Capsaicin, the principal ingredient of chilli peppers, has powerful pain-relieving properties. It acts as a counterirritant and functions by reducing the levels of substance P, a neurotransmitter that conveys pain signals to the brain.
Evidence from clinical trials suggests the benefits of capsaicin for psoriasis, cluster headaches, and rhinitis. However, limited data are available to assess its potential in relieving arthritic and neuropathic pain. More research is warranted.
The use of gloves is recommended for topical application. Because capsaicin can cause serious irritation, it should not be applied to broken skin, mucous membranes, or the eyes.
--Barne Cassileth, PhD
SUMMARY: Capsaicin, the active component derived from the fruit of capsicum, is used to relieve pain, to improve circulation, to treat cluster headaches and psoriasis, and for weight loss. Capsicum or cayenne pepper, a shrub prevalent in many tropical and subtropical climates, is an important ingredient of many cuisines around the world. It has been used in traditional medical systems as a remedy for digestive and circulatory problems, poor appetite, and to relieve muscle and arthritic pain. Capsaicin is currently available in capsule form and as an ingredient in topical creams....