Health Guide


What is it?

Capsicum is an herbal medicine used on the skin to treat pain from arthritis and muscle aches, relieve itching and redness, and help healing (15,16,17). Capsicum is also used as a gargle for sore throats and taken by mouth for stomach and gas pain.

Other names for Capsicum include: cayenne, capsaicin, chili pepper, paprika, red pepper, and tabasco pepper.

Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist if you need more information about this medicine or if any information in this leaflet concerns you.

Before Using:

Tell your doctor if you

  • are taking medicine or are allergic to any medicine (prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) or dietary supplement)
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while using this medicine
  • are breastfeeding
  • have stomach ulcers or upset, irritable bowel problems, or kidney disease
  • have any other health problems, such as high blood pressure or heart or blood vessel disease


Talk with your caregiver about how much Capsicum you should take. The amount depends on the strength of the medicine and the reason you are taking Capsicum. If you are using this medicine without instructions from your caregiver, follow the directions on the medicine bottle. Do not take more medicine or take it more often than the directions tell you to. It is usually best to apply Capsicum to the skin 3 to 4 times every day (14).

To store this medicine:

Keep all medicine locked up and away from children. Store medicine away from heat and direct light. Do not store your medicine in the bathroom, near the kitchen sink, or in other damp places. Heat or moisture may cause the medicine to break down and not work the way it should work. Throw away medicine that is out of date or that you do not need. Never share your medicine with others.

Drug and Food Interactions:

Do not take Capsicum without talking to your doctor first if you are taking:

  • High blood pressure medicine (examples: lisinopril (Zestril, Prinivil); captopril (Capoten); enalapril (Vasotec); ramipril (Altace))
  • Blood thinning medicines (examples: aspirin; clopidogrel (Plavix); ticlopidine (Ticlid); warfarin (Coumadin); enoxaparin (Lovenox))
  • Medicine for seizures, migraine headache, sedation, or muscle relaxants (examples: phenobarbital, butalbital)
  • Theophylline (Slo-Phyllin, Slo-Bid, Theo-Dur)


  • Before taking Capsicum, tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Eating too much Capsicum could cause kidney and liver damage.
  • Eating too much Capsicum could cause stomach pain.
  • You should not use the medicine on open wounds, sores, scrapes, or irritated skin.
  • Do not use if you have had stomach ulcers or upset, irritable bowel problems, or kidney disease.
  • Wash hands after applying Capsicum ointment and avoid touching your eyes.
  • You may need to use the medicine for 2 weeks or more before it relieves your pain. Keep using the medicine every day. If the medicine has not helped after a month, or if your pain becomes worse after a week, talk with your doctor.

Side Effects:

Call your doctor right away if you have any of these side effects:

  • Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hand, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing, or rash
  • Severe skin irritation, redness, or swelling that was not there before you started using the medicine

Other Possible Side Effects: You may have the following side effects, but this medicine may also cause other side effects. Tell your doctor if you have side effects that you think are caused by this medicine.

  • Stomach pain
  • Burning or irritation when put on skin


1. Werbach MR & Murray MT: Botanical Influences on Illness: A Sourcebook of Clinical Research. Third Line Press, Tarzana, CA; 1994.

2. Anon: British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. British Herbal Medicine Association, Keighley, UK; 1983.

3. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD: Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. The Pharmaceutical Press, London, UK; 1996.

4. Mabey, T (editor): The Complete New Herbal. Elm Tree Books, London, UK; 1988.

5. Locock RA: Capsicum. Can Pharm J 1985; 118:517-519.

6. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A et al: The Complete Commission E Monographs; Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council, Austin, TX; 1998.

7. Peikert A et al: Topical 0.025% capsaicin in chronic post-herpetic neuralgia: efficacy, predictors of response and long-term course. J Neurol 238(8): 452-6, 1991.

8. Brinker F: Herb contraindications and drug interactions, 2nd ed. Eclectic Medical Publications, Sandy, OR; 1998.

9. Palevitch D & Craker LE: Nutritional and medical importance of red peppers. Herb Spice Medicinal Plant Dig 1993; 11(3): 1-4.

10. Hakas JF Jr: Topical capsaicin induces cough in patient receiving ACE inhibitor (letter). Ann Allergy 1990; 65(4):322-323.

11. Norred CL & Brinker F: Potential coagulation effects of preoperative complementary and alternative medicines. Alt Ther 2001; 7(6):58-67.

12. Kong Y, Kim CS, Kim NK et al: Effect of capsicum components on liver microsomal cytochrome P450 in rat. Kor J Pharmacog 1979; 10:17-22.

13. Bouraoui A, Toumi A, Mustapha HB et al: Effects of capsicum fruit on theophylline absorption and bioavailability in rabbits. Drug Nutrient Interact 1988; 5(4):345-350.

14. Product Information: Zostrix(R)/Zostrix-HP(R), capsaicin. GenDerm Corporation, Lincolnshire, IL, USA, 1998.

15. McCarthy GM & McCarty DJ: Effect of topical capsaicin in the therapy of painful osteoarthritis of the hands. J Rheumatol 1992; 19(4):604-607.

16. Deal CL, Schnitzer TJ, Lipstein E et al: Treatment of arthritis with topical capsaicin: a double-blind trial. Clin Ther 1991; 13(3):383-395.

17. Kurkcuoglu N & Alaybeyi F: Topical capsaicin for psoriasis (letter). Br J Dermatol 1990; 123(4):549-550.

Last Updated: 7/4/2018
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