How chilli peppers can help treat pain conditions

Chilli peppers are known for adding a spicy kick to dishes, but did you know they may also be able to ease pains and aches? They contain a powerful ingredient called capsaicin, the chemical responsible for the heat your mouth feels when you eat chilli peppers.

This hot chemical is commonly used to treat surgery related pain, joint conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia, as well as muscle sprains and headaches.

Capsaicin works by activating certain nerve receptors in and under the skin that cause stings or itching sensations. If these nerves are activated for a long period, they eventually lose their ability to function properly and can’t process pain signals. If capsaicin treatment is used regularly then the nerve signals will be kept at bay, and your pain may be reduced or even stopped.

There are two main forms of capsaicin:

Topical capsaicin 


Topical capsaicin can be used for all kinds of pain relief. It comes in the form of creams, lotions, gels, and ointment. You don’t usually need a prescription for it. To use for headaches, dab a bit inside your nostrils. For pain on the body, rub it into the affected area. If you have a headache, apply the cream to your scalp, three times a day. Always remember to avoid your mouth and eyes and wash your hands before and after use.

Capsaicin patches


Capsaicin patches have higher levels of capsaicin than the creams. Due to this, it can only be prescribed by your doctor and is mainly used for conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetic neurotherapy.

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Pain relief is usually experienced within 2 hours of applying a patch, and can last for up to three months. You shouldn’t touch the patch while it’s on your skin.

Good to know

  • You should never apply capsaicin creams to open wounds or cuts.
  • Talk to your doctor before you start using any capsaicin products and ask for directions on how to apply it.
  • Both the cream, patches and other capsaicin treatments come with possible side-effects. The most common are redness and swelling, dryness, burning, itching and pain. These side-effects can worsen if you’re exposed to hot or warm water and hot weather while using the products.
  • Capsaicin may make your skin more sensitive to the sun’s rays. Use sunscreen every time you head outside.
  • If you experience hives, swelling, chest tightness or itchiness after using capsaicin, see your doctor immediately. It could be an allergic reaction.
  • Besides pain relief, the heat from capsaicin can also help with a cold. Sprinkle chilli flakes, powder or fresh chillies on your food to help drain your nasal passages and sinus areas. Chilli also has a good dose of Vitamin C to boost your immune system.

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