray were presented, researchers pointed out that the desensitization of the trigeminal nerve results in lowering the levels of the calcitonin gene-related peptide, which is widely recognized as one of the neurotransmitters responsible for causing migraine headaches.
In a clinical study, Ausanil was tested by 18 patients between the ages of 28 to 65, and they all had different cephalalgia conditions that were insufficiently treated with commonly prescribed headache medications. Here are some relevant study findings:
- Complete headache relief was reported by 13 patients
- Moderate pain relief was reported three patients
- One patient reported no relief at all
As expected, all patients in the Ausanil clinical study experienced irritation and stinging immediately following the application of this nasal spray. The eyes of some patients also welled up with tears, and this irritating effect lasted between two and 10 minutes. Still, the reports of complete pain relief from more than 70 percent of those involved in this clinical study is very promising.
Since Ausanil can be classified as a herbal remedy, it can be purchased as an over-the-counter medication. This nasal spray may benefit some migraine patients who use it as part of a reactive medication strategy. For those interested in a more preventative style of migraine management, simply adding hot peppers to their diets could reduce the frequency and intensity of their episodes.
*Image courtesy of Vinoth Chandar