What Are the Side Effects of Capsicum Extract?

Capsicum extract produces swelling of the eyes when used as pepper spray.
Side effects of capsicum extract may include a runny nose.
Red peppers contain capsicum.
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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 29 September 2014
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The most common side effects of capsicum extract include itching, burning, or pain when used topically on the skin. When ingested, capsicum extract might irritate the stomach or cause a runny nose and watery eyes. Consuming large portions of the extract over a long period of time might cause kidney and liver damage. Capsicum extract when used as pepper spray produces inflammation and swelling of the eyes, nasal tissues, and mouth.

Capsicum extract, often called capsicum oleoresin, comes from the fruit of hot pepper plants, including cayenne peppers, red peppers, and chili peppers. Different varieties of these plants contain various amounts of capsicum, which determines their spiciness. Paprika, for example, contains less capsicum than other spices. The peppers can be eaten whole, ground, dried, or in hot sauce.

Law enforcement uses pepper spray containing capsicum as a non-lethal weapon to subdue combative suspects. The extract typically provokes intense burning and irritation to the eyes, nose, and mouth. These tissues commonly swell as they become inflamed, causing watery eyes and a runny nose. Gagging, coughing, and trouble breathing represent other side effects that might occur.

Some skin creams contain capsicum extract used to treat arthritis and rheumatism pain. Plasters and poultices from peppers have been used for centuries to treat these conditions. The skin might burn or itch after applying capsicum oleoresin products. Some people develop a rash from the substance. If used near the nose, eyes, or mouth, irritation causing pain might occur.


A runny nose, sweating, and flushing of the skin might occur while eating hot peppers or products made from them. Some people who eat large amounts of capsicum develop ulcers or other intestinal problems from the production of increased gastric juice. Ulcers and cirrhosis of the liver developed in some animals given large doses of capsicum extract during research studies.

Capsicum extract is marketed for a wide range of other conditions, but not enough evidence points to its effectiveness for these ailments. As an alternative medicine, the extract might treat high cholesterol, circulation disorders, heart disease, and diabetes. It is sometimes used to treat symptoms of the flu, including fever, congestion, and nausea.

This substance interacts with cocaine and might increase the risk of heart attack when used with the drug. It might also interact with blood thinning medication used to address excessive clotting, including aspirin. The extract could also interfere with drugs used to treat high blood pressure.


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