The hot and spicy taste of cayenne pepper is mostly due to a substance known as capsaicin, which helps reduce pain.
Capsaicin has powerful pain-relieving properties when applied to the skin. It reduces the amount of substance P, a chemical that carries pain messages to the brain, in your body. When there is less substance P, the pain messages no longer reach the brain, and you feel relief. Capsaicin is often recommended for the following conditions:
- Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as joint or muscle pain from fibromyalgia or other causes.
- Nerve pain from shingles and other painful skin conditions (postherpetic neuralgia) that happens even after the skin blisters have gone away. Research is mixed. Check with your doctor to see if trying capsaicin ointment is right for you.
- Pain after surgery.
- Pain from nerve damage in the feet or legs from diabetes, called diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
- Low back pain.