Capsaicin is the active component of chili peppers.
Capsaicin works by depleting or interfering with substance P, a chemical involved in transmitting pain impulses to the brain. The properties of capsaicin make it an option for relieving pain associated with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetic neuropathy. Capsaicin is used to relieve muscle pain, joint pain, or nerve pain.
Research supports use of capsaicin for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
A study from 1991 involved 70 osteoarthritis patients and 31 rheumatoid arthritis patients. Patients were instructed to apply 0.025% capsaicin or placebo to painful knees, four times a day. Results revealed that 80% of patients treated with capsaicin experienced pain reduction following two weeks of treatment.
Capsaicin's Health Benefits
Capsaicin as anti-inflammatory: In recent years, researchers discovered that capsaicin is a potent anti-inflammatory, and have even pinpointed how it works to fight chronic, sub-clinical inflammation. The nuclei of human cells contain chemicals called nuclear transcription factors (NTFs), two of which—activator protein 1 (AP-1) and NF-kappa B—are especially important targets when it comes to prevention of cancer and premature aging of skin. Each of these NTFs can be "activated" by ultraviolet light and free radicals: a result that produces a pro-inflammatory chain reaction that promotes premature aging and a wide variety of degenerative diseases. As it turns out, nature offers several effective NTF-activation blockers, including the capsaicin in chilies and the yellow pigment curcumin in turmeric.