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Capsaicin peppers with their molecular structure

Capsaicin is an extract from the capsaicin plant and is available either with or without a prescription, depending on the strength and the form. Capsaicin is also known as cayenne, or red pepper, and is the substance that makes chili peppers hot.[1][2] It is typically used externally for painful conditions, including osteoarthritis, post-herpetic neuralgia and painful diabetic neuropathy. It is sometimes used for muscle or joint pain. Capsaicin is available in different strengths, either as a topical treatment (cream) or a transdermal patch.[2] Eating capsaicin in chili peppers produces a euphoria in some people as a response to the heat.

Theory[edit | edit source]

Evidence[edit | edit source]

Clinicians[edit | edit source]

Risks and side effects[edit | edit source]

Well-used tube of capsaicin cream, Zacin brand name.
Capsaicin cream licensed for nerve pain

Topical cream[edit | edit source]

Common and very common side effects:

  • Transient burning


  • cough; eye irritation; sneezing


Transdermal patches[edit | edit source]

Common and very common side effects:

  • Transient burning; application site reactions; erythema; pruritus


  • burning sensation; cough; dysgeusia; eye irritation; first degree AV block; hypertension; hypoaesthesia; muscle spasm; nausea; pain in extremities; palpitations; peripheral edema; []pruritus]]; tachycardia; throat irritation [2]

Risks[edit | edit source]

Capsaicin has a moderate risk of interactions with other medications, and may interact with herbal or natural remedies.[1]

Transdermal patches must be handled with nitrile gloves; latex gloves do not provide enough protection. Hands must be washed immediately after use, or within 30 mins if applying topical Capsaicin to hands.[2] There have been a number of cases of burns caused by Capsaicin.[3] It may also lower blood sugar.[1]

Costs and availability[edit | edit source]

Capsaicin is available in different strengths and forms, with some available over-the-counter and others only available on prescription. Brand names include Zacin (0.025% cream), Axsain, and Qutenza (8% transdermal).[1][2]

Learn more[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]


Analgesics (pain killers)

Topical treatments

Transdermal treatments


References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Capsicum: MedlinePlus Supplements". Retrieved Sep 30, 2018. 
  2. Joint Formulary Committee. "Capsaicin". British National Foundry. London: BMJ Group and Pharmaceutical Press. Retrieved Sep 30, 2018. 
  3. Office of the Commissioner, FDA. "Consumer Updates - Topical Pain Relievers May Cause Burns". Retrieved Sep 30, 2018. 

The information provided at this site is not intended to diagnose or treat any illness.
From MEpedia, a crowd-sourced encyclopedia of ME and CFS science and history.