Capsaicin is an external analgesic available in over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that temporarily relieve minor aches and pains associated with arthritis, simple backache, strains and sprains, and bruises. Capsaicin is also the chemical that makes chili peppers taste hot. When used as an active ingredient in topical pain relief medicines, capsaicin produces a warming sensation in the treated area. Capsaicin can be found in single-and multi-ingredient topical pain relievers.

Capsaicin is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is safe and effective when used according to label directions. After applying a topical pain reliever containing capsaicin, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. If you are using the medicine to treat hand pain, you should wash your hands after 30 minutes.

  • You are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • You are allergic to chili peppers.
  • Your condition worsens or if symptoms last for more than seven days or clear up and return again within a few days.
  • Redness is present or irritation develops.
  • A severe burning sensation occurs.
  • You accidentally swallow the medicine. Immediately contact a healthcare provider or the poison control national helpline at 800.222.1222.
  • Talk to a healthcare provider before using an OTC topical pain reliever containing capsaicin on a child under the age of 18.
  • Click here for more information on giving OTCs to children.