Niacin Flush

Not the band, no, just me taking too much of a good thing.

I take a B-complex vitamin supplement because I read somewhere it helps to regulate stress hormones and I have a lot of stress in my life. Hey, don’t laugh, it actually seems to work. No idea if it’s a placebo effect or what, but seven bucks a month for piece of mind, why not? Besides, vitamins are good for you, right?

My current brand of vitamins tasted like ass and I’d been out of them for weeks so I thought I might try something new. So while picking up some things at the grocery store, I got myself a different brand of B-complex vitamins.

When I get them home, I realize I’ve grabbed the wrong jar. Instead of regular B supplements, I have grabbed a container of Mega-Awesome-Ass-Kicking-Super-B-Complex vitamins. Now with 200% more B3! Whatever. They’re good for you, right? Next morning, I swallow one of the stronger pills, wash it down with a bagel and a cup of OJ and go to work.

Maybe forty minutes later I’m busy fixing a laptop when a rather uncomfortable feeling washes over my body like a wave:

  • hot
  • sweating
  • very flushed, even on my neck and flanks
  • my ass and thighs burn
  • my skin is crawling and itching like a motherfucker

Gotta be the new pills. The only thing I did different this morning. I know that B supplements can sometimes make you flush and turn your pee neon yellow, but this is nuts. The bottoms of my feet itch. The tops of my ears itch. My fingernails fucking itch! I scratch furiously as I try to figure out what the hell is happening to me.

What I have is apparently called a niacin flush, an occasional harmless reaction to large does (eg. over 100mg) of vitamin B3. Harmless, eh? I want to scratch my own skin off. 50mg is the normal amount of niacin I’ve been taking. I just ate down 250mg, which I’m getting the notion is way too much for me.*

But according to the mega-dose vitamin crowd this is a good sign. My body is now fully saturated with happy niacin, yay! According to them I am:

  • making my cholesterol lower
  • removing toxic chemicals from my body
  • feeding underfed areas of my body (whatever the hell that is supposed to mean)
  • protecting my heart from disease
  • getting stronger
  • sleeping better
  • reducing stress
  • enhancing a sense of well-being
  • stimulating my skin (yeah, no shit!)
  • enhancing my erection

Useful as a sex aid… well that’s just shiny. Maybe it’s a turn-on for some to watch your partner flop around with the heebie jeebies, but not my cup of tea. Some of these folks take thousands of milligrams of the stuff a day and say they’ll live forever. You know, just because it’s water soluble and hard to overdose on doesn’t mean you should take a metric assload of the stuff. I’m not sure what they feel like after breakfast, but I’m screwed up. I’ve made a big mistake with my pills here.

The episode lasts maybe forty minutes. After that an odd sense of warmth set in that lasted well into the afternoon. Enough body hacking for today. Vitamins are supposed to make you feel better and not mess you up. I think the new pills are going bye-bye.

* Health Canada says that 18mg is all I need in a day and a balanced diet will supply it.

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26 Responses to Niacin Flush

  1. Nancy says:

    I take handfuls of supplements every day: stress multivitamins, calcium, glucosamine for my joints & gingko for my brain, but I can honestly say I’ve never had this reaction. Yikes!

  2. cobolhacker says:

    The problem would seem to be I took too much at once.

    Why I am stupid is because I more or less knew this when I swallowed the pill. I knew this was a far greater concentration of vitamins then I had been taking and I downed the bean anyway thinking there would be no repercussions. So this is what i get.

    After a number of doses you apparently get used to it and don’t get all hot and bothered. I’m just not sure if taking the metric assload is optimal in the first place.

  3. matt says:

    HI I just came to your site through googling niacin flush, Man I was about to dial 911 at first not relizing what the heck was going on.My wife had read about all the benifits but not any side affects.We both took a 1000mg. cap and felt all the same affects you did I was thinking the worst at first until finding out it’s all normal with niacin,As i write this comment I’m just starting to feel normal again Your descriptions of the side affects were comforting and commical to know I wasn’t gona die or something .Amazing what 1 little pill can do !

  4. cobolhacker says:

    I was also pretty scared at first, but then remembered something I had read about the flushing being quite marked sometimes. After a while it became quite comical, writing this post pausing every few seconds to scratch like a fiend.

    What scared me even more than this was when I first started taking B-complex supplements. A decent dose of B2 (riboflavin) turns your urine bright neon yellow, particularly so if you are a little low on water. Imagine my surprise here, in the bog (on a job site, no less), watching this radioactive-looking pee come out of my body. Googled it up the moment I got in front of a computer, I did.

    If I might, allow me to impart some advice. You probably don’t need 1000mg daily of niacin. Nothing I’ve read seems to indicate with any credibility that doses over 100mg do anything more. Keep in mind, my use of the vitamins was never for dietary reasons (I have a good diet), but for reasons of stress regulation, the effectiveness of which I can’t empirically prove.

  5. JP says:

    if you ever get this again drink three full glasses of very cold water and it will subside quickly. The first time I got it I thought I was having an allergic reaction and thought of calling 911…it happened again a few times but never the same as the first. Running your hands under very cold water helps to. I think it helps to get the energy out. Peace.

  6. Ronnie says:

    Just buy the non-flushing Niacin and everything will be hunky-dorey. It’ll give you a bit more “sensitivity” to the pleasure “bits” and you’ll be pleasantly pleased with the results. Just a little FYI.

  7. Ginger says:

    You have missed the point: Niacin (Nicotinic Acid) causes dilation of capillaries, hence the hot flush or prickly heat. It has been a treatment for chilblains for upteen years. It does not need a mega-dose to cause the flush, even just 10 mg will be enough provided its the acid form and not the amide form.
    Niacin is also useful for removing old sunburn or any other radiation from the body. It seems that the body ‘remembers’ the burn even after the skin has healed. Then while taking niacin the ‘memory’ is restimulated and flushed out. When the effect wears off after a few days at the low dose a larger dose is taken which will bring back the flush. The toxic effect of the radiation appears to be stored in layers of intensity, with each layer needing a stronger dose of niacin to flush it out. The maximum dose used is about 5000 mg, or 5 grams. If at this level there is no flush then the radiation is gone.
    One curious aspect to this is that the niacin will also flush out chemicals such as old anaesthetics or even drugs, both medical and recreational. To do this though one needs to also sweat as in a sauna, to assist the flushing.
    Of course, as the chemicals start coming out of hiding (usually fat deposits in the body), they collide with normal body chemicals causing weird mental effects. One can go straight back on a trip that one took 20 years previously. Its not every day you get two trips for the price of one!
    I realize that some folks actually like ‘tripping’ but for others its not cool when one has to hold down a day job and bring up a family, to suddenly find that ones wild youth has returned with a vengeance. Detox-Counselling is a must. Even the sauna must be done with a buddy in case the trip begins during the sweating phase. The end result though is worth it; clear mind, clear skin, and bags of energy.
    There’s a book about it which is a bit out of date but no one’s found a better way of putting it all together: ‘Clear Body, Clear Mind.’ by Hubbard. ISBN 87-7336-734-6
    By the way, Niacin also reduces VLDL, the ‘bad’ cholesterol, by inhibiting its production in the liver. Cholesterol is the mother of all steroid hormones including the sex hormones so one needs some cholesterol in the system. The key is to provide the co-factors for the conversion of the cholesterol, these are zinc, iron, oxygen, and a special form of niacin called NADPH which the liver makes from the original vitamin B3 in your diet. The trigger in the liver is Vitamin B6. The energy for the reactions comes from the chain of glucose to ATP, where magnesium is the primary cofactor. Thank goodness for Wikipedia!

  8. cobolhacker says:

    It scared the piss out of me. Ultimately, though, I wound up using those pills. I found I could saw them in half with a nail file and eat ’em that way.

    It’s not that I don’t appreciate the comments, but I feel that I should point out to anyone else reading this post that most of what Ginger said in her comment above has not been proved by any kind of scientific test so your millage my vary. Also, I gotta say, sunburns do not make you radioactive, they just burn you, the same way a roast is burned in an oven. (Cruise on over to Wikipedia and look up ‘non-ionizing radiation’. Think about it, if spending too long in the sun could ionize things, everything would be radioactive!) Niacin may provide relief and encourage healing of a sunburn (again, not proven but not unreasonable) but this has nothing to do with removing radiation.

    Now before you think of me as a horrible, skeptic troll, I believe that Niacin has been proven, in proper scientific tests, to lower blood pressure. There is something of a bruhaha in America over that because apparently big drug makers don’t want doctors to start recommending you use B-vits instead of Lipitor(tm). There is also some evidence that the B vitamin family can help fight stress. The study on this is not complete yet, but the results I saw were interesting enough to convince me to take vitamins.

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  10. At age 81 I had difficulties reaching good orgasms with my 33 years young girlfriend, because the rubber condoms lessen the feeling too much (without them sex is great ,but she could get pregnant!).
    I found that by taking 4 niacinamide pills with flush, 100 mg each, I turned bright red from forehead to toes within minutes, the enhanced blood circulation into the fine capillaries increases the nerve sensitivity, and I get wonderful orgasms. However, even though this flush went away with an hour, I retained disturbing tingling and hot feelings in my feet, buttocks, arms and hands at night for a week, so I could no more sleep well. Only after 10 days had I rinsed out this flushing niacin, and the itching, tingling and hot feeling became tolerably less. But now I get orgasms with her only occasionally, and milder.

  11. Steve says:

    I started taking 500 mg Niacin on my doctor’s orders to help with my cholesterol problems. I still experience the flushing from time to time and it’s NOT pleasant. The doc says that there’s a buffered form but that it runs about $80 per month as opposed to the $4 for the generic non-buffered type.

    He also suggested taking the Niacin just before bed-time so that you sleep through the worst of the reaction. Provided that you fall asleep before the flushing starts, that seems to work pretty well.

  12. cobolhacker says:

    Apparently niacin is good for all sorts of issues. I’ve read a couple of studies which seem to suggest it may be better than statins. If this is true, that’s going to make a whole bunch of people look foolish.

    Unfortunately, you’re stuck with flushy niacin, because chemicals like isonicotinamide (flush-free niacin) or nicotinamide have never been shown to be as effective for cholesterol control.

  13. Victoria says:

    I am also under tremendous stress. Instead of tranquilizers, I rather take natural.
    I JUST TOOK 500 MG flush kind instead of NO FLUSH I use to take. It was a good flush knowing it is helping me. Thank you so much for encouraging me.

    The best to you.


  14. Roaringbunny says:

    Wow.. it feels like the people who have already taken a large dose Niacin are having a practical joke on us newbies by using the term “Flush” to describe what happens to your skin!!! Severe Sunburn is much closer to how it feels! Weird though, the pain isn’t ‘real’ so it’s there… but its not. Definitely be around if you suggest it to another newbie, just to see them go through the same scare you do! Anyway, 3 things about it: 1. histamine is involved with the flush, just like with a sunburn… if it gets too uncomfortable, track down a dose of Benadryl. (worked for me like a charm) 2. It seems taking an aspirin can help. 3. high doses can damage your Liver (which is REALLY bad) so taking 250 or more a day means you should be smart, let your Dr know and test liver function just to be sure! And yeah… niacin ‘Flush’ is like describing the light coming from the sun as a ‘glow’ !!!

  15. leafan1 says:

    Im currently at 400mg and am working my up to 1000mg per day. My cholesterol was too high so now I’m on the niacin therapy. Twice I’ve had the severe flush. I literally looked like someone who stayed in the tanning bed too long. My wife said I was almost glowing. I suffer with panic attacks and anxiety so you can imagine my mind was on high alert. It felt as though someone was sticking a blowtorch to my skin. That’s the part that scared me the most as it just kept getting hotter. Anyhow it only lasts fo about thirty minutes. Any other time, I might have a mild flush with some itching but it’s not too bad. Now I know this is gonna sound craxy and maybe it’s all in my mind but since my niacin therapy has started my appetite has decreased. I’ve lost thirteen pounds in about 3 weeks or a little less. Don’t know that there are any studies backing this up but overall my niacin experience has been tolerable but with a few scares. I’ll continue taking it!

  16. cobolhacker says:


    You are losing weight too fast. Eat more. Don’t forget to exercise too.

  17. Tannie says:

    Gee, this is ridiculous…I am experiencing itching all over I have scratch marks all over, like even my nail beds itch..I am on 1000mg a day. Does this really help with nicotine withdrawals? Kinda feels like tiny mosquito bites and fiberglass irritations.I noticed that smoking a cigarette kinda feels funny.and taste really strong.Better not take it if you have any medical testing needs to be done like and MRI you may not be able to sit still for long periods of time because of the itching.But, if it helps me to quit smoking I will be so relieved. I was prescribed Niacin 1000ER for high triglycerides .Wikipedia is one of the best sites I agree…the 3 glasses of ice water may work.seems like my itching is subsiding after I drank them. I can’t believe that there are that many nerves in my body that needs itching…anyway…Thanks to your site I have been able to divert my attention on mentally psych myself out long enough for the itching to stop.

  18. flushed says:

    Here’s a little tip that MAY help. Another healthy side effect if you use it properly. My brother played a prank on me by getting me to eat a niacin. When I started to freak a little, he tyold me to go run around the block really fast. Apparently, kicking up your heart rate and getting your blood pumping makes the itches subside really quick. Pretty cool when you understand whats happening.

  19. bcoker says:

    I was a little freaked out first time I took 500 mg of Niacin. I did it because I was trying to understand what was happening to my wife. I thought it was an allergy. Once, I understood the flush was temporary I got used to it. I do not understand the big deal with the flush. I take 500 mg and scratch for almost 1 hr and my skin is red. So what. I rather do this than take Lipitor. I have been avoiding my doctor’s orders to take Lipitor for 2 years.

  20. Goggledon says:

    Hi, you can check this with an industrial chemist or a pharmacist maybe, but one gram, 1000mg, of niacin will kill you stone dead, and that’s a fact, jack. The proper dose is in MICROgrams. That’s millionths of a gram, to those who majored in television.
    I think the stuff they sell you as niacin is probably some seriously diluted chemical analogue.
    Probably not even good for you.

  21. cobolhacker says:

    Well it says ‘vitamin B3 (niacin) 100mg’ on the jar, so I’m thinking you’re wrong, Goggledon. The dosage is in mg – milligrams. Also I have empirical evidence to back this up. I’ve taken a gram of niacin and I’m not dead.

    I think you may be getting it confused with B-12, that’s in the micrograms. Go to a grocery store and pick up a bottle of vitamins if you don’t believe me. A microgram is written as ‘mcg’ or μg.

    But hey, don’t take my word for it.

    I’m pretty certain the boffins at Health Canada know more than the both of us about vitamins.

  22. Goggledon says:

    Hi Cobolhacker – yes, you are absolutely correct, please excuse me; it’s nicotine that’s the deadly one (LD50 dose is about 50mg). That’s the precursor before it oxidises into niacin. Niacin (NAD) is safe, in quite large doses. Don’t know what I was thinking, but it was late at night for me. I’m now going to stand in the corner for a while.

  23. Goggledon says:

    Just out of curiosity, Cobolhacker, where do you find machines still running Cobol? You have to be pretty old (like me) to even have heard of it.

  24. cobolhacker says:

    @Goggledon, and anyone else that cares:

    COBOL is used everywhere, you just don’t see it. Your bank, your pension, your taxes, your health care records, your insurance… probably has some COBOL running it. 300 billion lines of it are still in use and the number grows daily.

    I’m actually only 36. I was trained at college to convert COBOL into C and Visual Basic to fight the supposed horrors of the year 2000 rollover. I was already a skilled C and machine language programmer at the time, and guys like me were getting scholarships to form this army of hackers to save the world from all those pesky little ‘PIC 99’ fields. Turned out that we weren’t needed.

    I got 105% in my first COBOL course so some of the other students started calling me ‘cobolhacker’ because I liked hacking on it so much. I still have my compiler and all my tool code, but I don’t program in it anymore, there aren’t that many job opportunities. I’ve kept the handle to remind me of what I was supposed to have been doing, had I been born in the ’50s.

  25. addy says:

    I took 500mg of Niacin, and even though I’ve read everything, including ALL the comments, I think I still need reassurance that this “flush” is temporary.
    how long is ‘normal’ for the flush?
    I’ve also got goosebumps along with it. is that normal?
    and it’s SUPPOSED to itch?
    also, how do I get rid of the flush quicker?

  26. addy says:

    and my temporary, I meant not an allergic reaction.
    I don’t know why I put temporary. :/

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