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Chili Pepper Heat May Ease Sinus Problems

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Ears, Nose & Throat related image Photo: Getty Images

If you have sinus problems, the last thing you’d probably think to do is spray hot chili peppers up your nose! But a new study from researchers led by Dr. Jonathan Bernstein at the University of Cincinnati says a nasal spray containing an ingredient derived from hot chili peppers may help ease certain types of sinus inflammation.

The main component in chili peppers that can make your eyes burn and tear is capsaicin. The research team included capsaicin in a nasal spray known as Capsicum annum. Patients in the study had significant non-allergic symptoms including nasal congestion, sinus pain, and sinus pressure. The 44 people received either the spray containing capsaicin or a placebo spray without the active ingredient for two weeks.

The study showed that patients who received the capsaicin spray had faster relief of symptoms than patients using the placebo. On average, symptoms were relieved within a minute of using the capsaicin spray.

Non-allergic rhinitis is a medical condition that can cause hay-fever-like symptoms year-round including a runny or drippy nose and nasal congestion without any known cause. Non-allergic rhinitis is not caused by an allergic reaction to anything. It may be a reaction to environmental factors including changes in the weather, strongly scented perfumes or household chemicals. Although non-allergic rhinitis is not a harmful condition, the symptoms can be very annoying.

Bernstein commented on the value of the study and potential benefits of the spray when he said, “We don’t really have good therapies for non-allergic rhinitis.”

The study showed that the nasal spray containing capsaicin was both safe and effective for people who have non-allergic rhinitis. Previous sprays containing capsaicin were too hot to be used on a continuous basis. Capsaicin is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in some topical medications that are used for temporary pain relief. Use of capsaicin or any other derivative of hot chili peppers for sinus relief is still being tested and is not yet approved for general use.

The study was funded by Dynova Laboratories where Bernstein is a paid consultant for Sciencedaily.com.


Science Daily. Heat in Chili Peppers Can Ease Sinus Problems, Research Shows. Web. August 29, 2011.

Mayo Clinic. Nonallergic rhinitis. Web. August 29,2011.

About.com: Allergies. Non-Allergic Rhinitis. Daniel More, MD. Web. August 29, 2011.

Posted 8.29.2011

Reviewed August 30, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.