What Are the Side Effects of Capsicum Extract?

Marlene Garcia

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.

Red peppers contain capsicum.
Red peppers contain capsicum.

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.

Capsicum extract produces swelling of the eyes when used as pepper spray.
Capsicum extract produces swelling of the eyes when used as pepper spray.

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.

Side effects of capsicum extract may include a runny nose.
Side effects of capsicum extract may include a runny nose.

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Discussion Comments


@RoyalSpyder - While you do make a good point about pepper spray, don't forget that it's only used in extreme cases and emergencies, such as if someone is being chased down, or if a prison riot breaks out. In these extreme cases, one of the only ways to deal with the situation is to subdue everyone in the area.


After reading this article, one can really tell just how powerful capsicum extract is. However, it's not just the fact that it's the extract from red peppers (as seen in the image), it's also the fact that it's the extract, or source of the fruit that makes it so powerful. Using one example of an "extract" is bilberry extract.

Supposedly helpful for your eyes, though bilberries really do help in this case, bilberry extract is even more powerful, the reason being that it's a concentrated extract from the fruit of bilberries. How does this relate to the article?

Well, the same can be said for capsicum extract. Considering how it's the source of spicy peppers, anyone who gets sprayed will experience all of those fiery effects, such as itching, burning, and swelling. Not to mention that it has some great health benefits if you ingest it. Reading about this pepper spray though, it really makes me wonder if it's a safe weapon, or incredibly dangerous. After all, what if someone is allergic to peppers, and they have a bad reaction?

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