Capsaicin is used to relieve pain of muscles and joints associated with arthritis, strains, and sprains. Can cause burning and stinging after application.

Capsaicin Overview

Reviewed: August 6, 2014

Cayenne pepper, also known as paprika or red pepper, is the fruit of a plant. Cayenne pepper in a dry powered form is used as medicine for pain relief (topical forms) and to aid digestion, stomach discomfort and many other uses.

Capsaicin is the ingredient found in cayenne peppers that is most likely responsible for its actions.

Oral forms of capsaicin can cause stomach upset, sweating, and runny nose. Topical forms may cause burning, itching and other skin discomforts.

Capsaicin Cautionary Labels


In topical forms applied to the skin, capsaicin is used for the temporary relief of pain of muscles and joints associated with arthritis, strains, sprains, and general muscle soreness. 

As an oral supplement, cayenne pepper is used for poor digestion, stomach discomfort, cramps, headaches, diarrhea, toothache, alcoholism, malaria, and motion sickness.

Capsaicin has not been proven effective for all of the uses listed above. Capsaicin may be used for other conditions. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.



Side Effects of Capsaicin

Orally, capsaicin supplements can cause:

  • Stomach upset
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • Skin flushing
  • Runny nose
  • Tears

Direct contact between the content of the capsule and the mouth or skin can cause burning, stinging, and pain. 

Capsaicin applied to the skin as a cream or other form often causes:

  • Burning
  • Stinging 
  • Itching
  • Blisters or rash may be seen in severe cases

This is not a complete list of capsaicin side effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Tell your doctor if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

Capsaicin Interactions

Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Especially tell your doctor if you take:

  • Theophylline
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • ACE Inhibitors 

This is not a complete list of capsaicin drug interactions. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Capsaicin Precautions

Special precautions & warnings:

  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before using capsaicin if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or trying to become pregnant. 
  • Those allergic to peppers, should not take or use capsaicin, cayenne pepper, or other pepper extracts.
  • Topical forms (creams, patches, etc.)
    • Avoid contact with eyes, nose, mouth, and other mucous membranes, broken skin, or sensitive ares as severe burning and irritation can occur. 
    • Capsaicin can increase the absorption, or the amount of other substances taken up by the body through the skin, so other substances should be kept away from capsaicin treated areas. 
    • Do not apply immediately before or after bathing, swimming, sun bathing, or strenuous exercise. 
    • Do no tightly wrap or bandage treated areas
    • Do not apply heat to the treated areas immediately before or after use
    • Discontinue use and seek medical attention if pain, rash, swelling, or blistering occurs.