Rubbing a hot pepper treatment on aching muscles to relieve the pain may seem like an odd idea, but there is lots of supporting evidence behind it.
Clinical trials have shown that 80% of arthritis patients experienced improvement in as little as two weeks after applying a hot pepper treatment.
How does it work?
Hot pepper treatments have an active ingredient called capsaicin that gives chilli peppers their spiciness.
In fact, capsaicin is an ingredient in many over-the-counter topical pain-relief preparations in the form of creams, gels, lotions, patches, and sticks.
Although the exact mechanism is unknown, capsaicin works by stimulating the release of substance P, a chemical that helps transmit pain signals from sensory nerve fibres to the brain.
After several applications of capsaicin, local stores of substance P and possibly other chemical pain messengers become depleted, and nerve fibres in that area transmit fewer pain signals.
It is believed to be the most suitable treatment for joint conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, muscle sprains and strains, migraines and other severe headaches.
Rub it thoroughly onto the affected area, except when experiencing headaches, where you’ll need to dab a little inside your nostrils.
Making a homemade capsaicin treatment
As it provides only temporary relief, capsaicin must be applied a few times a day to be effective, making it a rather expensive treatment. Homemade capsaicin oil can be a much cheaper and convenient alternative.
To make it, you’ll need to mix 1 tablespoon organic cayenne pepper with 5 tablespoons organic raw coconut oil.
Other carrier oils can be used including olive oil, almond oil, jojoba oil and grape seed oil. Massage the cream into areas where you are experiencing muscle pain.
Researchers suggest that capsaicin might be most useful when given with other pain relievers, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or as an option for people who can’t tolerate other pain-relief treatments.
Safety measures and precautions
Capsaicin can potentially cause an allergic reaction just as any other drug can. Before using it on a large area, apply some on a small patch of skin first.
Seek medical help if you experience itching, hives, swelling in your throat, chest tightness, or trouble breathing.
If there is no allergic reaction, apply enough to cover the painful area, and rub it into your skin until it disappears.
Use it several times a day. Wash your hands before and after you use it, and avoid contact with eyes and mouth.
Capsaicin-based products can irritate your skin, especially in hot and humid weather. It can also make your skin more sensitive to the sun and heat, so use accordingly and apply sunscreen every time you head outdoors.
Don’t apply capsaicin to broken or irritated skin, and don’t use a heating pad once you’ve applied it.
It may take a week or more before you feel the full effect on muscle pain. If you don’t notice any improvement after four weeks, stop using it altogether.
This article first appeared in hellodoktor.com and was reviewed by Dr Duyen Le. The Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.