What is capsaicin?
Capsaicin is a water insoluble substance, colorless, odorless. Small doses produce a warm feeling in the mouth and, as the dose is increased, it produces a painful sensation by stimulation of sensory neurons of the mouth or skin.
Capsaicin is a component produced by plants, mainly for the peppers (Capsicum spp.) But also, to a lesser extent, it appears in ginger (Zingiber officinale). All peppers contain this principle, but their proportion varies according to the species and variety. The climatic and growing conditions can also cause variations.
Capsaicin is produced by these plants as a means of defense to protect themselves from attack by herbivores.
Traditionally the value spicy peppers is measured in Scoville units, according to Wilson Scoville system design in the early twentieth century.
Today is measured according to the scale called "Scoville Scale." According to this scale capsaicin would have the following potential measurements.
|Scoville scale of chili from the highest to lowest degree of acrimony regarding Scoville units|
|Official values||Scoville units||Examples|
|0||< 100||Common or sweet pepper|
|2||500 - 1000||Big Jim|
|3||1000 - 1500||Ancho chili pepper|
|4||1500 -2500||Bell pepper|
|5||2.500 - 5000||Jalape�o pepper|
|6||5000 - 15.000||Serrano pepper|
|7||15000- 30.000||Tree chili|
|8||30.000 - 50. 000||Cayenne pepper|
|9||50. 000 - 100.000||Thai chili pepper|
|10||100.000 - 350.000||Habanero pepper (Habanero Chili)|
* Pure capsaicin = 16.000,000 Scoville units.
Medicinal properties of capsaicin: pain treatment
The medicinal properties of cayenne pepper, and the rest of the peppers, is mainly due to its content of capsaicinoids (capsaicin, dihydrocapsaicin, homodihydrocapsaicin and homocapsaicin). Among them, the most important is capsaicin.
The brain takes a message of pain, so it produces endorphins, a substance that reacts very similar in structure to morphine: it can eliminate the sensation of pain.
Moreover, in addition to "fool the pain" that this component has been proved to be capable of neutralizing substance P, a transmitter of pain from the periphery to the brain. Decreasing substance P, the brain does not get enough pain signals from the affected area.
The most important medicinal use of capsaicin relates to its use as an analgesic in the treatment of pain. In this case, it is mainly used in cream preparations, oils or ointments which, when applied externally, can reduce the sensation of pain caused by painful diseases such as:
- Rheumatoid arthritis: Apply capsaicin ointment or cream to the affected area for pain. These creams contain about 0, 025 and 0, 075 capsaicin. No prescription needed. (Creams or ointments should be applied two or three times a day and they take a few days to achieve the positive effects.
Failure to experience improvement within a few weeks or even if there is a deterioration of the patient's condition, the treatment should be discontinued) (Internally, capsules or tincture can be used according to the terms of the patients' leaflet. If internal treatments are required, it is convenient first talking to your doctor)
- Fibromyalgia: Some studies have shown that the use of these treatments can be positive for people with fibromyalgia.
- Diabetic neuropathy: One of the most serious consequences of diabetes is diabetic neuropathy or nerve damage due to the excess of sugar in your blood. The main symptoms of this disease are the tingling in the feet, lack of sensation or numbness or deep pain, mainly in the feet and legs. The application in the affected areas of capsaicin ointment can reduce pain, increase sensitivity or stop tingling in 70% of affected patients.
- Postherpetic Neuralgia: Postherpetic neuralgia is pain felt by some patients after they have passed herpes attacks. According to some studies, the use of capsaicin may help lessen this pain in 50% of treated patients.
- Psoriasis: Equally external application of capsaicin on the lesions caused by psoriasis may help reduce the itching and reduce the plaques on the skin.
- Trigeminal Neuralgia: Trigeminal neuralgia is a painful inflammation of the trigeminal nerve of the face and eye. It is a type of disease that causes intense facial spasms usually on one side of the face, usually around the affected eye, cheek, or the bottom of the face. Capsaicin helps stop this intense pain.
- Neuralgia caused by surgery (phantom limb syndrome): Capsaicin has proven useful in the treatment of pain felt following amputation of a limb. It is what is known as phantom limb syndrome, meaning that the patient experiences pain, for example, in a hand, arm, leg or foot that no longer exists because it has been amputated.
Similar sensations occur in many women who have been removed one breast (mastectomy) for having detected breast cancer. The use of this supplement, under supervision and consent of the physician, can help reduce pain, burning or stinging at the terrible area where once stood the chest.
Side effects and contraindications of capsaicin
- Used properly, capsaicin generally does not cause side effects.
- Used internally, it may be responsible for the occurrence of diarrhea or stomach pain or burning when passing stools.
- Applied externally, during the first treatments, a feeling of warmth or burning for about 15 or 20 minutes is experienced. This usually disappears after a few applications.
- Capsaicin or cayenne, if in contact with eyes or other mucous, can cause intense pain, but it leaves no sequelae and disappears if you wash the affected area with soap and water. Milk can also be used for washing.
- When capsaicin is inhaled, it produces a very violent sneezing or sore throat, which can be avoided by taking proper precautions (wash hands after application or wear gloves, protect the nostrils and keep some distance from the eyes.)
- Although it is unusual, some sensitive patients may experience adverse skin reactions, such as urticaria.
- The use of capsaicin on open wounds should be avoided because it is extremely painful. The external use of this supplement with certain other drugs, such as ACE inhibitors, can trigger coughing.
- Avoid excessive use of capsaicin. Too high doses can cause skin irritation with possible blistering. Similarly, when using this product for too long on a particular area, it can damage the local nerves.
- Pregnant or nursing women can use this supplement both internally and externally. Only those women whose nursing babies manifest increased irritability should refrain
Conservation and precautions of capsaicin
Capsaicin should be stored in a cool, dry place. Keep it away from the reach of children.
More information about Cayenne pepper and other types of peppers in the listing above
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This material is for informational purposes only. In case of doubt, consult the doctor.
"Botanical" is not responsible for damages caused by self-medication.