Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate. The effectiveness ratings for CAPSICUM are as follows:
Likely effective for…
- Nerve pain in people with diabetes (diabetic neuropathy). Some research shows that applying a cream or using a skin patch containing capsaicin, the active chemical found in capsicum, reduces pain in people with diabetic neuropathy. A specific cream containing 0.075% capsaicin (Zostrix-HP, Link Medical Products Pty Ltd.) used 4 times daily is approved for treating this condition. Another patch containing 8% capsaicin (Qutenza, NeurogesX, Inc.), which is available by prescription only, has also been studied. But this patch is not approved for treating this type of nerve pain. Creams or gels that contain less capsaicin than 0.075% don’t seem to work. The lotion used less frequently than 4 times daily also might not work.
- Pain. Applying creams and lotions containing capsaicin, the active chemical in capsicum, can temporarily relieve chronic pain from several conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, back pain, jaw pain, psoriasis, and other conditions.
- Nerve damage caused by shingles (postherpetic neuralgia). Applying a patch containing 8% capsaicin (Qutenza, NeurogesX Inc.), the active chemical in capsicum reduces pain over 24 hours by 27% to 37% in people with nerve damage caused by shingles. This capsaicin patch is available by prescription only and must be applied by a health care provider.
Possibly effective for…
- Back pain. Some research shows that applying a plaster that contains capsicum to the back can reduce low back pain.
- Cluster headache. Some research shows that applying capsaicin, the active chemical in capsicum, inside the nose reduces the number and severity of cluster headaches. It’s best to apply capsicum to the nostril that is on the same side of the head as the headache.
- Osteoarthritis. Some research shows that applying capsaicin 0.025%, the active chemical in capsicum, to the skin can improve symptoms of osteoarthritis.
- Runny nose not caused by allergies or infection (perennial rhinitis). Research shows that applying capsaicin, the active chemical in capsicum, inside the nose can reduce runny nose in people without allergies or an infection. The benefits might last for 6-9 months.
- Nausea and vomiting after surgery. Research shows that applying a plaster containing capsicum to specific points on the hand and forearm 30 minutes before anesthesia and leaving it in place for 6-8 hours daily for up to 3 days after surgery reduces nausea and vomiting after surgery.
- Pain after surgery. Research shows that applying a plaster containing capsicum to specific points on the hand and forearm 30 minutes before anesthesia and leaving it in place for 6-8 hours daily for up to 3 days after surgery reduces the need for painkillers within the first 24 hours after surgery. Other research shows that applying a specific patch containing 8% capsaicin (Qutenza, NeurogesX, Inc.) one time can reduce pain for up to 12 weeks.
However, it is not clear if this is due to a placebo effect. This product is available by prescription only.
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for…
- Athletic performance. Limited research shows that taking capsaicin before an athletic test might improve speed, strength, and endurance by a small amount.
- Hay fever. Early research suggests that inserting cotton wads in the nose that have been soaked in the capsicum active chemical capsaicin for 15 minutes and repeated over two days might reduce hay fever symptoms. But there is conflicting evidence that this might not improve symptoms.
- Burning pain in the mouth. Early research shows that using a mouth rinse containing capsaicin, the active chemical in capsicum, daily for 7 days slightly decreases burning discomfort in people with burning mouth syndrome. Other early research shows that applying a gel to the tongue three times daily for 14 days might slightly decrease pain in people with burning mouth syndrome.
- Diabetes. Early research shows that taking capsicum daily for 1 month can lower blood sugar levels after eating in pregnant women with gestational diabetes. But taking capsicum does not lower fasting blood sugar levels.
- Indigestion (dyspepsia). Early research suggests that red pepper powder (containing capsicum) in capsules taken 3 times daily before meals reduces symptoms of heartburn. But in some people, symptoms get worse before they get better.
- Fibromyalgia. Applying a cream containing 0.025% to 0.075% capsaicin, the active chemical in capsicum, 4 times daily to tender points might reduce tenderness in people with fibromyalgia. However, it doesn’t seem to reduce overall pain or improve physical function.
- Nerve damage in the hands and feet of people with HIV/AIDS. Some research suggests that applying a patch containing 8% capsaicin, the active chemical in capsicum, to the skin for 30-90 minutes reduces pain for up to 12 weeks in people with nerve damage caused by HIV. But other research suggests it might not provide any benefits. Applying a cream containing 0.075% capsaicin does not seem to work.
- A long-term disorder of the large intestines that causes stomach pain (irritable bowel syndrome or IBS). Early research shows that capsicum fruit taken by mouth does not help symptoms of IBS.
- Joint pain. Early research shows that taking capsules of a specific combination product containing capsaicin, the active ingredient in capsicum, and many other ingredients (Instaflex Joint Support) daily for 8 weeks reduces joint pain by about 21% compared to placebo. The effects of capsicum alone cannot be determined from this study.
- Migraine. Some reports suggest that using the active chemical in capsicum in the nose might help with migraine headaches.
- Morton’s neuroma. Some research shows that injecting capsicum into the foot one time might slightly reduce pain and decrease how much that pain interferes with walking and a person’s mood. But capsicum only relieves pain in the first and fourth week after injection.
- A condition that causes persistent muscle pain (myofascial pain syndrome). Early research shows that using a specific cream (Dipental Cream) that contains capsaicin, an active chemical in capsicum, in addition to a ketoprofen patch does not further relieve pain in people with muscular pain in the upper back
- Obesity. Some research shows that taking capsules containing capsicum twice daily 30 minutes before eating for 12 weeks reduces stomach fat but not weight in overweight and obese people. But other research shows that taking a combination supplement containing capsicum extract twice daily for 8 weeks reduces body weight, fat mass, waist circumference, and hip circumference when used along with a diet.
- Stomach ulcers. People who eat capsicum fruit (chili) an average of 24 times per month appear to be less likely to have an ulcer than people who eat chili an average of 8 times per month. This applies to chili in the form of chili powder, chili sauce, curry powder, and other chili-containing foods. But there is other evidence that suggests eating chili peppers does not help heal ulcers.
- Nerve damage in the hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy). Early clinical research shows that applying a specific patch containing 8% capsaicin one time can reduce pain for up to 12 weeks in people with nerve pain from cancer and nerve pain in the back. However, it is not clear if this is due to a placebo effect. This product is available by prescription only.
- A skin condition that causes extremely itchy, hard lumps to form on the skin (prurigo nodularis). Applying a cream containing capsaicin, the active chemical in capsicum, 4-6 times daily seems to relieve burning sensations, itching, and other symptoms. But it may take 22 weeks to 33 months of treatment to see a benefit, and symptoms may return after stopping use cream.
- Polyps in the nose and sinus (sinonasal polyposis). Early research shows that putting capsicum in the nose improves symptoms and airflow in people with polyps.
- Trouble swallowing. Some research shows that dissolving a capsaicin-containing lozenge in the mouth before each meal can improve an elderly person’s ability to swallow. There is also some evidence that capsaicin improves swallowing and eating in people who have had a stroke.
- Alcohol use disorder.
- Gas (flatulence).
- Heart disease.
- High levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia).
- Motion sickness.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
- Swelling (inflammation) of the voice box (laryngitis).
- Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of capsicum for these uses.
Side Effects Of Capsicum
- When taken by mouth: Capsicum is LIKELY SAFE when consumed in amounts typically found in food. Capsicum is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth as medicine, short-term, Side effects can include stomach irritation and upset, sweating, flushing, and runny nose. Capsicum is POSSIBLY UNSAFE to take by mouth in large doses or for long periods of time. In rare cases, this can lead to more serious side effects like liver or kidney damage, as well as severe spikes in blood pressure.
- When applied to the skin: Medicinal lotions and creams that contain capsicum extract are also LIKELY SAFE for most adults when applied to the skin. The active chemical in capsicum, capsaicin, is approved by the FDA as an over-the-counter medication. Side effects can include skin irritation, burning, and itching. Capsicum can also be extremely irritating to the eyes, nose, and throat. Don’t use capsicum on sensitive skin or around the eyes.
- When used in the nose: Capsicum is POSSIBLY SAFE when used in the nose. No serious side effects have been reported, but application in the nose can be very painful. Nasal application can cause burning pain, sneezing, watery eyes, and runny nose. These side effects tend to decrease and go away after 5 or more days of repeated use.
Warnings & Precautions
- Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Capsicum is LIKELY SAFE when applied to the skin during pregnancy. Capsicum is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth as a medicine, short-term during the second half of the second trimester, as well as the third trimester.
- If you are breast-feeding, using capsicum on your skin is LIKELY SAFE. But it is POSSIBLY UNSAFE for your baby if you take capsicum by mouth. Skin problems (dermatitis) have been reported in breast-fed infants when mothers eat foods heavily spiced with capsicum peppers.
- Children: Applying capsicum to the skin of children under two years of age is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Not enough is known about the safety of giving capsicum to children by mouth. Don’t do it.
- Bleeding disorders: While conflicting results exist, capsicum might increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders.
- Damaged skin: Don’t use capsicum on damaged or broken skin.
- Diabetes: In theory, capsicum might affect blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Until more is known, monitor your blood sugar closely if you take capsicum. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
- High blood pressure: Taking capsicum or eating a large amount of chili peppers might cause a spike in blood pressure. In theory, this might worsen the condition for people who already have high blood pressure.
- Surgery: Capsicum might increase bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using capsicum at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Dosage Of Capsicum
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
- For nerve damage in the hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy): A specific cream (Zostrix-HP, Link Medical Products Pty Ltd.) containing 0.075% capsaicin, the active chemical in capsicum, has been used 4 times daily for 8 weeks. Also, a specific patch (Qutenza, NeurogesX Inc.) containing 8% capsaicin has been applied once for 60-90 minutes.
- For nerve damage caused by shingles (postherpetic neuralgia): A specific patch (Qutenza, NeurogesX Inc.) containing 8% capsaicin, the active chemical in capsicum, has been applied once for 60-90 minutes.
- For back pain: Capsicum-containing plasters providing 11 mg of capsaicin per plaster or 22 mcg of capsaicin per square centimeter of plaster have been used. The plaster is applied once daily in the morning and left in place for 4-8 hours.
- For nausea and vomiting after surgery: Capsicum-containing plasters have been used on acupoints on the hand and forearm for 30 minutes before anesthesia and left in place for 6-8 hours daily for up to 3 days.
- For pain after surgery: Capsicum-containing plasters have been used on acupoints on the hand and forearm for 30 minutes before anesthesia and left in place for 6-8 hours daily for up to 3 days. A specific patch (Qutenza, NeurogesX Inc.) containing 8% capsaicin, the active chemical in capsicum, has been applied once for 30-60 minutes.
- Be sure to wash your hands after applying capsaicin cream. A diluted vinegar solution works well. You won’t be able to get the capsaicin off with just water. Don’t use capsicum preparations near the eyes or on sensitive skin. It could cause burning.
INSIDE THE NOSE:
- For cluster headache: 0.1 mL of a 10 mM capsaicin suspension, providing 300 mcg/day of capsaicin, applied to the nostril on the painful side of the head. Apply the suspension once daily until the burning sensation disappears. A capsaicin 0.025% cream (Zostrix, Rodlen Laboratories) applied daily for 7 days has been used to treat acute cluster headache attacks.
- For runny nose not caused by allergies or infection (perennial rhinitis): Solutions containing capsaicin, the active chemical in capsicum, have been applied inside the nose 3 times per day for 3 days, every other day for 2 weeks, or once weekly for 5 weeks.
- Putting capsaicin in the nose can be very painful, so a local painkilling medicine such as lidocaine is often put into the nose first.
Consult your doctor or pharmacist.
All information has been provided courtesy of MedLinePlus from the National Library of Medicine and from the FDA.