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The Effect of Cayenne Pepper on Arthritis

author image Kay Uzoma
Kay Uzoma has been writing professionally since 1999. Her work has appeared in "Reader’s Digest," "Balance," pharmaceutical and natural health newsletters and on websites such as She is a former editor for a national Canadian magazine and holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from York University.
The Effect of Cayenne Pepper on Arthritis
Cayenne peppers on a cutting board with a knife. Photo Credit: Geshas/iStock/Getty Images

Arthritis is the term for over 100 different conditions, of which the two most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation. The main symptoms associated with arthritis include pain, inflammation and swelling, stiffness, and loss of joint function. Natural remedies such as cayenne pepper can help relieve some arthritis symptoms. However, consult your doctor for more advice on using cayenne pepper medicinally.

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Cayenne is a shrub native to Central and South America, but it’s now cultivated in other subtropical and tropical regions. It can have a red, orange or yellow color when ripe and is known for its hot and spicy taste. Cayenne has been used for food and medicinally for at least 9,000 years, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The main active ingredient in cayenne pepper is capsaicin, but it also contains antioxidants such as vitamins A and C and flavonoids.

Effect of Capsaicin on Arthritis

Pain characterizes all forms of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout. Capsaicin in cayenne has potent pain-relieving effects. When applied topically in cream or ointment form, capsaicin initially causes a brief stinging sensation, which stimulates the pain nerves. It then gradually reduces substance P, a chemical necessary for nerves to send pain signals.


In a study published in the “Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand” in October 2010, researchers from Khon Kaen University found that 0.0125 percent capsaicin gel was effective in treating mild-to-moderate pain in female patients who had an average age of 61 and knee osteoarthritis. Compared to the placebo, capsaicin also improved stiffness and joint function. Although 67 percent of the patients experienced a burning sensation from the capsaicin, none of them withdrew.

Dosage and Side Effects of Capsaicin

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, creams or ointments containing 0.025 to 0.075 percent capsaicin can be applied topically up to four times daily. The burning sensation the study participants experienced is a common side effect of capsaicin. It may also cause itching and increase your pain initially. Also, because you’re applying capsaicin topically, it has no drug interactions and no serious toxicity, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Allow three to seven days for capsaicin from cayenne to relieve pain and other symptoms relating to arthritis.

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