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.
How it works
Ergot contains chemicals that can help reduce bleeding by causing a narrowing of the blood vessels.
Not ProvenReducing bleeding during menstruation, in menopause, and in connection with miscarriageExpelling the placenta after childbirthOther conditions
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.
UNSAFEfor anyone to use ergot, but some people have extra reasons not to use it:Are there any interactions with medications?
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.
ModerateDextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, and others)
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.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.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).Meperidine (Demerol)
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).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.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)
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).Tramadol (Ultram)
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) 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.