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Capsicum

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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 taken by mouth 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. Some people use capsicum for burning mouth syndrome, improving exercise performance, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), joint pain, stomach ulcers, weight loss, seasickness, toothaches, difficulty swallowing, alcoholism, malaria, and fever.

Some people apply capsicum to the skin for pain caused by shingles, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, diabetes, HIV, and a certain condition that causes facial pain (trigeminal neuralgia). It is also used for muscular pain, back pain, and pain after surgery.

Some people apply capsicum to relieve muscle spasms, for skin eruptions (prurigo nodularis), to prevent nausea and vomiting after surgery, 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...

  • Nerve damage related to diabetes. Some research shows that applying a cream or using a skin patch containing capsaicin, the active chemical found in capsicum, reduces pain in people with nerve damage caused by diabetes. A specific cream containing 0.075% capsaicin (Zostrix-HP, Link Medical Products Pty Ltd.) is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating this condition. Creams or gels that contain less capsaicin don't seem to work.
  • Pain. Applying creams and lotions containing capsaicin, the active chemical in capsicum, can temporarily relieve chronic pain from several conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, back pain, jaw pain, psoriasis, and other conditions.
  • Nerve damage caused by shingles. Applying a patch containing 8% capsaicin (Qutenza, NeurogesX Inc.), the active chemical in capsicum reduces pain over 24 hours by 27% to 37% for in people with nerve damage caused by shingles. This capsaicin patch is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for this use. It is only available by prescription.

Possibly Effective for...

  • Back pain. Some research shows that applying a plaster that contains capsicum to the back can reduce low back pain.
  • Cluster headache. Some research shows that applying capsaicin, the active chemical in capsicum, inside the nose reduces 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.
  • Runny nose not caused by allergies or infection (perennial rhinitis). Research shows that applying capsaicin, the active chemical in capsicum, inside the nose can reduce runny nose in people without allergies or an infection. The benefits might last for 6-9 months.
  • Preventing nausea and vomiting after surgery. Research shows that applying a plaster containing capsicum to specific points on the hand and forearm 30 minutes before anesthesia and leaving it in place for 6-8 hour daily for up to 3 days after surgery reduces nausea and vomiting after surgery.
  • Pain after surgery. Research shows that applying a plaster containing capsicum to specific points on the hand and forearm 30 minutes before anesthesia and leaving it in place for 6-8 hour daily for up to 3 days after surgery reduces the need for painkillers within the first 24 hours after surgery.

Possibly Ineffective for...

  • Exercise performance. Research shows that taking a supplement containing capsicum and other ingredients before exercise does not improve performance in men.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Hay fever (allergic rhinitis). Early research suggests that inserting cotton wads in the nose that have been soaked in the capsicum active chemical capsaicin for 15 minutes and repeated over two days might reduce hay fever symptoms. But there is conflicting evidence that this might not improve symptoms.
  • Burning mouth syndrome. Early research shows that using a mouth rinse containing capsaicin, the active chemical in capsicum, daily for 7 days slightly decreases burning discomfort in people with burning mouth syndrome.
  • Heartburn. Early 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.
  • Exercise performance. Research shows that taking a supplement containing capsicum and other ingredients before exercise does not improve exercise performance in men.
  • Fibromyalgia. Applying a cream containing 0.025% to 0.075% capsaicin, the active chemical in capsicum, 4 times daily to tender points might reduce tenderness in people with fibromyalgia. However, it doesn't seem to reduce overall pain or improve physical function.
  • Nerve damage caused by HIV. Some research suggest that applying a patch containing 8% capsaicin, the active chemical in capsicum, to the skin for 30-90 minutes reduce pain for up to 12 weeks in people with nerve damage caused by HIV. But other research suggests it might not provide any benefits. Applying cream containing 0.075% capsaicin does not seem to work.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Early research shows that capsicum fruit taken by mouth does not help symptoms of IBS.
  • Joint pain. Early research shows that taking capsules of a specific combination product containing capsaicin, the active ingredient in capsicum, and many other ingredients (Instaflex Joint Support) daily for 8 weeks reduces joint pain by about 21% compared to placebo. The effects of capsicum alone cannot be determined from this study.
  • Migraine headache. Some reports suggest that using the active chemical in capsicum in the nose might help migraine headaches.
  • Muscular pain. Early research shows that using a specific cream (Dipental Cream) that contains capsaicin, an active chemical in capsicum, in addition to a ketoprofen patch does not further relieve pain in people with muscular pain in the upper back.
  • Stomach ulcers. 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. But there is other evidence that suggests eating chili peppers does not help heal ulcers.
  • A skin condition called prurigo nodularis. Applying a cream containing capsaicin, the active chemical in capsicum, 4-6 times daily seems to relieve burning sensations, itching and other symptoms. But it may take 22 weeks to 33 months of treatment to see a benefit, and symptoms may return after stopping use cream.
  • Polyps in the nose. Early research shows that putting capsicum in the nose improves symptoms and airflow in people with polyps.
  • 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.
  • Weight loss. Some research shows that taking capsules containing capsicum twice daily 30 minutes before eating for 12 weeks reduces stomach fat but not weight in overweight and obese people. But other research shows that taking a combination supplement (Prograde Metabolism) containing capsicum extract (Capsimax, OmniActive Health Technologies) twice daily for 8 weeks reduces body weight, fat mass, waist circumference, and hip circumference when used along with a diet.
  • Blood clots.
  • Colic.
  • Cramps.
  • Fever.
  • Heart disease.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Laryngitis.
  • Muscle spasms.
  • Nausea.
  • Toothache.
  • 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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