New research is shedding light on how capsaicin helps to relieve pain.
Tibor Rohacs, an associate professor of pharmacology and physiology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, who led the study and other researchers from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark and colleagues note that capsaicin - the agent in peppers that give them their heat - helps to inhibit certain channels in neurons involved in the pain process.
Products that contain capsaicin are frequently applied topically to manage painful areas and often the person applying the topical will report a warm feeling at the point of application, followed by dulling of the pain.
According to the researchers, capsaicin triggers the heat-sensing transient receptor potential vanilloid 1(TRPV1) ion channels on certain neurons, which are involved in sensation.
Activating the TRPV1 then seems to boost calcium levels, which in turn led to a process whereby phosphoinositides were broken down. The phosphoinositides helped to quiet proteins that monitor membrane stretch, in turn leading to the dulling of the pain, often felt by patients' applying products containing capsaicin.
The chemical that puts the heat in hot chili peppers is capsaicin (kap-SAY-ih-sin). Yet scientists have known for some time that when applied to the skin, this same compound can diminish pain. Indeed, some over-the-counter pain relievers already rely on capsaicin to tackle sore muscles and joints.