Can Capsaicin Relive the Pain?

- Dec 05, 2019-

Humans have a masochistic love for peppers. In contrast to the pain caused by pepper, capsaicin may be the key to pain relief. However,can capsaicin relive the pain?


In traditional medicine, we can actually find people use capsaicin to relieve pain. In India, pepper is used to treat various diseases, including arthritis and toothache. Aboriginal communities in Nagaland, northeastern India, crushed peppers and applied them to the skin to stop itching.

Nonivamide research followed the growth of chemist Gábor Jancsó. His father Nicholas (known as Miklos) and mother Aurelia Jancsó-Gábor both worked at the University of Szeged in Hungary to study capsaicin in pain perception Aspect.

It was Miklos who discovered the "desensitization" of Nonivamide. He found that after repeated exposure of the skin to capsaicin, the nervous system no longer responded to capsaicin and other irritants such as mustard oil. This is also the process by which people become tolerant of spicy food.

In other experiments, Miklos found that capsaicin raises body temperature. He applied capsaicin to one half of his face, and the other half served as a control group. He found that the face with capsaicin had higher temperature, faster blood flow, and a stronger burning sensation. After several days of repeated exposure, Miklos' sensitivity to capsaicin decreased and the skin temperature returned to normal.

For the first time, Miklos's experiment provided evidence that capsaicin can relive pain. These nerve fibers are responsible for transmitting signals to the brain.


Researchers have studied that there is a capsaicin receptor in the human body. This receptor is equivalent to a special channel on the membrane of nerve cells, which can only be opened by Nonivamide.

David Julius, dean of the University of California San Francisco School of Physiology, said. The presence of this receptor allows one to explore the workings of sensory nerve cells at the molecular level. 

Based on the research results of the Yangsuo family and their Hungarian counterparts, researchers know that repeated use of capsaicin can close the channel that transmits pain signals to the brain, thereby reliving the pain. The specific mechanism among them was not revealed until 1997.

Julius and his then postdoc Michael Caterina discovered that capsaicin might act on the cell membranes of nerve cells through ion channels. There is a pathway formed by the protein's own configuration on the cell membrane. When the pathway is opened, ions can enter and exit the cell, and nerve cells receive stimulation and transmit signals to the brain.

In the case of capsaicin, when capsaicin binds to a receptor, it triggers the entry of a positively charged calcium ion, which stimulates nerve cells and tells the brain "spicy" information. After continuous exposure to capsaicin causes continuous influx of ions, the feedback mechanism closes the channel to prevent excessive calcium ions from causing toxicity to the cells. Researchers believe that this is one way that capsaicin disables the target channel, and that's how people gain tolerance to spicy foods. Julius's laboratory and other scientists then discovered at least eight TRP channels that responded to cold and heat.


Interestingly, the potential of these channels is not only to block pain from peppers, but also to relive the pain.

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