Cayenne contains a compound called capsaicin, which may help to relieve pain. Topical application of capsaicin may help to relieve shingles pain.

Capsaicin is the compound in cayenne that gives it its spicy flavor and burning sensation. Capsaicin has pain-relieving properties that may help to reduce shingles pain.

This article examines how cayenne may help with shingles, how to use it, and any potential side effects.

A person's hand picking cayenne peppers to treat shingles pain.Share on Pinterest
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Cayenne peppers are a type of hot chili pepper, or red pepper, and part of the nightshade plant group.

Cayenne peppers originate from South America, where people traditionally use them for cooking and medicinal purposes.

In cooking, people may use fresh cayenne peppers to chop into dishes or add powdered cayenne to add spice and flavor.

A compound called capsaicin gives cayenne its spicy flavor and a hot sensation in the mouth while eating it. Capsaicin may have therapeutic properties for treating a range of health conditions.

Learn more about the health benefits of cayenne here.

Cayenne contains capsaicin, which has pain-relief properties. Medications containing capsaicin may help relieve the pain that can occur with shingles.

Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a painful rash caused by the varicella-zoster virus.

Capsaicin may cause a burning sensation that helps to reduce nerve pain sensation.

It may also help reduce a substance in neurons called substance P, which decreases the pain impulses between the periphery and central nervous system. This can help inhibit the transmission of pain signals, causing people to experience less pain.

A 2019 review suggests a topical patch containing 8% capsaicin can help older adults with postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).

PHN is persistent pain that continues for 3 months or longer after treating a shingles rash.

Certain factors may make some people more susceptible to PHN:

  • older age
  • higher severity of rash
  • severe pain
  • being female

The research found that a single application of an 8% topical capsaicin patch for 60 minutes resulted in significant pain reduction for months.

Learn more about shingles here.

There are various topical products available that contain capsaicin. People may be able to purchase these as over-the-counter (OTC) products, such as:

  • creams
  • ointments
  • patches

People will need to follow the product’s instructions but can usually apply these 3–4 times a day for several days or weeks to provide pain relief.

People can also speak with a doctor about prescription products, such as an 8% capsaicin patch they apply to the skin.

To help reduce the burning sensation of topical capsaicin products, it may help to apply a thin layer of a topical anesthetic to the skin beforehand, such as lidocaine.

There is insufficient evidence that nonprescription products sold online are effective in helping to manage or treat shingles.

If people are looking for products containing cayenne or capsaicin, it is best to speak with a pharmacist or doctor for OTC or prescription products.

There is no evidence to suggest that cayenne from food sources may have a beneficial effect on shingles.

Learn about four of the best topical capsaicin products here.

A 2019 review suggests that allergy or sensitization to cayenne pepper is rare. If people have unusual symptoms after using cayenne or signs of an allergic reaction, they will need to stop using it.

If an individual has existing health conditions or takes medications or supplements, they will need to check with a healthcare professional before using cayenne products for shingles.

Research suggests that people with asthma may have increased sensitivity to capsaicin.

A 2019 review suggests that 8% topical capsaicin medications were safe and effective for older adults, and the risk of interactions with other drugs was minimal.

Side effects from using topical medicines containing capsaicin may vary between products.

A 2021 research article suggests that potential side effects of medications containing capsaicin may include:

Rare complications may include:

  • abnormal skin odor
  • cough
  • dizziness
  • altered taste
  • headaches
  • irritation of the throat
  • numbness
  • swelling in the legs, feet, or hands
  • nerve damage, causing numbness in the hands or feet

High doses of capsaicin may not be safe. Prolonged doses above 100 milligrams per kilogram of body weight may:

People will also need to avoid getting topical capsaicin near any mucus membranes or the eyes. It is also best to avoid applying it straight after the following activities:

  • swimming
  • bathing
  • sunbathing
  • strenuous exercise

If people think they have shingles, they should contact a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

Medications for shingles are most effective if people begin treatment promptly after the rash first appears.

Medications such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir are antiviral drugs that can help to reduce the duration and severity of shingles.

If people are experiencing ongoing pain, they can talk with a doctor about using a pain relief medication, including those that contain capsaicin. A doctor may also suggest other options to help reduce pain and itching, such as:

Learn more about what to expect from shingles here.

Cayenne contains capsaicin, with has pain-relief properties. Topical applications of capsaicin, in the form of creams or patches, may help ease shingles pain.

Capsaicin may also help with PHN, which can cause continued pain after the treatment of a shingles rash.

Research suggests that repeated treatments with 8% capsaicin patches over the course of 12 months are helpful in the sustained reduction of pain in people with PHN.

One of the main components of cayenne is capsaicin, which may help to relieve the pain associated with shingles.

People can apply capsaicin to the skin via topical OTC or prescription products, such as creams, ointments, or skin patches.

People should talk with a doctor about the safety of using capsaicin to treat shingles pain, particularly if they have any existing health conditions or are taking other medications.