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How Effective Is Capsaicin for Diabetes?

By Bonnie Doss-Knight
Updated Feb 25, 2024
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Myriad research supports the idea that topical capsaicin is effective for neuropathy, which is a common complication in patients who have diabetes. Clinical trials using capsaicin cream and a placebo have revealed its effectiveness in relieving tingling and numbness in body appendages. In cases of intense pain, several applications might be necessary.

The mainstream medical community is supportive of capsaicin cream as an effective supplement for relieving the pain of diabetic neuropathy, when it is applied in conjunction with conventional medications. Researchers have tested the ability of capsaicin for diabetes to encourage regeneration of damaged nerves. Neuropathy heightens the risk of foot ulcers and amputated legs, so a proven ability to regrow nerves would serve to prevent these and other complications of diabetes.

Research conducted on mice with Type 1 diabetes has suggested that capsaicin injections can help restore normal insulin production. A second injection, this time with neuropeptides, appeared to eliminate the symptoms of diabetes for several months. Studies involving various other animals have suggested that capsaicin for diabetes can decrease blood sugar levels. As of 2011, however, there was not enough data involving human subjects to prove that using capsaicin for diabetes would produce similar results.

The side effects of capsaicin for diabetes include extreme burning, which might induce redness anywhere the cream is applied. Topical capsaicin should not be used on an open wound or sore because of the heat that it causes. The initial burning sensation is called a "counter-irritant" in medicine, because the patient is so focused on the heat it diverts attention from the original pain. Known capsaicin drug interactions include all non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and the prescription medicine theophylline, which is used by asthma patients.

Capsaicin is the active component that puts the hot in hot peppers. One can use capsaicin in its natural state as food therapy. It is a natural source of antioxidants, which protect against lung tissue damage on a cellular level. Capsaicin is a leading food resource for pain relief because of aspirin-like salicylates. It is one of the best broad-spectrum, well-tolerated antivirals, and it is used for its expectorant value.

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Discussion Comments
By bluedolphin — On Aug 24, 2014

I used topical capsaicin once and it did burn a lot. I realized that I need to use gloves when applying this cream because is stayed on my hands for a long time and I was afraid that I would forget and touch my face or eyes by accident.

By literally45 — On Aug 23, 2014

@ysmina-- I've seen a study on dietary capsaicin and the study which was done on rats found that capsaicin reduced fasting glucose levels despite a high fat diet. This was in comparison to the control group which was also fed a high fat diet but without capsaicin.

This is why I'm trying to eat peppers regularly. Hot peppers have the highest amount of capsaicin. I do eat them once in a while but my stomach is too sensitive for it at other times. So I eat sweet bell peppers. Apparently, these also have beneficial amounts of capsaicin.

I'm sure there are capsaicin supplements out there as well but I prefer getting mine from food.

By ysmina — On Aug 23, 2014

I've heard of topical capsaicin being used for pain relief. In fact, my arthritis cream contains this ingredient and it truly is wonderful arthritis aches and pains. I think it helps with inflammation too.

I'm a bit skeptical about capsaicin reducing blood sugar or regenerating nerves though. Even if this compound has this potential, a great deal of it would probably be used. And I think there might be side effects in large doses.

I would like to learn more about this though. I'm still young but I'm a diabetic and neuropathy is a health problem that I might have to face in the future.

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