Last Updated: March 4, 2024

Capsaicin is a molecule found in hot peppers that creates the sensation of spiciness by activating the heat receptor TRPV1. Ingestion of capsaicin may improve exercise performance, but it appears mostly ineffective for fat loss. When applied topically, capsaicin can reduce pain.

Capsaicin is most often used for

What is capsaicin?

Capsaicin is a type of capsaicinoid, a category of alkaloids often found in fruits of the Capsicum genus of the Solanaceae family. Capsaicin is known for its role in making chili peppers spicy.

What are capsaicin’s main benefits?

Capsaicin and its analogues (e.g., capsiate, a non-spicy capsaicinoid) show promise as preworkout ergogenic supplements, producing small improvements in performance on strength-based exercises (e.g., squats) when taken about 45 minutes before a workout.[2][3]

Capsaicinoids like capsaicin might lead to weight loss, but the effect seems very small, if it exists at all.[4] Intriguingly, two clinical trials found that capsaicinoids led to a decrease in abdominal/visceral fat (with no change in total body fat levels).[5][6]

Consuming foods high in capsaicin (e.g, chili peppers) is associated with a lower risk of early death, possibly mediated by a reduction in heart disease mortality.[7]

Topical application of capsaicin can be helpful for nerve pain, with analgesic effects reported in the context of diabetes and HIV-associated neuropathy as well as shingles-related neuralgia.[8][9] Topical capsaicin may also reduce pain due to osteoarthritis.[10][11]

What are capsaicin’s main drawbacks?

Ingestion of capsaicin-containing foods causes a burning sensation to the mouth that can be unpleasant (although some people find it enjoyable, possibly due to endorphin release[12]). Topical capsaicin can result in a burning sensation at the application site.

Capsaicin can provoke adverse gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms (e.g., abdominal pain, diarrhea, and heartburn), especially in high dosages and in people with GI disorders (e.g., irritable bowel syndrome, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)).[13][14][15][16] There is some evidence that GI symptoms subside with regular consumption, although more research is needed.[17][18]

Case-control studies have frequently observed an association between chili pepper consumption and a higher risk of stomach cancer.[19] However, this finding remains controversial, given the limitations of case-control evidence and the fact that the China Kadoorie Biobank study, one of the highest quality studies on the topic, found that people who ate chili peppers more frequently actually seemed to have a lower risk of stomach cancer.[20]

How does capsaicin work?

Most of capsaicin’s effects are mediated by a protein called transient receptor potential vanilloid subtype 1 (TRPV1). TRPV1 is found throughout the body, including the oral cavity, nervous system, skeletal muscles, and adrenal glands.[21][22][23] By activating TRPV1, capsaicin can create the sensation of heat (e.g., in the mouth), promote sweat release, stimulate adrenaline release, increase metabolic activity in skeletal muscles, and inhibit sensory neurons responsible for transmitting feelings of pain.[22][24][25]

What are other names for Capsaicin?
Note that Capsaicin is also known as:
  • Chili extract
  • Hot pepper extract
  • trans-8-methyl-N-Vanilyl-6-nonenamide
  • Capsaicinoids
  • Cayenne
Capsaicin should not be confused with:
Dosage information

Capsaicin/capsaicinoids are typically given in doses ranging from about 1.2 to 12 mg, although some studies have used up to 135 mg per day.[1]

Capsaicin-containing supplements are usually sold in the form of dried chili pepper powder (e.g, cayenne). A capsule containing 500 mg of dried cayenne pepper contains around 1.2 mg of capsaicin.

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Update History
2024-03-18 00:30:04

Fixed sample sizes on a handful of meta-analyses


The sample sizes of several meta-analyses in the capsaicin database were incorrect, so we corrected them.

Written By

  1. ^Lejeune MP, Kovacs EM, Westerterp-Plantenga MSEffect of capsaicin on substrate oxidation and weight maintenance after modest body-weight loss in human subjects.Br J Nutr.(2003-Sep)
  2. ^Sheikhhossein F, Amini MR, Askari M, Pourreza S, Hosseini F, Clark CCT, Djafarian K, Ghanbari M, Shab-Bidar SThe effects of capsinoids supplementation on body composition and anthropometric measures: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.Clin Nutr ESPEN.(2022-Dec)
  3. ^de Moura E Silva VEL, Cholewa JM, Jäger R, Zanchi NE, de Freitas MC, de Moura RC, Barros EML, Antunes BM, Caperuto EC, Ribeiro SLG, Lira FS, Pereira Dos Santos MA, Rossi FEChronic capsiate supplementation increases fat-free mass and upper body strength but not the inflammatory response to resistance exercise in young untrained men: a randomized, placebo-controlled and double-blind study.J Int Soc Sports Nutr.(2021-Jun-21)
  4. ^Zhang W, Zhang Q, Wang L, Zhou Q, Wang P, Qing Y, Sun CThe effects of capsaicin intake on weight loss among overweight and obese subjects: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.Br J Nutr.(2023-Nov-14)
  5. ^Snitker S, Fujishima Y, Shen H, Ott S, Pi-Sunyer X, Furuhata Y, Sato H, Takahashi MEffects of novel capsinoid treatment on fatness and energy metabolism in humans: possible pharmacogenetic implications.Am J Clin Nutr.(2009-Jan)
  6. ^Cha YS, Kim SR, Yang JA, Back HI, Kim MG, Jung SJ, Song WO, Chae SWKochujang, fermented soybean-based red pepper paste, decreases visceral fat and improves blood lipid profiles in overweight adults.Nutr Metab (Lond).(2013-Feb-26)
  7. ^Ofori-Asenso R, Mohsenpour MA, Nouri M, Faghih S, Liew D, Mazidi MAssociation of Spicy Chilli Food Consumption With Cardiovascular and All-Cause Mortality: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies.Angiology.(2021-Aug)
  8. ^Derry S, Rice AS, Cole P, Tan T, Moore RATopical capsaicin (high concentration) for chronic neuropathic pain in adults.Cochrane Database Syst Rev.(2017-Jan-13)
  9. ^van Nooten F, Treur M, Pantiri K, Stoker M, Charokopou MCapsaicin 8% Patch Versus Oral Neuropathic Pain Medications for the Treatment of Painful Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy: A Systematic Literature Review and Network Meta-analysis.Clin Ther.(2017-Apr)
  10. ^Persson MSM, Stocks J, Walsh DA, Doherty M, Zhang WThe relative efficacy of topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and capsaicin in osteoarthritis: a network meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.Osteoarthritis Cartilage.(2018-Dec)
  11. ^Laslett LL, Jones GCapsaicin for osteoarthritis pain.Prog Drug Res.(2014)
  12. ^Lee JS, Kim SG, Kim HK, Baek SY, Kim CMAcute effects of capsaicin on proopioimelanocortin mRNA levels in the arcuate nucleus of Sprague-Dawley rats.Psychiatry Investig.(2012-Jun)
  13. ^Gonlachanvit S, Mahayosnond A, Kullavanijaya PEffects of chili on postprandial gastrointestinal symptoms in diarrhoea predominant irritable bowel syndrome: evidence for capsaicin-sensitive visceral nociception hypersensitivity.Neurogastroenterol Motil.(2009-Jan)
  14. ^S-Y Lee, T Masaoka, H S Han, J Matsuzaki, M J Hong, S Fukuhara, H S Choi, H SuzukiA prospective study on symptom generation according to spicy food intake and TRPV1 genotypes in functional dyspepsia patientsNeurogastroenterol Motil.(2016 Sep)
  15. ^Patcharatrakul T, Kriengkirakul C, Chaiwatanarat T, Gonlachanvit SAcute Effects of Red Chili, a Natural Capsaicin Receptor Agonist, on Gastric Accommodation and Upper Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Healthy Volunteers and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Patients.Nutrients.(2020-Dec-04)
  16. ^Rodriguez-Stanley S, Collings KL, Robinson M, Owen W, Miner PBThe effects of capsaicin on reflux, gastric emptying and dyspepsia.Aliment Pharmacol Ther.(2000-Jan)
  17. ^Aniwan S, Gonlachanvit SEffects of Chili Treatment on Gastrointestinal and Rectal Sensation in Diarrhea-predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Randomized, Double-blinded, Crossover Study.J Neurogastroenterol Motil.(2014-Jul-31)
  18. ^Bortolotti M, Porta SEffect of red pepper on symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome: preliminary study.Dig Dis Sci.(2011-Nov)
  19. ^Yanbin Du, Yuan Lv, Wenting Zha, Xiuqin Hong, Qinghong LuoChili Consumption and Risk of Gastric Cancer: A Meta-AnalysisNutr Cancer.(2020 Apr 2)
  20. ^Wing Ching Chan, Iona Y Millwood, Christiana Kartsonaki, Huaidong Du, Yu Guo, Yiping Chen, Zheng Bian, Robin G Walters, Jun Lv, Pan He, Chen Hu, Liming Li, Ling Yang, Zhengming Chen, China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB) Collaborative GroupSpicy food consumption and risk of gastrointestinal-tract cancers: findings from the China Kadoorie BiobankInt J Epidemiol.(2021 Mar 3)
  21. ^Yaroslav M ShubaBeyond Neuronal Heat Sensing: Diversity of TRPV1 Heat-Capsaicin Receptor-Channel FunctionsFront Cell Neurosci.(2021 Feb 5)
  22. ^Christie S, Wittert GA, Li H, Page AJInvolvement of TRPV1 Channels in Energy Homeostasis.Front Endocrinol (Lausanne).(2018)
  23. ^Liu Y, Lyu Y, Wang HTRP Channels as Molecular Targets to Relieve Endocrine-Related Diseases.Front Mol Biosci.(2022)
  24. ^Lotteau S, Ducreux S, Romestaing C, Legrand C, Van Coppenolle FCharacterization of functional TRPV1 channels in the sarcoplasmic reticulum of mouse skeletal muscle.PLoS One.(2013)
  25. ^Brito R, Sheth S, Mukherjea D, Rybak LP, Ramkumar VTRPV1: A Potential Drug Target for Treating Various Diseases.Cells.(2014-May-23)
  26. ^Satyanarayana MNCapsaicin and gastric ulcers.Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr.(2006)
  27. ^Kang JY, Tay HH, Guan RChronic upper abdominal pain: site and radiation in various structural and functional disorders and the effect of various foods.Gut.(1992-Jun)
  28. ^Myers BM, Smith JL, Graham DYEffect of red pepper and black pepper on the stomach.Am J Gastroenterol.(1987-Mar)
  29. ^Woods KL, Kiefe C, Graham DYHow accurate is the determination of blood in gastric juice? Comparison of peroxidase and porphyrin methods.Aliment Pharmacol Ther.(1996-Jun)
  30. ^Kang JY, Yeoh KG, Chia HP, Lee HP, Chia YW, Guan R, Yap IChili--protective factor against peptic ulcer?Dig Dis Sci.(1995-Mar)
  31. ^Rahul S Mhaskar, Izurieta Ricardo, Azizan Azliyati, Rajaram Laxminarayan, Bapaye Amol, Walujkar Santosh, Kwa BooAssessment of risk factors of helicobacter pylori infection and peptic ulcer diseaseJ Glob Infect Dis.(2013 Apr)
  32. ^Mózsik G, Szolcsányi J, Rácz IGastroprotection induced by capsaicin in healthy human subjects.World J Gastroenterol.(2005-Sep-07)
  33. ^Yeoh KG, Kang JY, Yap I, Guan R, Tan CC, Wee A, Teng CHChili protects against aspirin-induced gastroduodenal mucosal injury in humans.Dig Dis Sci.(1995-Mar)
  34. ^Jones NL, Shabib S, Sherman PMCapsaicin as an inhibitor of the growth of the gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori.FEMS Microbiol Lett.(1997-Jan-15)
  35. ^Mikiko Watanabe, Renata Risi, Davide Masi, Alessandra Caputi, Angela Balena, Giovanni Rossini, Dario Tuccinardi, Stefania Mariani, Sabrina Basciani, Silvia Manfrini, Lucio Gnessi, Carla LubranoCurrent Evidence to Propose Different Food Supplements for Weight Loss: A Comprehensive ReviewNutrients.(2020 Sep 20)
  36. ^Mary-Jon Ludy, George E Moore, Richard D MattesThe effects of capsaicin and capsiate on energy balance: critical review and meta-analyses of studies in humansChem Senses.(2012 Feb)
  37. ^Rigamonti AE, Casnici C, Marelli O, De Col A, Tamini S, Lucchetti E, Tringali G, De Micheli R, Abbruzzese L, Bortolotti M, Cella SG, Sartorio AAcute administration of capsaicin increases resting energy expenditure in young obese subjects without affecting energy intake, appetite, and circulating levels of orexigenic/anorexigenic peptides.Nutr Res.(2018-Apr)
Examine Database References
  1. Blood glucose - Chaiyasit K, Khovidhunkit W, Wittayalertpanya SPharmacokinetic and the effect of capsaicin in Capsicum frutescens on decreasing plasma glucose levelJ Med Assoc Thai.(2009 Jan)
  2. Heart Rate - Shin KO, Moritani TAlterations of autonomic nervous activity and energy metabolism by capsaicin ingestion during aerobic exercise in healthy menJ Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo).(2007 Apr)
  3. Blood Pressure - Yoshioka M, Imanaga M, Ueyama H, Yamane M, Kubo Y, Boivin A, St-Amand J, Tanaka H, Kiyonaga AMaximum tolerable dose of red pepper decreases fat intake independently of spicy sensation in the mouthBr J Nutr.(2004 Jun)
  4. Weight - Zhang W, Zhang Q, Wang L, Zhou Q, Wang P, Qing Y, Sun CThe effects of capsaicin intake on weight loss among overweight and obese subjects: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.Br J Nutr.(2023-Nov-14)
  5. Aerobic Exercise Metrics - .(2022-10-28)