Pain messages are passed along nerves by a neurotransmitter called “substance P.” Capsaicin, the component of chili peppers that makes them hot, blocks substance P and the resultant pain. A cream containing .025 percent capsaicin has been shown to block pain in joints, nerves and skin. It can be used to relieve the pain from a variety of causes: arthritis, surgery, various injuries, tumors, nerve damage from diabetes and so forth. Reports suggest that capsaicin cream also can control the discomfort of cluster headaches, psoriasis or itching from any cause.

Pepper creams are available over-the-counter in most drug stores. When you use pepper cream, you need to know that capsaicin is a very stable alkaloid that does not wash off your skin, even with soap. If you apply it with your fingertips and later touch your eyes, lips, or any mucous membrane or open cut, you can get a nasty burning sensation that will last about twenty minutes. You can avoid this problem by wearing rubber gloves to apply it, or buy the pepper cream in a special roll-on applicator bottle so you don’t get it on your hands.

Checked 2/12/15