Simple Pantry Solutions: Cayenne
Looking for something to relieve your aches and pains? Look no further than your spice rack. ]]>Cayenne]]> is the hot (literally) alternative to pain relief.
Cayenne contains a compound called capsaicin, which provides hot, mouthwatering (or mouth-burning depending on your taste buds) flavor and purported health benefits. In fact, capsaicin cream is sold as a nonprescription medication for the relief of nerve pain. It seems to work by reducing a chemical involved in transmitting pain signals to the brain.
What Are the Healthy Uses for Cayenne?
Medical research suggests that cayenne may have the following health-promoting abilities:
- Relieving pain, such as pain from arthritis, postherpetic neuralgia (a late complication of ]]>shingles]]> ), ]]>back pain]]>, ]]>diabetic neuropathy]]>, and nerve pain following surgery
- Reducing itching and pain associated with ]]>psoriasis]]>
- Reducing discomfort of minor digestion (oral use)
However, the most convincing evidence refers only to external use of cayenne for pain relief. If you have a chronic or serious medical condition, you should not simply self-medicate with cayenne. Instead, see your doctor and discuss using cayenne or capsaicin cream to relieve symptoms.
How Much Do I Need?
To treat localized painful conditions, try applying capsaicin cream (0.025%-0.075% capsaicin) to painful areas four times daily. To avoid excessive irritation of sensitive nerves, do not apply the cream to the same location for more than 2-3 days at a time.
What Are the Precautions?
Cayenne is spicy and can, therefore, cause irritation of the skin, eyes, and stomach (though it does not worsen duodenal ]]>ulcers]]> ). Wash your hands after handling cayenne or capsaicin cream to avoid getting it in your eyes. If capsaicin cream or cayenne irritates your skin or stomach, stop taking it. Do not apply cayenne or capsaicin cream to broken or irritated skin, or mucous membranes.
Capsaicin cream may increase the risk of cough in people taking blood pressure medications called ACE inhibitors.
Do not use cayenne or capsaicin cream medicinally for children under two years old.
Although cayenne and capsaicin are considered safe for use during pregnancy, check with your doctor if you intend to use them medicinally during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
American Botanical Council
American Herbal Products Association
The Arthritis Society
American Botanical Council website. Available at: http://www.herbalgram.org .
Dawn A, Yosipovitch G. Treating itch in psoriasis. Dermatol Nurs. 2006;18:227-233.
Mason L, Moore RA, Derry S, Edwards JE, McQuay HJ. Systematic review of topical capsaicin for the treatment of chronic pain. BMJ. 2004;328(7446):991.
National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov . Accessed March 6, 2006.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov . Accessed March 6, 2006.
National Library of Medicine website. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov . Accessed March 6, 2006.
Last reviewed February 2009 by ]]>Maria Adams, MS, MPH, RD]]>
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