Rubbing hot pepper cream to relieve your muscle pain may seem like an odd idea, but you may be surprised by the supporting evidence behind it. Clinical trials have shown that 80% of arthritis patients experienced improvement in as little as two weeks after applying hot pepper cream.
How does it work?
Hot pepper cream is believed to work due to capsaicin, the active ingredient that gives chilli peppers their hot taste. 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 the 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.3 You’ll only need to rub it thoroughly onto the affected area, except in headaches, where you’ll need to dab a bit inside your nostrils.
Making homemade capsaicin cream
As it provides only temporary relief, capsaicin must be applied a few times a day to be effective. It can then be quite expensive and sometimes, left patients frustrated as the store running out of stock due to its popularity in providing relief. Meanwhile, homemade capsaicin cream can be a much cheaper and convenient alternative.
You’ll need to mix 1 tablespoon organic cayenne pepper with 5 tablespoons organic raw coconut oil. Any other carrier oils can also 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 suggested that capsaicin might be most useful when given with other pain relievers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or as an option for people who can’t tolerate other pain-relief treatments.
Safety measure and precautions
Capsaicin can potentially cause an allergic reaction just as any drug. Before using it on a large area, apply some on a small patch of skin. Seek medical help if you get itching, hives, swelling in your throat, chest tightness, and 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 your eyes and mouth.
Capsaicin-based product 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 when you have already applied the cream. It may take a week or more before you feel the full effect on your muscle pain. If you don’t notice any improvement after four weeks, stop using capsaicin cream.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: January 25, 2019 | Last Modified: November 29, 2019
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Publishing HH. Ask the doctor: How does hot pepper cream work to relieve pain? [Internet]. Harvard Health. [cited 2019 Jan 7]. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/how-does-hot-pepper-cream-work-to-relieve-pain
Capsaicin: Purpose, How to Use, & Side Effects [Internet]. WebMD. [cited 2019 Jan 7]. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/what-is-capsaicin
Homemade Capsaicin Cream for Pain Relief | Roberta Mittman [Internet]. [cited 2019 Jan 7]. Available from: https://www.robertamittman.com/recipes/homemade-capsaicin-cream-for-pain-relief/