Do you remember that burning feeling in your mouth after you’ve eaten a particularly hot pepper? That heat is created by a chemical found in peppers called capsaicin. There is even a culture of foodies in the United States who aim to eat some of the the hottest peppers in the world containing this chemical. While eating ghost peppers may not sound like your idea of a good time, there may be another healthy use for this heat-inducing chemical.

Capsaicin can help reduce pain when used as a topical treatment for various types of conditions, including peripheral neuropathy, arthritis, and fibromyalgia.

Patients who have suffered from shingles and post-herpetic neuralgia or other chronic conditions, such as arthritis and fibromyalgia, may find relief by applying ointments with a concentrated dose of the capsaicin chemical.

Capsaicin treatments are administered directly to the area with pain. The ointment is left on the skin until the patient can feel the heat. At this point, the medication is removed.

Patches with capsaicin can be purchased over the counter and can safely be applied to the affected area to provide direct pain relief.

Capsaicin can be used for the following conditions:

  • Pain after surgery
  • Neuropathy such as diabetic neuropathy and shingles
  • Cluster or migraine headaches
  • Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis
  • Psoriasis

High doses of capsaicin can be extremely painful if not used properly. The chemical is also found in pepper spray as a personal safety aid. Be sure to wash your hands whenever you handle capsaicin or raw peppers to avoid contact with your eyes. Anyone who has chopped jalapenos and accidently touched sensitive body parts before washing their hands can tell you about the painful effects of capsaicin.

Otherwise, there are very few safety concerns with the use of capsaicin. Most of them involve the safe handling of the medication to avoid contact with sensitive areas. Itching may occur during the treatments but this usually subsides. Doctors recommend starting with smaller doses and gradually increasing the amount as your body gets used to the sensation.

Have you used capsaicin to alleviate your pain?

Image by Christian Senger via Flickr

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