In Vino Veritas: The Link Between Migraine and Wine

Andrew N. Wilner, MD


November 19, 2014


As a writer, I've often wondered whether my career was hampered by my lifelong intolerance to alcohol. Usually, but not always, the taste of wine on my tongue or the waft of its aroma to my nose initiates a distinct bitemporal throbbing that increases with each sip and reliably obliterates any joy of the moment. Consequently, I have been forced to look askance at any vinous offering—red, white, or rosé. Unlike Hemingway, Fitzgerald, or Parker, my writing muse has been relegated to a daily struggle with sobriety. On the other hand, as a neurologist, I have the gift of first-hand experience with one of my patients' most common neurologic afflictions, migraine.

A Historical Perspective

A recent review published in the journal Headache and (here on Medscape) investigated the ancient relationship between wine and headache.[1] It seems that Celsus (25 BC-50 AD) and centuries later Paul of Aegina (625-690 AD) were aware of wine as a headache trigger. Of all alcoholic beverages, wine is the most common initiator of headache, particularly red wine. (Note: We are not talking about "hangovers," which result from quantity rather than quality. Wine-induced headaches may occur, mysteriously, independent of dosage.)


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