How To Use Capsaicin for Joint Pain

Cayenne is not just a hot and spicy chili pepper!  

Did you know?

  The cayenne pepper is used medicinally for a variety of different pain-related health conditions.  All chili peppers contain capsaicin, which not only gives cayenne its characteristic heat, but also temporarily depletes “substance P.”  Substance P is a chemical in nerves that send pain signals to the brain.  

Capsaicin is recognized as an effective treatment for osteoarthritis, chronic pain, psoriasis, postherpetic neuralgia and pain, and nerve pain caused by diabetic neuropathy.

Capsaicin is often used topically, by applying a cream to the affected area.  Initially, it causes a warm tingling or burning sensation, which distracts you from the underlying pain. Some find this uncomfortable, but some find this lessens their pain. After a few weeks of use, the burning sensation is often less of an issue and deeper pain-relieving benefits grow.  It often takes a week or two to get maximal benefit.

Here's how to use capsaicin cream for joint pain:

First, try the mid-strength, which is 0.075% capsaicin.

  • If you find the

    burning too much to cope with, go for the milder strength, which is 0.025%

    . With time, as the uncomfortable sensations decrease, you may be able to build back up to the stronger dose.


  • If you don't get enough relief with the mid-strength, try the strongest dose, which is 0.25% -- but don't use that dose first.


  • Wash your hands well after use.  Make absolutely sure the cream or fingers that have touched the cream do not touch your eyes, your genitals, or inside your nose – so as not to get hit with the same wild burning that would occur if you touched them after chopping up a hot pepper.


  • Apply capsaicin after a work-out or shower rather than before.  Warm water or sweat hitting an area of your body where you have used capsaicin may cause a marked increase in burning sensation.


  • Give capsaicin a full trial - three times daily for two weeks.  If you don't have an improvement by then, or if you feel worse at any time or just can't stand the burning, just stop using it.  However, if the lower dose doesn't work but you tolerate it, a higher dose (see above) may work.

As with any medication or herbal remedy, please consult with your health care provider prior to initiating a new treatment.

In Health and Happiness,

Kelly Harrington, MS, RD

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods



1.  Theodore R. Fields, MD, FACP; Attending Physician, Hospital for Special Surgery, Professor of Clinical Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College

2.  Natural Products Foundation:  Capsaicin


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