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What are other names for this remedy?

Type of medicine: natural remedy

Scientific and common names: Capsicum frutescens, Capsicum annum, capsicum, cayenne pepper, capsaicin, red pepper, African chili, Tabasco pepper, paprika, Mexican chili, pimento, garden pepper

What is capsicum?

Capsicum is a small annual shrub that grows in tropical America and around the world. It produces an oblong fruit (peppers). The fruit of the plant is used to make medicine.

What is it used for?

Besides being used in food as a pepper or spice, capsicum has been used in medicines. The active ingredient used from the pepper to make medicine is called capsaicin.

This remedy has been used to treat several conditions. Studies in humans or animals have not proved that this remedy is safe or effective for all uses. Before using this remedy for a serious condition, you should talk with your healthcare provider.

Capsaicin is used in skin creams, lotions, or patches. Some products have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat:

  • Pain from shingles, arthritis, fibromyalgia
  • Nerve pain in people with diabetes or AIDS
  • Minor aches and pains from muscles or joints

However, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve uses for natural remedies. The FDA does not inspect or regulate natural remedies the way they do prescription medicines. The following are uses for capsaicin as a natural remedy:

Capsaicin, as a natural remedy, is taken by mouth to treat:

  • Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Toothache
  • Blood clots
  • Fever
  • Nausea and poor digestion
  • Malaria
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease

Capsaicin is used as a nasal spray to treat:

  • Hay fever
  • Sinusitis
  • Cluster headaches
  • Migraine headaches

It has been used on the hands to prevent thumb-sucking or nail biting. Capsaicin is the ingredient used in pepper spray for self-defense.

How is it taken?

Capsicum comes in the form of peppers, capsules, seasoning, and as a tincture for use by mouth. It is also available in patches, creams, ointments, and lotions for use on the skin, and as a nasal spray.

Follow the directions printed on the product label or given by your healthcare provider.

What if I overdose?

Symptoms of an acute overdose have not been reported.

What should I watch out for?

Do not use capsaicin on the skin if you have:

  • An allergy to pepper
  • Broken or irritated skin

Do not take capsicum by mouth if you have:

  • An allergy to pepper
  • Kidney problems
  • Stomach problems such as ulcers or irritable bowel syndrome

Keep ointments, patches, or creams that contain capsaicin away from your eyes, nose, and mouth. If some gets into your eyes, nose, or mouth, flush them with lots of cool water.

Do not use tight bandages over skin that has been treated with capsicum because it will make the burning sensation worse. Do not use with a heating pad. Do not apply 1 hour before or right after a hot shower or bath.

Eating too much capsicum could cause stomach pain and kidney and liver damage. Do not take capsicum by mouth in large doses or for a long time.

If you need emergency care, surgery, or dental work, tell the healthcare provider or dentist that you are taking this remedy. It may cause you to bleed more.

Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist about any natural remedy that you are using or thinking about using. If your provider does not tell you how to take it, follow the directions that come with the package. Do not take more or take it longer than recommended. Ask about anything you do not understand. Remember:

  • Natural remedies are not always safe.
  • Do not take them if you are pregnant or breast-feeding without your healthcare provider's approval. They should not be taken by infants, children, or older adults without your provider's approval.
  • They affect your body and may interact with prescription medicines that you take.
  • Natural remedies are not standardized and may be contaminated. They may have different strengths and effects.

What are the possible side effects?

Along with its desirable effects, this remedy may cause some unwanted side effects. Some side effects may be very serious. Some side effects may go away as your body adjusts to the remedy. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effects that continue or get worse.

Life-threatening (Report these to your healthcare provider right away. If you cannot reach your healthcare provider right away, get emergency medical care or call 911 for help.): Allergic reaction (hives; itching; rash; trouble breathing; chest pain or tightness in your chest; swelling of your lips, tongue, and throat).

When you eat the hot peppers you may have an intense burning feeling in your mouth and stomach. It may cause you to sweat and feel flushed. This burning feeling can be reduced by removing the seeds from the pepper pod before you eat the pepper or by eating bananas with the peppers.

Side effects from putting capsicum products on your skin may include a burning sensation, minor redness, or swelling on the area where you put the product, especially if the area is bandaged tightly.

Side effects from taking capsicum by mouth may include stomach upset, sweating, flushing, or runny nose.

Side effects from using capsicum in the nose may include pain, sneezing, watery eyes, and runny nose.

What products might interact with this remedy?

When you take this remedy with other medicines, it can change the way the remedy or the medicines work. Vitamins and certain foods may also interact. Using these products together might cause harmful side effects. Before taking this remedy, talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking:

  • Aspirin and products that contain aspirin
  • Diabetes medicines such as glipizide (Glucotrol, Glucotrol XL), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab), insulin, metformin (Glucophage), pioglitazone (Actos), repaglinide (Prandin), and rosiglitazone (Avandia)
  • Medicine that reduces the chance of blood clots forming such as clopidogrel (Plavix), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, and warfarin (Coumadin)
  • Natural remedies such as angelica, anise, arnica, asafetida, celery, chamomile, clove, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, Panax ginseng, horse chestnut, horseradish, licorice, onion, papain, passionflower, red clover, turmeric, and willow
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam), ibuprofen (Motrin, Motrin IB, Advil), indomethacin (Indocin), ketoprofen, ketorolac, nabumetone (Relafen), naproxen (Naprosyn, Anaprox, Aleve, Naprelan), oxaprozin (Daypro), piroxicam (Feldene), and sulindac (Clinoril)
  • Theophylline

If you are not sure if your medicines might interact, ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider. Keep a list of all your medicines with you. List all the prescription medicines, nonprescription medicines, supplements, natural remedies, and vitamins that you take. Be sure that you tell all healthcare providers who treat you about all the products you are taking.


Keep all natural remedies and medicines out of the reach of children.

This advisory includes select information only. The information was obtained from scientific journals, study reports, and other documents. The author and publisher make no warranty, expressed or implied, as to the information. The advisory may not include all side effects associated with a remedy or interactions with other medicines. Nothing herein shall constitute a recommendation for the use of any remedy. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for more information.

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