Since the 1920s, medications in the Ergotamine class have been used for the immediate relief of migraine symptoms. The drug comes from a type of fungus, called ergot (or ergot for migraines), which grows on grains such as rye, wheat and barley. It was first discovered 90 years ago and was originally used to curb bleeding after a woman gave birth.

Ergotamines and migraine headaches

Ergotamines appear to be most useful for people who have migraines that last a long period of time, but don’t have frequent migraine attacks.

How Ergotamines work

Although it is unclear how Ergotamines work to fight migraines. This class of drugs, which combines Ergotamine with caffeine, causes the blood vessels in the brain to narrow. This is thought to impact the migraine symptoms.

Different forms /formulations of Ergotamines

Migraine sufferers sometimes need the option of having medications in different formulations because of the symptoms of nausea and vomiting, which can make it difficult to swallow and digest medications. Also, some formulations, such as nasal sprays, offer faster relief as the medication reaches the blood stream more rapidly than with a swallowed pill.

Ergotamines come in the following forms:

  • Tablet
  • Injections
  • Nasal sprays
  • Suppositories

Side effects of Ergotamines

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Cold, clammy hands and feet
  • Muscle pain
  • Numbness
  • Feeling discomfort or anxiety
  • Nasal sprays may cause bitter or foul taste in the mouth or throat
  • Nasal sprays may irritation in the nose

It is important to note that overuse of ergotamines may cause medication overuse, or rebound, headaches.

Who should not take Ergotamines

Do not take any medication in the Ergotamine class if you have any of the following conditions or diseases:

  • High blood pressure that is not controlled
  • Glaucoma
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Blood vessel diseases throughout the body or in the brain or heart
  • Recent surgery
  • Liver or kidney disease

Also, you should not take Ergotamines if you are also taking antifungal medications or HIV protease inhibitors – use of Ergotamines with these drugs may cause a life-threatening decrease in blood flow to the hands, feet or brain.

Women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or in labor shouldn’t take Ergotamines.

Do not take Ergotamines if you suffer from any blood vessel problems, heart disease, high blood pressure, liver or kidney problem, severe infection or if you take any drugs in the triptan class of medications.

Make sure you tell your doctor all medicines and supplements you’re taking because Ergotamines have potentially dangerous interactions with several types of drugs, including:

clorimazole, fluconazole, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, metronidazole, nefazodone, saquinavir, or zileuton, antifungals, beta-blockers, delavirdine, efavirenz, ketolide antibiotics, macrolide antibiotics, pressor agents, sympathomimetics, quinolones and theophylline.

Different Ergotamine medications for migraines


Written by: Otesa Miles | Last review date: November 2010
View References