As a very spicy pepper, cayenne contains high amounts of capsaicin, which is what gives this pepper its heat-bearing properties. While you can use it in cooking as a food, cayenne can also be used topically, in some cases, to help treat joint pain. However, this type of use can lead to potential complications, so consult with your doctor before using cayenne to treat joint conditions.
According to the NYU Langone Medical Center, capsaicin, the heat-producing ingredient in cayenne peppers, is known for its analgesic properties, or its pain-reducing effects. Capsaicin helps to treat or prevent aching joints because it reduces substance P, a neurotransmitter that tells your brain when you are feeling pain. Capsaicin manages to do this because the burning feeling you get from cayenne peppers tricks your mind into thinking an injury has occurred, so it will release substance P.
Joint pain can result from a variety of conditions or injuries. In some cases, just doing basic household chores can lead to painful general wear and tear. The type of joint pain will determine the best treatment option. If the pain is severe and reoccurring, check with your doctor to ensure that you’re not suffering from a more severe or chronic condition that requires a different course of treatment.
Types and Dose
Mix cayenne pepper powder in olive oil and add it directly onto your skin, or rub a freshly cut piece of pepper onto the painful area. Wear protective gloves, as the capsaicin can stay on your fingers for several days.
If you want to use a capsaicin cream, you can buy it at certain drugstores and most health food stores. The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that you use creams that contain somewhere between 0.025 and 0.075 percent capsaicin so as not to use too little or too much. Follow the application instructions included with the cream.
According to Drugs.com, using a cream that contains capsaicin can lead to topical side effects, like itching, burning, swelling or redness. In some cases, the area can also swell or be sore to the touch. Staying cool and dry can help reduce the likelihood of these side effects, so be aware of this if you're thinking of using capsaicin cream or cayenne pepper to treat joint pain on a hot or humid day. You may also develop other side effects such as coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing. Should any of these occur, contact a medical professional as soon as possible.
Isabelle Hannigan has been a professional writer since 2004, with articles appearing in nationally distributed newspapers such as "The National Post." She is a registered dietitian and sports nutritionist, and has worked for the University of Guelph and Athlete's World. Hannigan holds a B.S. in biochemistry from McMaster University and an M.S. in nutritional sciences from the University of Guelph.