Capsaicin is derived from hot peppers and is what gives peppers heat. As a topical medication, it is used for a wide variety of medicinal purposes, including pain.
It may sound strange that spicy things in peppers can relieve pain, especially if you’re not a fan of eating spicy food. Why does something that causes burning on contact with the tongue help relieve pain? It sounds contradictory.
However, it is precisely that immediate burning sensation that is behind the effectiveness of capsaicin. This medicine is classified as a contra-irritant, which means it causes pain to overcome it.
Here is a theory of how it works: everyone’s cells contain something called substance P. It is a neurochemical that transmits pain signals to your brain. Capsaicin forces the cells of the tissue it touches to release all its P substance, and that is the burning pain you feel. Once substance P is gone, those cells can no longer send pain messages. Capsaicin takes away their postage stamps. Or, so it does not sound like a foggy old, it crashes your wi-fi.
Another possibility is that it actually desensitizes the peripheral nerves, which tend to be hypersensitive in us.
General health benefits
A good amount of research has been done on capsaicin for a variety of conditions. Some research supports topical use for:
Neuropathy and other nervous pains.
Pain of rheumatoid arthritis
Arthrosis and other joint pains.
pain Post-surgical pain
Cluster headaches (when taken as a nasal spray)
Capsaicin also has some non-pain related uses, which include:
Psoriasis (a condition of the skin)
Mouth ulcers derived from radiation or chemotherapy.
For Fibromyalgia and ME / CFS
So far, we do not have any specific research on capsaicin for chronic fatigue syndrome. However, because this disease may have some of the same types of pain as fibromyalgia, the following studies may be relevant.
We have a small body of research on topical capsaicin for the pain of fibromyalgia. A 2010 review of the evidence of complementary and alternative treatments (De Silva) found a study that provided moderate evidence that capsaicin reduced sensitivity but did not improve other symptoms.
In a 2013 study of severe cases of fibromyalgia (Casanueva), the researchers reported significant short-term changes in:
Depression (possibly as a result of lower levels of pain)
Limitations of roles due to emotional problems.
Gravity of fatigue
Pressure pain threshold
Measures of general well-being and the impact of the disease.
However, this study only involved 70 people in the treatment group. Those people continued with their regular medical treatment and added capsaicin. The 60 people in the control group also continued with their regular treatments but did not receive a placebo. We need larger, placebo-controlled trials to replicate these results before we can rely very much on the results.
A study conducted in 2001 on chronic non-specific low back pain (Keitel) provides some evidence that capsaicin cream can help people with this type of back pain who also have fibromyalgia.
Some research has been done on the types of pain rather than on specific conditions. Some of these types of pain are involved in fibromyalgia and can also be part of the chronic fatigue syndrome.
Nociceptive hypersensitivity: it is believed that at least part of the pain involved in these conditions comes from hyperactive nociceptors: specialized nerve endings in your skin that collect information about pain, temperature, and other environmental factors.
A 2015 study in Molecular Pain suggests that a single dose of topical capsaicin may relieve nociceptive hypersensitivity. It also helped in the inhibition of pain, which is when your brain prepares to adjust to painful stimuli. It is believed that inhibition of pain is dysregulated in fibromyalgia.
Neuropathy: It is also believed that fibromyalgia involves a type of pain called neuropathy, which results from damaged or dysfunctional nerves. While we have no evidence of neuropathy in chronic fatigue syndrome, at least one study (Anderson) suggests that chronic fatigue syndrome may share the underlying biology and, therefore, a significant overlap with conditions involving neuropathy.
Several studies show that capsaicin can be effective against neuropathy, usually in combination with other medications. Possibly making these studies more relevant is a 2015 study in the European Journal of Pain that shows that capsaicin is more effective in people with hyperalgesia, which is the amplification of pain by the nervous system. It is believed that hyperalgesia is a factor in both fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Use, risks and side effects
Some benefits of capsaicin include:
It is relatively cheap
It is available without a prescription in most supermarkets and pharmacies.
It will not interact negatively with your other medications.
As with all treatments, you should evaluate the risks and benefits to determine if capsaicin is correct.
fibromyalgia right for you Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions or concerns.
When topical capsaicin is used, it is important to remember that it works because it burns. However, although the burning sensation is normal, not everyone can tolerate it. In addition, some people may experience side effects.
Capsaicin is available in cream or liquid form. The fluid is usually found in an applicator that is similar to a roll-on deodorant or dauber bingo. Be sure to read and follow the package instructions.
When handling capsaicin, be sure to:
Do not expose the skin to heat, such as a heating pad or when your skin is heated by the shower or bath.
Keep it away from the eyes and rinse them with water if they enter them.
Do not use it on broken or irritated skin.
Avoid sensitive areas and wash them with soap and water if they are exposed.
Common side effects of capsaicin include:
Redness of the skin.
If dry residues are inhaled, coughing, sneezing, watery eyes and sore throat may occur.
Higher doses may result in additional side effects. Stop using and notify your doctor if you experience:
Increased pain (beyond the initial burning sensation)
It is also possible to be allergic to capsaicin. Avoid this medicine if you are allergic to peppers. Get medical attention immediately if you have symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, including:
Swelling of the face, tongue or throat.