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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.

A quick look at the 6 best capsaicin creams

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 by preventing 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 comes in two forms — creams and patches.

The cream form is available over the counter (OTC) and they typically contain between 0.025–0.1% capsaicin. Experts consider products with 0.1% capsaicin high potency.

The patches are prescription only, and doctors may prescribe an 8% capsaicin patch known as Qutenza. A Qutenza patch can work for up to 3 months. People have Qutenza patches applied in a doctor’s office if they have conditions such as postherpetic neuralgia and diabetic neuropathy.

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.

Medical News Today chooses products that meet the following criteria:

  • Price: MNT chooses products available for a wide range of budgets.
  • Ingredients: MNT chooses products that clearly list all ingredients.
  • Skin concerns: Where appropriate, MNT selects products that target a specific skin concern, such as dryness, oiliness, or aging.
  • Safety: MNT chooses products that contain ingredients safe for topical use.
  • Reputable: MNT selects products from businesses that adhere to industry best practices.

Below, we look at some capsaicin products for a person to consider.

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

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Best for those living with diabetes: Nervex

Price$19.95
Prossome reviews noted this cream was better for reducing pain than oral pain medications and helping with relaxation when trying to sleep
Consother reviews noted that Nervex increased pain and caused a burning sensation

According to the manufacturer, Nervex is a pain relief cream suitable for people with diabetes, advanced neuropathy, peripheral neuropathy, and fibromyalgia. People with diabetes should consider the concentration of the capsaicin cream they use, and this cream meets those requirements.

The cream penetrates deep into the skin and absorbs fast. A person can use it on their feet, hands, legs, and toes. Other ingredients include vitamin B12, B1, and cetyl myristoleate, among other ingredients.

The product has a 60-day money-back guarantee.

Best gel product: Capzasin Quick Relief Gel

Pricearound $12
Proscustomer reviews state this product is easy to use and relieves pain.
Conssome other reviews mention receiving defective applicators and difficulty returning the product. Others also mention the product has an unpleasant odor.

This gel’s design temporarily relieves pain from arthritis, bruises, and back pain. Its active ingredients are capsaicin and menthol.

The manufacturer says it is suitable for ages 18 years and older, is odor-free, and penetrates the skin deeply.

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

Best whole body cream: Zostrix Maximum Strength

Pricearound $17
Proscustomer reviews report the product effectively relieving pain, specifically for those with sciatica and herpetic neuralgia.
Consother reviews claim using too much cream can cause a burning sensation that lasts for many days and redness forming on the skin.

This capsaicin cream can provide temporary relief of minor pain from arthritis, strains, and sprains, as well as minor back pain.

The manufacturer says that the cream is odor-free, nongreasy, and works for the whole body.

Anyone considering using this product to help with neuralgia should consult a doctor, as it may not suit those 18 years or younger.

Best for sports injuries: Pure Body Naturals Maximum Strength Hot Cream

Pricearound $13
Proscustomer reports say this product creates a warming sensation and is suitable for those on their feet for long periods and with neck pain.
Consother reviews found the cream to be ineffective.

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

The company says that the product’s essential oils, including spearmint, eucalyptus, and sweet basil, are responsible for targeting inflammation and muscle tension and supporting blood circulation. These properties help to heal sports injuries.

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

Best value: Rugby Capsaicin Cream

Pricearound $8
Prospositive customer reviews claim this cream to be the most effective they have tried.
Consother reviews claim the product burns sensitive skin.

The cream may provide temporary relief of minor muscle and joint pain. According to the manufacturer, a person needs only a small amount to alleviate pain.

This OTC cream contains purified 0.025 percent capsaicin. Its budget-friendly price and a lower percentage of capsaicin make it an optimal product for first-time users.

The product is listed as the number one doctor- and pharmacist-recommended capsaicin cream.

The cream is also fragrance-free.

Best high potency: Capzix Cream for Pain Relief Maximum Strength

Pricearound $14
Proscustomer reviews mention this cream works well for arthritis, nerve pain, and various muscular conditions.
Consless favorable comments mention a burning sensation if a person applies too much of the product.

This product’s manufacturer says the high-potency formula helps treat the most severe pain points in joints and muscles caused by arthritis, back strains, and sprains.

The 0.1% capsaicin cream formula penetrates through tissue layers and blocks the body’s pain messengers.

It is also described as non-greasy and odor-free.

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.

The following are some of the most common questions about capsaicin cream.

Is capsaicin cream available over the counter?

Yes, the various creams available over the counter contain between 0.025% and 0.1% capsaicin.

Is capsaicin cream an anti-inflammatory?

Yes, capsaicin commonly displays anti-inflammatory properties.

Capsaicin is the ingredient that makes chili peppers hot. From 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.

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