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Non-Medical Options for treating Cluster Headaches


  • When used properly, 100% oxygen is effective for over 70% of sufferers and is less expensive and has fewer side effects than any other abortive medication on the market.  We recommend that all cluster headache sufferers talk to their healthcare providers about a prescription for medical O2.  See below for other sources of Oxygen.
  • Medscape Today article on Oxygen Therapy

Energy drinks

Energy drinks, such as Red Bull, NOS, Venom, Monster, etc., can be used as a very effective abortive, especially when used in conjunction with high-flow oxygen therapy (15 liters per minute as a minimum). The important ingredients to look for are caffeine and taurine. In order to be used effectively, an energy drink should contain a minimum of 80mg of caffeine and around 1,000mg of taurine per 8-oz. serving. It should be consumed quickly (chugged) at the first sign of cluster headache attack. Some people have difficulty chugging carbonated beverages, and leave a can open in the refrigerator so the carbonation disappears over time.
Note: Care should be exercised when using energy drinks as an abortive at the same time verapamil is being used as a preventative. The combination of taurine and verapamil should be kept to a minimum as this combo has been linked to heart arrhythmia. A good rule of thumb is to avoid consuming more than one (1) 8-oz. serving in a 24-hour period while on verapamil therapy.

Over the Counter Supplements

  • Kudzu is a plant originally imported from China.  Extracts from the root of the plant have been used for centuries in China to treat hypertension, migraine, allergies, angina and as a treatment for alcohol abuse.  It is being used experimentally by a group of cluster headache sufferers in treating their cluster headaches. Anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that Kudzu works for many of those who take it.  Here is a letter from a member, relating her experiences with Kudzu.  In this letter are a couple links to information on Kudzu.  It is important to read ALL of the information, paying particular attention to the warnings.  As with all other treatments, please discuss this with your doctor before trying it.


Anecdotal Non-Prescription Cluster Help

Have you ever gotten to the point that you will try ANYTHING to stop the pain?  Lots of us have.  We often joke about trying strange new concoctions, but here are some of the things that cluster headache sufferers claim to have tried that may have helped deal with their attacks.  
We must warn you that these suggestions are not sanctioned by O.U.C.H or any medical professional. 

They are passed on as a courtesy from other sufferers.  Please check with your doctor and pharmacist before taking any over the counter medicines or nutritional supplements as they can interact with each other and with prescription medications. 

We also suggest you check for drug interactions yourself at a site such as  http://www.drugdigest.org/DD/Home/AllAboutDrugs
or one of the many other similar websites.  It is always better to be safe than sorry where your health is concerned.

  • Welder’s Oxygen (or The Friendly Neighborhood Fire Department!)  - Sometimes uninformed doctors don’t want to prescribe medicinal oxygen for headaches, even though we know it does help.  We’ve checked with the Poison Control center and welder’s oxygen is safe.  It’s best, however, to use a non-rebreather mask to inhale the oxygen, otherwise the risk of tearing lung tissue is present.  Many clusterheads have reported that their local fire department will allow them to use their oxygen if they can't get it any other way.  Introduce yourself as a cluster headache sufferer and ask them if you can use their oxygen to try to abort an attack.  Print out as much info as you can from www.clusterheadaches.com about oxygen therapy and take it with you when you talk to them.  Here is some info on it: http://www.clusterheadaches.com/about.html#Oxygen , or you can also type “oxygen” in the search button at that website to read hundreds of posts on how it has helped people there.
  • IceGel-filled ice bags (the ones that never really quite freeze) work the best. (Keep 2 or 3 on hand in the freezer because they do warm up and will become useless and aggravating if they do.) Try putting them in a cloth gift-bag or wrap them in a tea towel and lay them on the back of the neck at the onset of an attack. It dulls the pain receptors of the brain and helps the sufferer to stay a little calmer. Because they’re pliable, they can be applied directly on the face at the site of the pain, as well.  Bags of frozen peas or corn work just as well!
  • Heat - Some sufferers prefer to apply heat to their pain – this can be via heating pad, hot shower, or just a hot washcloth. 
  • Water - This treatment works best on folks who aren’t on any other meds and it CAN actually break and end a cluster cycle for some people. Read about it here:  http://www.clusterheadaches.com/water.html

  • Blue Cheese & Vinegar - We don’t know why, but a few sufferers have actually reported success in aborting attacks by placing a piece of blue cheese and a spoonful of cider vinegar under their tongue!
  • Hot Sauce Under the Tongue - Some of our sufferers have reported that they are able to abort their attacks by placing a teaspoon of hot pepper sauce under the tongue at the onset of an attack and holding it there for 5 – 10 minutes for the ingredients in the peppers to be absorbed into the system- (it won’t burn the tongue if it is place UNDER the tongue). No need to swallow the sauce if the taste is not palatable to the sufferer. 
  • St. John's Wort - We’ve used this as a weapon against the depression that comes along with a cluster cycle.  It’s the natural form of Prozac, without the nasty side effects.  It may also help induce sleep if taken before bed.  No noticeable side effects have been reported.
  • Feverfew - This is more of a migraine preventative herb, but it may help some clusterheads too.  It has to be taken for a few months to be an effective preventative, however.
  • Dramamine/Gravol - Taken before bed, these anti-motion sickness drugs (available without prescription) cause sleep as a side effect.  They don’t let the user get into the REM phase of sleep, which is when most nighttime cluster attacks occur, but they just might get him/her through the night.  They won’t abort the pain if an attack breaks through, but just might help you all get one or two nights’ sleep!
  • Benadryl - Works the same as Dramamine/Gravol but also helps with the sinus congestion.  Please don’t take BOTH Dramamine and Benadryl though!!
  • Phenergan - "I have found that after over 20 years of suffering clusters all I had to do was dissolve one half of a 25mg tablet of phenergan and within 10 minutes all pain and symptoms were gone for the day.  It does numb the tongue for up to an hour, but it's worth it to be pain free.  Now I can live a normal life even with clusters because I know there is a way to stop the pain.  Has anyone else tried this?  I hope it could help someone else."  Thanks-D. Henderson
  • Massage - Sometimes, and ONLY if the sufferer wants you to, massage can help a sufferer to stay calm through an attack.  Try gently massaging the back of the neck and the shoulder area.  It CAN help to move the blood flow away from the head.  Or, if they prefer, the soles of their feet, or the palms of their hands.  But, we can’t stress enough the importance of discussing this with a sufferer when they are NOT under attack.  They may not want anyone or anything touching them.
  • Reflexology - The area on the sides of both big toes are the reflexology stimulus points for headaches.  It IS possible to alleviate some head pain by massaging this area.  But, again, discuss this with the sufferer ahead of time to see if they want you to try this method.
  • Exercise - Sometimes a brisk walk in cool temperatures can act as an abortive.  Or, aerobic exercise (squat thrusts, jumping jacks, running in place, etc.) can get the oxygen flowing through the blood to abort an attack.  Some clusterheads have even reported that hyperventilating (breathing deep and quickly) has aborted some of their attacks.
  • Bio-Feedback Technique - One of our sufferers, Charlie S., has brought this technique to us and he reports great success for aborting his clusters with it!  Read all about it here: http://www.clusterheadaches.com/wwwboard/messages/99423.html
  • Diet & Triggers - Here are some things that people  have reported as triggers:  Alcohol,  Sugar,  MSG,  Nitrates,  Bananas,  Nuts,  Processed Meats,  Chocolate,  Dairy Products,  Tobacco,  Caffeine*  *(caffeine can sometimes be used to abort an attack too: a strong cup of black coffee!!)
  • Candida Theory - There has been a bit of research done into this theory and is, as of yet, inconclusive.  Quite a few sufferers responded to a test for candida infestation and the results were surprisingly positive!  To control a candida overgrowth, it’s best to avoid dietary triggers such as sugar, flour, dairy, yeast – they will aggravate the candida balance in the intestines.  Lots of cluster headache sufferers have been treated in the past for sinus infections.  That treatment is usually a course of antibiotics, another big contributor to candida/yeast overgrowth!  Acidophilus supplements are available in health food stores and will help to rebalance the natural flora and fauna that we all need in our system.  Candida overgrowth can be identified by many things: sensitivity to perfumes/odors, psoriasis, sinus congestion, itchy skin, headache, gastric upset, athlete’s foot, the list goes on.
  • Mushrooms (psilocybin)  - This treatment, although very controversial and illegal in most areas, has been the singularly most effective treatment we have found to date.  To read more about it, go here:  http://www.clusterbusters.com
  • Seeds (LSA)  - This alternative treatment has been effective for many.  It involves using the seeds from any of several plants, such as Hawaiian Baby Woodrose, Rivea Corymbosa and Morning Glory.   For more information click here:  http://www.clusterbusters.com/lsa.htm
  • Taurine - At least one sufferer has reported that taking Taurine supplements up to 1500mg per day has stopped his attacks.  As of this writing, he reports 18 days pain free from cluster headaches.  He also takes 500mg of Kaprex (a natural anti-inflammatory) and 500mg of Magnesium.  He has further reported that alcohol is normally a trigger for an attack, but since taking this combination, he has been able to consume alcoholic beverages without triggering attacks.  
  • Please feel free to contact us with any other methods that you have tried that actually helped.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this web site is for educational and informational purposes only.  It should not be used as a substitute for seeking professional care or for the diagnosis and treatment of any medical disorder.  O.U.C.H. makes no claims as to the scientific/clinical validity of the information on this site OR to that of the information linked to from this site.  All information taken from the internet should be discussed with a medical professional!

World Headache Alliance