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Capsicum cream is a topical medication produced from the active compound found in hot peppers. This chemical, capsaicin, is what gives peppers and capsicum cream their heat. The process of extracting capsaicin from hot peppers produces a wax-like resin called capsicum oleoresin, which is the active ingredient in the cream. Applied topically, capsicum oleoresin is used to treat a variety of painful conditions. Research has shown it is effective for providing temporary relief from the pain of arthritis and shingles, nerve related discomfort and several other painful conditions.
The most common use of capsicum cream is in the temporary relief of rheumatism, osteoarthritis and other arthritis pain. If applied to the skin on the part of the body affected by arthritis, many find temporary relief from the pain. Although the mode of action is not completely understood, when applied to the skin, capsaicin reduces the sensation of pain. Patients using capsicum for pain relief are advised to wash their hands after applying the cream so that none inadvertently gets in the eyes.
Topically applied capsicum has been found to be effective in reducing the symptoms of chronic soft tissue pain. This condition results in pain of the muscles, tendons or ligaments as opposed to pain originating in the bones. Capsicum cream is also used to treat chronic back pain. Peripheral neuropathy, a condition frequently associated with diabetes, is also relieved temporarily using capsicum cream. The pain associated with nerve inflammation or damage caused by injury may also be alleviated using the cream.
Research has shown that topically applied capsicum cream may be effective in temporarily alleviating the tenderness and discomfort of fibromyalgia. Long-term application to the skin may help reduce symptoms of the skin disease prurigo nodularis. Although there are many other common uses for topically applied capsicum, research is either inconclusive or insufficient to confirm their effectiveness. Applied inside the nose, capsicum cream has been used to relieve symptoms of hay fever and nasal polyps. This method is also used to alleviate certain types of headaches.
Side effects of this treatment include burning and irritation of the skin. The eyes and other sensitive areas should never come in contact with capsicum. Although possibly painful, capsicum applied in the nose does not cause any permanent problems. It may, though, cause temporary tearing, runny nose and sneezing. The same active ingredient used in capsicum cream is also found in pepper spray, a strong chemical deterrent causing irritation to eyes and mucous membranes.
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