Ergot

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What other names is Ergot known by?

Claviceps purpurea, Cockspur Rye, Cornezuelo, Ergot de Seigle, Hornseed, Mai Jiao, Mother of Rye, Secale Cornutum, Smut Rye, Spurred Rye.

What is Ergot?

Ergot is a fungus that grows on rye and less commonly on other grasses such as wheat.

Ergot has an interesting history. During the Middle Ages, ergotism, a severe reaction to ergot-contaminated food (such as rye bread), was common and was known as St. Anthony's fire. This illness was often cured by visiting the shrine of St. Anthony, which happened to be in an ergot-free region of France. Additionally, some historians believe that ergot played a role in the Salem witch hunt of 1692. They think that some women in Salem developed peculiar behaviors and accused other women of being witches as a result of eating ergot-contaminated food.

Despite serious safety concerns, ergot has been used as medicine. Women use it to treat excessive bleeding during menstrual periods, at the start of menopause, and before and after miscarriage. They also use ergot after childbirth to expel the placenta and contract the uterus. Historically, ergot was used to speed up labor, but its use was abandoned when people made a connection between the use of ergot and an increased number of stillbirths.

Certain chemicals in ergot are used in prescription medicines.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of ergot for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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How does Ergot work?

Ergot contains chemicals that can help reduce bleeding by causing a narrowing of the blood vessels.

Are there safety concerns?

Ergot is UNSAFE. There is a high risk of poisoning, and it can be fatal. Early symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting, muscle pain and weakness, numbness, itching, and rapid or slow heartbeat. Ergot poisoning can progress to gangrene, vision problems, confusion, spasms, convulsions, unconsciousness, and death.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

It is UNSAFE for anyone to use ergot, but some people have extra reasons not to use it:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It's UNSAFE to use ergot. Ergot has many effects that can be harmful during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Don't use it.

Heart disease: Ergot can narrow blood vessels and make heart disease worse.

Kidney disease: People with kidney problems are not able to flush ergot out of their bodies well enough. This can cause ergo to build up, and that increases the risk of ergot poisoning.

Liver disease: People with liver problems are not able to remove ergot from their bodies well enough. This can cause ergo to build up, and that increases the risk of ergot poisoning.

Narrowing of the blood vessels that supply the legs and feet (peripheral vascular disease): Ergot can narrow blood vessels and make this condition worse.

Are there any interactions with medications?



Medications for depression (Antidepressant drugs)
Interaction Rating: Major Do not take this combination.

Ergot increases a brain chemical called serotonin. Some medications for depression also increase the brain chemical serotonin. Taking ergot along with these medications for depression might increase serotonin too much and cause serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety. Do not take ergot if you are taking medications for depression.

Some of these medications for depression include fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), amitriptyline (Elavil), clomipramine (Anafranil), imipramine (Tofranil), and others.



Medications for depression (MAOIs)
Interaction Rating: Major Do not take this combination.

Ergot increases a chemical in the brain. This chemical is called serotonin. Some medications used for depression also increase serotonin. Taking ergot with these medications used for depression might cause serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety.

Some of these medications used for depression include phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate), and others.



Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, and others)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Ergot can affect a brain chemical called serotonin. Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, others) can also affect serotonin. Taking ergot along with dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, others) might cause too much serotonin in the brain and serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety. Do not take ergot if you are taking dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, and others).



Ergot Derivatives
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Ergot contains the same chemicals as ergot derivatives in prescription medications. Taking ergot supplements with prescription ergot derivatives can increase the effects and side effects of ergot.

Some of these ergot derivatives include bromocriptine (Parlodel), dihydroergotamine (Migranal, DHE-45), ergotamine (Cafergot), and pergolide (Permax).



Medications that decrease the breakdown of other medications in the liver (Cytochrome P450 3A4 [CYP3A4] inhibitors)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Some medications might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down ergot. Taking ergot along with some medications that decrease the break-down of other medications in the liver can increase the effects and side effects of ergot. Before taking ergot, talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking any medications that are changed by the liver.

Some medications that might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down ergot include amiodarone (Cordarone), clarithromycin (Biaxin), diltiazem (Cardizem), erythromycin (E-mycin, Erythrocin), indinavir (Crixivan), ritonavir (Norvir), saquinavir (Fortovase, Invirase), and many others.



Meperidine (Demerol)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Ergot increases a chemical in the brain called serotonin. Meperidine (Demerol) can also increase serotonin in the brain. Taking ergot along with meperidine (Demerol) might cause too much serotonin in the brain and serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety.



Pentazocine (Talwin)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Ergot increases a brain chemical called serotonin. Pentazocine (Talwin) also increases serotonin. Taking ergot along with pentazocine (Talwin) might increase serotonin too much. Too much serotonin can cause serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety. Do not take ergot if you are taking pentazocine (Talwin).



Stimulant drugs
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Stimulant drugs speed up the nervous system. Speeding up the nervous system can make you feel jittery and speed up your heartbeat. Ergot might also speed up the nervous system. Taking ergot along with stimulant drugs might cause serious problems including increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Avoid taking stimulant drugs along with ergot.

Some stimulant drugs include diethylpropion (Tenuate), epinephrine, phentermine (Ionamin), pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), and many others.



Tramadol (Ultram)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Tramadol (Ultram) can affect a chemical in the brain called serotonin. Ergot can also affect serotonin. Taking ergot along with tramadol (Ultram) might cause too much serotonin in the brain and side effects including confusion, shivering, stiff muscles, and other side effects.

Dosing considerations for Ergot.

The appropriate dose of ergot depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for ergot. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.
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Reviewed on 3/29/2011 12:35:40 PM

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