Capsaicin takes 2 weeks to work

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Posted by Capsaicin Guy ( on March 04, 2000 at 13:50:07:

Here’s the section on clusters and capsaicin:

Heading Off The Pain

Cluster headaches are short-lived, but excruciating. In fact, Dr. Ninan T. Mathew, director of the Houston Headache Clinic once said in The Dallas Morning News that cluster headaches are the most severe form of head pain known to man. The pain, he says, is always isolated to one side of the head, and the attacks occur in groups or clusters, sometimes three or four times a day, and last from forty-five minutes to an hour. Sometimes the attacks will subside for months, or even years. Men comprise ninety percent of all sufferers, and Mathew says this phenomenon is probably related to testosterone levels. He has also found that the headaches can be precipitated by histamines, drinking alcohol, or taking or nitroglycerin, a heart medication.

Cluster headaches are not to be confused with migraine headaches, which last anywhere from two hours to two days, can cause nausea and vomiting, and affect mostly women. While nausea is not associated with cluster headaches, a person having an attack might experience one eyelid drooping and/or one nostril stopping up on the same side as the
headache. Other symptoms can include watering and redness of both eyes and constricting pupils.

Enter capsaicin on a stick.

For the past four years Mathew has studied the effects of capsaicin on cluster headache pain. Patients use a cotton swab to apply a capsaicin cream such as Zostrix inside the nostril that is on the same side as the headache, and sometimes onto painful areas of the face. The first few treatments burn, but Mathew said the pain goes away after a few applications.

This treatment, however, does not necessarily provide instant relief. "It may work if applied immediately," says Mathew, "but it's more preventive than acute." He says it takes about two weeks of daily application to deplete Substance P from the nerve that extends from the nostril to the head, which then renders it incapable of producing pain. This can keep headaches from recurring.

Additionally, a cluster headache study published in 1994 from the University La Sapienza, Rome, Italy, confirmed that capsaicin desensitizes nerves, and also found that it alters blood flow in the head, particularly when applied in the nostril on the same side as the headache. These results, too, found that this treatment helped prevent future attacks.

Although these results sound promising, Mathew cautions that more studies on larger groups of people need to be done before he can recommend capsaicin as a definite treatment for cluster headaches. "It's an exciting idea that may not follow through," he says. "But theoretically, it has merit."

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