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What other names is Capsicum known by?

African Bird Pepper, African Chillies, African Pepper, Aji, Bird Pepper, Capsaicin, Capsaïcine, Capsicum annuum, Capsicum baccatum, Capsicum chinense, Capsicum Fruit, Capsicum frutescens, Capsicum minimum, Capsicum Oleoresin, Capsicum pubescens, Cayenne, Cayenne Fruit, Cayenne Pepper, Chili, Chili Pepper, Chilli, Chillies, Cis-capsaicin, Civamide, Garden Pepper, Goat's Pod, Grains of Paradise, Green Chili Pepper, Green Pepper, Hot Pepper, Hungarian Pepper, Ici Fructus, Katuvira, Lal Mirchi, Louisiana Long Pepper, Louisiana Sport Pepper, Mexican Chilies, Mirchi, Oleoresin capsicum, Paprika, Paprika de Hongrie, Pili-pili, Piment de Cayenne, Piment Enragé, Piment Fort, Piment-oiseau, Pimento, Poivre de Cayenne, Poivre de Zanzibar, Poivre Rouge, Red Pepper, Sweet Pepper, Tabasco Pepper, Trans-capsaicin, Zanzibar Pepper, Zucapsaicin, Zucapsaïcine.

What is Capsicum?

Capsicum, also known as red pepper or chili pepper, is an herb. The fruit of the capsicum plant is used to make medicine.

Capsicum is used for various problems with digestion including upset stomach, intestinal gas, stomach pain, diarrhea, and cramps. It is also used for conditions of the heart and blood vessels including poor circulation, excessive blood clotting, high cholesterol, and preventing heart disease.

Other uses include relief of toothache, seasickness, alcoholism, malaria, and fever. It is also used to help people who have difficulty swallowing.

Some people apply capsicum to the skin for pain caused by shingles, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia. It is also used topically for nerve pain (neuropathy) associated with diabetes and HIV, other types of nerve pain (neuralgia), and back pain.

Capsicum is also used on the skin to relieve muscle spasms, as a gargle for laryngitis, and to discourage thumb-sucking or nail-biting.

Some people put capsicum inside the nose to treat hay fever, migraine headache, cluster headache, and sinus infections (sinusitis).

One form of capsicum is currently being studied as a drug for migraine, osteoarthritis, and other painful conditions.

A particular form of capsicum causes intense eye pain and other unpleasant effects when it comes in contact with the face. This form is used in self-defense pepper sprays.

Is Capsicum effective?

Capsicum can help relieve the pain of arthritis, shingles, and nerve pain in people with diabetes when used as a lotion or cream and applied to the skin.

There is some scientific evidence that capsicum might also help reduce painful tender points in people with fibromyalgia when used as a lotion or cream and applied to the skin.

Although some people use capsicum lotion or cream for nerve pain related to HIV or AIDS, it does not seem to be effective for this use.

There isn't enough information to know if capsicum is effective for the other conditions people use it for, including: colic, cramps, toothache, blood clots, fever, nausea, high cholesterol, heart disease, muscle spasms, laryngitis, and many others.

Likely Effective for...

Possibly Effective for...

  • Back pain, when applied to the skin.
  • Reducing painful tender points in people with fibromyalgia, when applied to the skin.
  • Relieving symptoms of prurigo nodularis, a skin disease, when applied to the skin. It may take 22 weeks to 33 months of treatment to see a benefit. Symptoms may return after stopping use of capsicum.
  • Cluster headache, when used in the nose. Capsicum seems to reduce the number and severity of cluster headaches. It's best to apply capsicum to the nostril that is on the same side of the head as the headache.
  • Relieving symptoms of perennial rhinitis, a runny nose not associated with allergies or infection, when used in the nose. Sometimes the benefit can last for 6-9 months.

Possibly Ineffective for...

  • Nerve pain related to HIV or AIDS, when applied to the skin.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Stomach ulcers. There is evidence that suggests people who eat capsicum fruit (chili) an average of 24 times per month appear to be less likely to have an ulcer than people who eat chili an average of 8 times per month. This applies to chili in the form of chili powder, chili sauce, curry powder, and other chili-containing foods.
  • Heartburn. Beginning research suggests that red pepper powder (containing capsicum) in capsules taken 3 times daily before meals reduces symptoms of heartburn. But in some people, symptoms get worse before they get better.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Early evidence suggests that capsicum fruit taken by mouth doesn't help symptoms of IBS.
  • Hay fever. There is conflicting evidence so far about the effectiveness of capsicum for reducing hay fever symptoms.
  • Polyps in the nose. Putting capsicum in the nose seems to improve symptoms and airflow.
  • Swallowing difficulties. Some people, especially elderly people or those who have suffered a stroke, are more likely than other people to develop "aspiration pneumonia." This is a kind of pneumonia that develops after food or saliva is sucked into the airways because the person couldn't swallow properly. There is some evidence that dissolving a capsaicin-containing lozenge in the mouth of elderly people with swallowing problems before each meal can improve their ability to swallow.
  • Colic.
  • Cramps.
  • Toothache.
  • Blood clots.
  • Fever.
  • Nausea.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Heart disease.
  • Migraine headache.
  • Muscle spasms.
  • Laryngitis.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of capsicum for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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