Almost 1 out of every 3 people will develop shingles in their lifetime according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2. Physical symptoms from shingles are inconvenient at best and persistently painful at worst. Capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers, is often recommended by doctors as one line of treatment to relieve the pain from shingles. Before using capsaicin for shingles, discuss it with your doctor.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
The herpes varicella-zoster virus causes chickenpox during childhood and can re-emerge as shingles later in life. After chickenpox has subsided, the virus remains dormant in the body. Older adults, particularly those over 60, are more at risk for developing shingles. Symptoms include itchiness, pain and tingling on one side of the body. A rash with blisters develops soon after, but all symptoms typically disappear in a few weeks. Sometimes, however, postherpetic neuralgia -- pain that continues after the rash has subsided -- continues for months after.
- The herpes varicella-zoster virus causes chickenpox during childhood and can re-emerge as shingles later in life.
- A rash with blisters develops soon after, but all symptoms typically disappear in a few weeks.
Capsaicin for Shingles
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Capsaicin is the substance that give chili peppers their signature spiciness, but it can also affect the body's pain messages. Chemicals called substance P carry pain messages to the brain, but are temporarily reduced with capsaicin. Typically, doctors will recommend capsaicin in the form of topical creams for pain relief in postherpetic neuralgia. Research about shingles and capsaicin is inconsistent and success may depend on the individual.
- Capsaicin is the substance that give chili peppers their signature spiciness, but it can also affect the body's pain messages.
- Chemicals called substance P carry pain messages to the brain, but are temporarily reduced with capsaicin.
Using capsaicin cream for pain can cause discomfort in the form of a burning sensation at application. This is a typical effect of capsaicin cream, but sufferers of shingles often feel the burning sensation intensely. Initial pain usually dissipates after applying the cream for several days. Capsaicin may interact with some medications, including ACE inhibitors, aspirin, some asthma medications, stomach acid reducers and blood thinners.
- Using capsaicin cream for pain can cause discomfort in the form of a burning sensation at application.
- This is a typical effect of capsaicin cream, but sufferers of shingles often feel the burning sensation intensely.
Early Stages of Shingles
If your doctor approves using capsaicin cream for postherpetic neuralgia from shingles, a typical dosage is to apply the cream to the affected areas four times a day. Consistent use is important in capsaicin's pain-relieving effects and will help reduce the initial intensity of burning sensations. It can take from three to seven days to see the pain-relieving effects from capsaicin.
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Early Stages of Shingles
Joint Pain from Herpes
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Back Pain From Shingles
Early Signs and Symptoms of Eye Shingles
The Effect of Cayenne Pepper on Arthritis
Shingles Without Pain
- Therapeutics Advances in Neurological Disorders: Capsaicinoids in the Treatment of Neuropathic Pain -- A Review
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Prevent Shingles
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Shingles -- Hope Through Research
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- Loflin BJ, Westmoreland K, Williams NT. Vulvodynia: A review of the literature. J Pharm Technol. 2019;35(1):11-24. doi:10.1177/8755122518793256
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Pia Grant has been a freelance writer since 2007, writing on topics of health, fitness, diet and lifestyle. Her clients include websites, businesses and newspapers, including "The Voice" and "The Alumni." She has a doctorate degree in the health sciences and attended Loyola University.