Does Caffeine Trigger or Treat Headaches?

Caffeine can be a headache trigger or headache inhibitor. Caffeine can be found in beverages, chocolate and even in some popular over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers.

Before a headache or migraine, blood vessels tend to enlarge. Because it contains “vasoconstrictive” properties that cause the blood vessels to narrow and restrict blood flow, caffeine can aid in head pain relief. When caffeine is added to the combination of acetaminophen and aspirin, the pain relieving effect is increased by 40%.

Though caffeine does not directly cause headache, too much of the substance can trigger “caffeine rebound.” A caffeine rebound headache occurs from withdrawal of caffeine after a sufferer continually consumes too much of the substance. Though the physical side effects can be severe, only 2% of the population suffers from caffeine rebound.

Although most headache sufferers can consume up to 200 mg. per day, the NHF advises patients with frequent headaches to avoid daily use. The average American consumes about 200-300 mg of caffeine a day (or the equivalent of 2-3 cups of drip coffee).

To help monitor caffeine intake, the NHF provides you with a chart that supplies the caffeine content for several foods and beverages.


Coffee (5 oz. cup)

Drip, regular—106-164 mg

Percolated, regular—93-134 mg

Instant, regular—47-68 mg

Decaffeinated—2-5 mg

Espresso (1 oz. cup)—30-50 mg

Loose-leaf tea (imported, 5 oz. cup)

Black—25-110 mg

Oolong—12-55 mg

Green—8-36 mg

Tea (black tea assumed, 5 oz. cup)

Brewed, major U.S. brands

-1 minute brew—20-80 mg

-3 minute brew—21-33 mg

-5 minute brew—35-46 mg

Canned iced tea—39-50 mg

Iced tea (12 oz.)—67-76 mg

Instant tea—22-36 mg

Cocoa and chocolate

Cocoa beverage (mix, 6 oz.)—2-8 mg

Milk chocolate (1 oz.)—6 mg

Baking chocolate (1 oz.)—35 mg

Sweet chocolate (1 oz.)—20 mg

Ovaltine—0 mg

Postum—0 mg

Soft drinks

Mr. Pibb, diet (12 oz.)—57 mg

Mountain Dew (12 oz.)—54 mg

Coca-Cola, Diet Coke (12 oz.)—46 mg

Tab (12 oz.)—46 mg

Shasta Cola (12 oz.)—45 mg

Mr. Pibb (12 oz.)—44 mg

Dr. Pepper (12 oz.)—41 mg

Pepsi (12 oz.)—38 mg

Diet Pepsi (12 oz.)—36 mg

Diet Rite (12 oz.)—36 mg

Royal Crown Cola (12 oz.)—36 mg

Cragmont Cola—0 mg

7-Up—0 mg

Sprite—0 mg

Fanta—0 mg

Fresca—0 mg

Root beer—0 mg

Club soda—0 mg

Ginger ale—0 mg

Tonic water—0 mg

Orange soda—0 mg

Grape soda—0 mg

Sports/Energy drinks

AMP tall boy (16 oz.)—143 mg

Enviga (12 oz.)—100 mg

FIXX (20 oz.)—500 mg

Full Throttle (16 oz.)—144 mg

Full Throttle Fury (16 oz.)—144 mg

Monster Energy (16 oz.)—160 mg

No Name (formerly known as Cocaine) (8.4 oz.)—280 mg

Red Bull (8.3 oz.)—76 mg

Rockstar (16 oz.)—160 mg

SoBe Adrenaline Rush (16 oz.)—152 mg

SoBe No Fear (16 oz.)—174 mg

Vault (8 oz.)—47 mg

Food/Other products

Foosh energy mints (1 mint)—100 mg

Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream (.5 cup)—30 mg

Hershey’s chocolate bar (1.55 oz.)—9 mg

Hershey’s special dark chocolate bar (1.45 oz.)—18 mg

Jolt caffeinated gum (1 stick)—33 mg

Non-prescription stimulants

Caffedrine capsules—200 mg

NoDoz tablets—200 mg

NoDoz maximum strength (1 tablet)—200 mg

Vivarian tablets—200 mg

Non-prescription pain relievers

Advil—0 mg

Anacin—32 mg

Bufferin—0 mg

Excedrin Migraine—65 mg

Excedrin Extra Strength (2 tablets)—130 mg

Midol—32 mg

Motrin—0 mg

Plain aspirin—0 mg

Tylenol—0 mg

Vanquish—33 mg


Aqua Ban—200 mg

Fluidex—0 mg

Permathene water off—200 mg

Pre-Mens Forte—100 mg

Cold Remedies

Actified—0 mg

Contac—0 mg

Comtrex—0 mg

Coryban-D.—30 mg

Dristan—16 mg

Neo-synephrine—15 mg

Sudafed—0 mg

Triaminicin—30 mg