What Is Capsaicin? 9 Topical Uses and Benefits

Capsaicin (8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) comes from chili peppers (Capsicum spp.) and gives them their heat.[1] Capsaicin has a lot to offer, and its analgesic properties are at the top of the list.[2] Analgesics are a type of pain reliever and include acetaminophen, a non-aspirin pain reliever, which is the active ingredient in brands like Tylenol, Paracetamol, and Panadol.

If you’re a trivia buff or preparing for an upcoming appearance on Jeopardy! you might be happy to know that capsaicin is a vanilloid compound[3] and belongs to the vanillyl group.[1, 4] Aside from providing the hot taste chili peppers are known for, capsaicin is responsible for many amazing health benefits. Capsaicin is a capsaicinoid, which is a compound present in the capsicum family of plants. Aside from capsaicin, the most common of these compounds include dihydrocapsaicin, nordihydrocapsaicin, homocapsaicin, and homodihydrocapsaicin.[5]. Natureu2019s Way Capsi... Buy New $8.04 (as of 09:10 EST - Details)

One use for capsaicin that extends back centuries is as a means to control joint and muscle discomfort.[6] Capsaicin is a neuropeptide-active agent; it affects the synthesis, storage, transport, and release of substance P. Substance P is a chemical mediator of pain impulses along the central nervous system. When substance P enters joint tissue, it causes inflammation and contributes to rheumatoid arthritis.

Capsaicin helps relieve pain by preventing the accumulation of substance P in peripheral sensory neurons. When there is less substance P in the nerve endings, pain impulses are not transmitted to the brain. Essentially, capsaicin prevents your brain from receiving the impulses that would otherwise make you feel pain.

History of Capsaicin

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Capsaicin was first isolated by John Clough Thresh. The exact chemical structure of capsaicin was determined by E. K. Nelson in 1919. It was synthesized by Ernst Spath and Stephen F. Darling in 1930.[7] Although those technical advances are recent, chili peppers have been used in one way or another for over 6,000 years.[8] The analgesic properties of chili peppers have been appreciated by cultures around the world. Native Americans, in particular, were known to rub their gums with chili pepper pods to relieve tooth pain. Culinary applications are also common. Chili peppers were used as a weapon by the Incas against the Spaniards. In recent years, law enforcement has taken to using capsaicin-based pepper spray.[9]

9 Health Benefits of Capsaicin

Significant amounts of research have confirmed the impressive benefits of capsaicin. Medline lists almost 2900 research mentions of capsaicin in scientific literature published between 1991 and 1999 alone.

Although not comprehensive of everything this compound has to offer, here are nine impressive benefits.

  1. A 1986 study found patients with moderate or severe psoriasis who applied capsaicin topically experienced significant reductions in burning, stinging, itching, and redness of the skin over a six-week period.[10]
  2. Capsaicin may help with atopic dermatitis.[11]
  3. A 1991 study found capsaicin may be an effective remedy for arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis patients who received capsaicin cream for painful knees experienced mean reductions in pain of 57% and 33%, respectively, after 4 weeks.[12]
  4. Capsaicin helps with chronic back pain.[13]
  5. Capsaicin may relieve chronic soft tissue pain.[13]
  6. Capsaicin may provide relief for neuropathic pain.[14][15]
  7. Capsaicin may play a role in suppressing prostate cancer cells.[16]
  8. Oral capsaicin can provide pain relief for oral mucositis in patients undergoing chemotherapy.[17]
  9. Capsaicin may help fight obesity by increasing feelings of fullness to reduce calorie and fat intake.[18][19]

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