Capsaicin is an ingredient that is found in chili peppers. It is currently being studied by scientists who believe that it will revolutionize the way we treat the pain. After major surgery, capsaicin can provide numbing and non-narcotic effects in the body.
It may sound strange and horrible to pour hot sauce on wounds, but scientists in Europe and the United States are doing this very thing. They say that chili peppers may hold the key ingredient needed after major surgery.
Chili peppers have been used for centuries as a topical painkiller. Capsaicin creams in tubes and bottles are available at drugstores. Capsaicin can also provide relief in itching. It is also used in ailments, such as pain in muscles, nerve pain, osteoarthritis, diabetic pain, neurotherapy, phantom limbs pain, post-herpetic neuralgia, post-surgical neuropathic pain and rheumatoid arthritis.
Capsaicin's chemical name is 8-methyl N-vanillyl 6 nonenamide. It is one of six capsaicinoid compounds that are found in chili peppers. It is the same compound which gives hot peppers their mouth burning spiciness.
Capsaicin triggers the activation of chemical terminals of sensory neurons which increases a permeability of a cell's membrane to elements such as sodium and calcium. In turn, this triggers the release of a substance that is responsible for the sensation of pain we feel inside our mouth when we eat chili pepper.
The chemical terminals combined with capsaicin open cells, allowing calcium to enter. This effect causes numbness, which relieves the pain in that particular area. To counter the burning sensation, the brain releases endorphins, a natural painkiller.
Endorphins are a class of neurotransmitters that produce feeling of calmness in response to pain. When we work out, our muscles experience wear and tear, causing pain in our muscles. As a result, the brain releases endorphins. That is why we feel relaxed and calm after a workout or exercise. This phenomenon is also known as a "runner's high". Similarly, capsaicin also triggers the release of endorphins.
Scientist are more interested in the feeling of numbness caused by capsaicin. By pouring capsaicin into surgically exposed nerves, the affected areas should remain numb for several days. This means less pain after major surgery. It also means the patient will have to take less opiate painkillers. Opiates are notorious for causing side effects, including drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, dilated pupil, euphoria, constipation and respiratory depression.
Although the use of chili peppers for post-surgery pain relief has not yet been approved by the FDA, many believe that capsaicin could be the secret to successfully managing pain. Indeed, there's something special to be found in the humble chili pepper.