Capsaicin refers to the active ingredient in chili peppers. It can be taken by eating peppers and spices like cayenne, chili powder, or paprika. Capsaicin has been used to help promote weight loss and ease pain. It can be taken as a pill, powder, or extract. Capsaicin can also be applied to the skin as a gel, cream, or patch. It has been used to relieve pain in muscles and joints.
There are no advised doses for capsaicin.
What Research Shows
May Be Effective
Not Enough Data to Assess
Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.
It is likely safe to use capsaicin on the skin and to take it orally in small doses for a short time, but a burning sensation is possible. Excessive doses may be unsafe.P1 Not enough studies have been done to say whether it is safe to use for a long period. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take capsaicin orally.
Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some can interfere with treatment or make conditions worse, such as:
A. Burning Mouth Syndrome
A1. Kisely S, Forbes M, et al. A systematic review of randomized trials for the treatment of burning mouth syndrome. J Psychosom Res. 2016 Jul;86:39-46.
A2. McMillan R, Forssell H, et al. Interventions for treating burning mouth syndrome. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Nov 18;11:CD002779.
A3. Häggman-Henrikson B, Alstergren P, et al. Pharmacological treatment of oro-facial pain – health technology assessment including a systematic review with network meta-analysis. J Oral Rehabil. 2017;44(10):800-826.
A4. Liu YF, Kim Y, et al. Burning mouth syndrome: a systematic review of treatments. Oral Dis. 2018 Apr;24(3):325-334.
B. Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome
B1. Sorensen CJ, DeSanto K, et al. Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome: Diagnosis, Pathophysiology, and Treatment-a Systematic Review. J Med Toxicol. 2017 Mar;13(1):71-87.
B2. Richards JR, Gordon BK, et al. Pharmacologic Treatment of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome: A Systematic Review. Pharmacotherapy. 2017 Jun;37(6):725-734.
C. Chronic Pain After Surgery
C1. Wylde V, Dennis J, et al. Systematic review of management of chronic pain after surgery. Br J Surg. 2017 Sep;104(10):1293-1306.
D. Diabetic Neuropathy
D1. Griebeler ML, Morey-Vargas OL, et al. Pharmacologic interventions for painful diabetic neuropathy: An umbrella systematic review and comparative effectiveness network meta-analysis. Ann Intern Med. 2014 Nov 4;161(9):639-649.
E1. Perry R, Leach V, et al. An overview of systematic reviews of complementary and alternative therapies for fibromyalgia using both AMSTAR and ROBIS as quality assessment tools. Syst Rev. 2017 May 15;6(1):97.
F1. Phillips TJ, Cherry CL, et al. Pharmacological treatment of painful HIV-associated sensory neuropathy: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. PLoS One. 2010 Dec 28;5(12):e14433.
F2. Mou J, Paillard F, et al. Efficacy of Qutenza® (capsaicin) 8% patch for neuropathic pain: a meta-analysis of the Qutenza Clinical Trials Database. Pain. 2013 Sep;154(9):1632-1639.
F3. Merlin JS, Bulls HW, et al. Pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic treatments for chronic pain in individuals with HIV: a systematic review. AIDS Care. 2016 Dec;28(12):1506-1515. Epub 2016 Jun 7.
G. Inflammatory Arthritis
G1. Richards BL, Whittle SL, et al. Neuromodulators for pain management in rheumatoid arthritis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Jan 18;1:CD008921.
G2. Richards BL, Whittle SL, et al. Efficacy and safety of neuromodulators in inflammatory arthritis: a Cochrane systematic review. J Rheumatol Suppl. 2012 Sep;90:28-33.
H. Low Back Pain
H1. Oltean H, Robbins, C, et al. Herbal medicine for low-back pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;1.
H2. Abdel Shaheed C, Maher CG, et al. Interventions available over the counter and advice for acute low back pain: systematic review and meta-analysis. J Pain. 2014 Jan;15(1):2-15.
H3. Gagnier JJ, Oltean H, et al. Herbal Medicine for Low Back Pain: A Cochrane Review. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2016 Jan;41(2):116-133.
I. Neuropathic Pain
I1. Derry S, Moore RA. Topical capsaicin (low concentration) for chronic neuropathic pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Sep 12;(9):CD010111.
I2. Derry S, Sven-Rice A, et al. Topical capsaicin (high concentration) for chronic neuropathic pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Feb 28;(2):CD007393.
I3. Mou J, Paillard F, et al. Efficacy of Qutenza® (capsaicin) 8% patch for neuropathic pain: a meta-analysis of the Qutenza Clinical Trials Database. Pain. 2013 Sep;154(9):1632-1639.
I4. Finnerup NB, Attal N, et al. Pharmacotherapy for neuropathic pain in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Neurol. 2015 Feb;14(2):162-173.
I5. Derry S, Rice AS, et al. Topical capsaicin (high concentration) for chronic neuropathic pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;1:CD007393.
I6. van Nooten F, Treur M, et al. Capsaicin 8% Patch Versus Oral Neuropathic Pain Medications for the Treatment of Painful Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy: A Systematic Literature Review and Network Meta-analysis. Clin Ther. 2017 Apr;39(4):787-803.e18.
J1. Whiting S, Derbyshire EJ, et al. Could capsaicinoids help to support weight management? A systematic review and meta-analysis of energy intake data. Appetite. 2014 Feb;73:183-8.
J2. Zsiborás C, Mátics R, et al. Capsaicin and capsiate could be appropriate agents for treatment of obesity” A meta-analysis of human studies. Crit Rev Food Sci Nitr. 2018;58(9):1419-1427.
K1. Kosuwon W, Sirichitiwapee W, et al. Efficacy of symptomatic control of knee osteoarthritis with 0.0125% of capsaicin versus placebo. J Med Assoc Thai. 2010;93(10):1188-1195.
K2. De Silva V, El-Metwally A, et al. Evidence for the efficacy of complementary and alternative medicines in the management of osteoarthritis: a systematic review. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2011 May;50(5):911-920.
K3. Cameron M, Chrubasik S. Topical herbal therapies for treating osteoarthritis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 May 31;(5):CD010538.
L. Post-Mastectomy Pain Syndrome
L1. Larsson IM, Ahm Sørensen J, et al. The Post-mastectomy Pain Syndrome-A Systematic Review of the Treatment Modalities. Breast J. 2017 May;23(3):338-343.
M. Postherpatic Neuralgia
M1. Irving G, Backonja M, et al. NGX-4010, a capsaicin 8% dermal patch, administered alone or in combination with systemic neuropathic pain medications, reduces pain in patients with postherpetic neuralgia. Clin J Pain. 2012 Feb;28(2):101-107.
M2. Derry S, Wiffen PJ, et al. Topical analgesics for acute and chronic pain in adults - an overview of Cochrane Reviews. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 May 12;5:CD008609.
N. Prurigo Nodularis
N1. Qureshi AA, Abate LE, et al. A systematic review of evidence-based treatments for prurigo nodularis. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2019 Mar;80(3):756-764.
O1. Farahnik B, Sharma D, et al. Topical Botanical Agents for the Treatment of Psoriasis: A Systematic Review. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2017 Aug;18(4):451-468.
P1. Pabalan N, Jarjanazi H, et al. The impact of capsaicin intake on risk of developing gastric cancers: a meta-analysis. J Gastrointest Cancer. 2014 Sep;45(3):334-341.
Q. Stuffy Nose
Q1. Gevorgyan A, Segboer C, et al. Capsaicin for non-allergic rhinitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;7:CD010591.
Last reviewed February 2020 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Eric Hurwitz, DC
Last Updated: 6/17/2020
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