Capsaicin Causing Headaches?

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Dave,

Hello, and thank you for reading my email. I recently tasted a few drops of hot sauce (actually an extract) rated at 1.5 million Scoville Heat Units. While the pain in my mouth was quite intense, it was nothing compared to the headache I experienced about 60 seconds after tasting the extract. It was a severe pounding that started in the base of my neck at the back of my head and slowly worked its was around the sides of my head where it stayed pounding away for a few hours. It was almost like a migraine type sensation. I have never experienced anything like this before (however, I never tasted anything rated at 1.5 million SHU, either) and have not been able to find any information on the internet about capsaicin CAUSING headaches. Is this something that you’ve ever heard of, and if so, do you know the mechanism as to why this occurs? I am very curious…
Thanks in advance,
Jeff

Hello Jeff:

No, I’ve never heard of this kind of reaction.  Capsaicin is used topically as a treatment for cluster headaches. It’s entirely possible that this is an allergic reaction and as you know, such things are not the same with everyone.  There are people who are immune to poison ivy.  Capsaicin is usually a pain killer, not causer.  Anyway, don’t do this again!

Dave