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Capsaicin comes from chili peppers, and the heat it produces may help relieve pain associated with osteoarthritis, peripheral neuropathy, and other conditions. Many companies sell creams containing capsaicin for pain relief, but using capsaicin on the skin can have side effects.

This article discusses capsaicin creams in more detail and explores some products that are available to purchase online.

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Capsaicin is the active ingredient in chili peppers, and it is what makes them hot.

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), this ingredient can help reduce neuropathic pain, as it prevents the nerves from transmitting pain signals to the brain. This happens because capsaicin reduces the amount of “substance P” in the body, a chemical neuropeptide that acts as a pain messenger.

Capsaicin cream may have various health benefits.

A 2014 study reviewed the effects of Qutenza, a patch containing 8% capsaicin, in people with peripheral neuropathic pain. The participants used up to four patches for 12 weeks, and the researchers found that this reduced the participants’ pain.

An older review analyzed the effectiveness of herbal therapies in people with lower back pain and found that capsaicin can reduce pain better than a placebo.

Moreover, a 2018 study found that capsaicin cream is as effective as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in providing pain relief for people with osteoarthritis.

At Medical News Today, we chose products based on the following criteria:

  • Rating: The products in this article have many positive reviews.
  • Ingredients: According to their labels, the products are odor-free.
  • Pain areas: They work for different areas, such as the hands, feet, knees, and legs.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and was correct at the time of publication.

Nervex

Nervex is a pain relief cream suitable for people with diabetes, advanced neuropathy, peripheral neuropathy, and fibromyalgia, according to its makers.

The cream penetrates deep into the skin and absorbs fast. A person can use it on their feet, hands, legs, and toes.

The cream contains capsaicin, vitamin B12, B1, and cetyl myristoleate, among other ingredients.

Pros and cons

Some reviewers said that this cream was better at reducing pain than pain medications and helped them get better sleep.

However, others reported that Nervex increased the pain from health conditions and caused a burning sensation after a few minutes.

Capzasin Quick Relief Gel

This gel was designed to temporarily relieve pain from arthritis and bruises, as well as back pain. Its active ingredients are capsaicin and menthol.

Its makers say that it is suitable for people aged 18 years and older, odor-free, and penetrates deeply into the skin.

The product comes with a sponge-top applicator to help people use the right amount and massage it into the skin.

Pros and cons

Some of the many positive reviews report that Capzasin Quick Relief Gel helps relieve neuropathy and arthritis pain and that the applicator is easy to use. Some also wrote that their doctors had recommended trying this product, rather than buying pain medication.

However, other customers reported receiving defective applicators and being unable to return the product. Also, some negative reviews mentioned an unpleasant smell.

Zostrix Maximum Strength

This capsaicin cream can provide temporary relief of minor pain from arthritis, strains, and sprains, as well as minor back pain, and it is designed to work for the whole body.

The manufacturer says that the cream is odor-free and nongreasy.

Anyone considering using this product to help with neuralgia should receive the go-ahead from a doctor first, as should anyone younger than 18 years.

Pros and cons

Many online reviews report that this product relieves pain in various areas of the body. Customers recommend using gloves, as when handling jalapeño peppers, because the cream can cause a burning sensation.

Reviewers also say that the cream works for people with sciatica and people who have had herpetic neuralgia.

Some customers recommend using small amounts, as per the instructions, because otherwise the cream’s burning sensation can last for days.

Finally, the product may not be effective for people with shingles, as some customers have reported redness of the skin after use.

Pure Body Naturals Maximum Strength Hot Cream

This cream targets muscle soreness, arthritis pain, and pain from sports injuries and inflammation. It also helps with cellulite and deep muscle relaxation, according to the manufacturer.

The company says that the product’s essential oils, including spearmint, eucalyptus, and sweet basil, target inflammation and muscle tension and support blood circulation.

This product is cruelty-free and contains no parabens, fragrance, sulfates, or harsh chemicals.

Pros and cons

People wrote in online reviews that this cream provides a light warming sensation and works for those who stand on their feet for long hours and have neck pain. Some also found it useful for loosening muscles before a workout.

In negative reviews, people found that the cream does not heat up enough, and so is unable to relieve pain.

Capsaicin cream can be applied up to four times a day, according to a 2012 review. The researchers caution that capsaicin creams can cause burning, stinging, or itching but report that these sensations reduce over time.

The NHS recommends rubbing the necessary amount of the cream into the skin until there is none left on the surface and waiting 4 hours between applications.

If applying the cream to the hands, it is a good idea to wash the hands after 30 minutes.

A person might consider using rubber gloves, cotton balls, or a clean tissue to apply the cream. If applying the cream with the fingers, it may help to wash the hands beforehand.

A person may receive a prescription for Qutenza, a skin patch containing a high dose of capsaicin to reduce nerve pain from postherpetic neuralgia.

A healthcare professional applies the patch, then removes it after an hour, but the active ingredients continue working to alleviate the pain, when the treatment is effective.

People should consider these possible effects before making a purchase.

The NHS reports that these creams can cause skin irritation and a burning sensation, and the 2012 review warns against using capsaicin creams on inflamed or broken skin.

According to the NHS, a person should avoid inhaling the cream’s vapor, as doing so can lead to watery eyes, a runny nose, coughing, sneezing, and worsened asthma symptoms, in people with the condition.

If a person experiences any of the following serious side effects, they should receive medical care right away:

  • severe pain
  • skin swelling
  • blistering
  • eye irritation or pain
  • signs of an allergic reaction, especially swelling of the lips, throat, or tongue

Also, people should avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight when using capsaicin creams, which can increase sensitivity to sunlight.

Capsaicin is the ingredient that makes chili peppers hot. On the skin, it can help block pain signals from reaching the brain.

Products containing capsaicin may be beneficial for persons with arthritis, sciatica, and muscle soreness.

Capsaicin creams can have side effects, so following the instructions carefully is key. Anyone who develops side effects should contact a doctor.