Simple Pantry Solutions: Cayenne
by Laurie LaRusso, MS, ELS
Looking for something to relieve your aches and pains? Look no further than your spice rack. Cayenne is the hot (literally) alternative to pain relief.
Cayenne contains a compound called capsaicin, which provides the hot flavor and purported health benefits. In fact, capsaicin cream is sold as a nonprescription medicine for the relief of nerve pain. It seems to work by reducing a chemical involved in transmitting pain signals to the brain.
What Are the Healthy Uses for Cayenne? TOP
Medical research suggests that cayenne may have the following health-promoting abilities:
However, the most convincing evidence refers only to external use of cayenne for pain relief. If you have a chronic or serious medical condition, talk to your doctor about whether using cayenne or capsaicin to relieve symptoms is right for you.
How Much Do I Need? TOP
To treat localized painful conditions, use the capsaicin cream as directed on the package or by your doctor.
What Are the Precautions? TOP
Cayenne is spicy and may cause irritation of the skin, eyes, and stomach (though it does not worsen stomach ulcers). Wash your hands after handling cayenne or capsaicin cream to avoid getting it in your eyes. If capsaicin cream or cayenne irritates your skin or stomach, stop taking it. Do not apply cayenne or capsaicin cream to broken or irritated skin, or mucous membranes.
Talk to your doctor about the medications you currently take. Cayenne and capsaicin cream may interfere with certain medications, such as some used to treat asthma and ACE inhibitors.
Safe use in children varies by age. Make sure to read the label carefully before using it on your child.
Although cayenne and capsaicin are considered safe for use during pregnancy, check with your doctor if you intend to use them medicinally during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
American Botanical Council
American Herbal Products Association
Cayenne. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at:
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Updated September 18, 2014. Accessed February 3, 2015.
Dawn A, Yosipovitch G. Treating itch in psoriasis. Dermatol Nurs. 2006;18:227-233.
Mason L, Moore RA, Derry S, Edwards JE, McQuay HJ. Systematic review of topical capsaicin for the treatment of chronic pain. BMJ. 2004;328(7446):991.
Last reviewed January 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 2/3/2015
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