What does capsaicin do?

This week we were given a large bounty of homegrown vegetables from Garrett’s parents, which I immediately planned to use to make Ratatouille.

They gave us eggplants, green peppers, onions and tomatoes. On a visit to our own garden I spotted those little green hot peppers on the bottom of the picture. After taking a little bite of one, I decided they weren’t much hotter than a jalapeño, so I decided to chop some up to toss into the vegetable stew.

Within minutes of finishing chopping up the 5 peppers my skin started to burn. Similar to when you get salt or lemon juice in wound. I tried to wash off the oil from the pepper (which is what makes the heat) with some grease cutting dish soap, but soon the burning started to get worse.

Much worse.

The burning sensation started feeling like when you accidentally touch a hot pan, but instead of stopping, it kept getting hotter and hotter.

After quick dash to the computer, I identified the pepper as not some mild little hot pepper, but as a Scotch Bonnet. Which is 40x more potent than a jalapeño.

Uh Oh.

Now that I knew what I was dealing with, I searched up plenty of home remedies.

I tried soaking my hands in thick cream and then milk too, but as soon as the liquid started to get to room temperature the burn sensation returned with a vengeance.

I tried different methods of using rubbing alcohol, olive oil, vaseline and lemon juice.I even tried brushing on mustard, but that didn’t work either. The only relief came from taking a couple of extra strength Tylenol and keeping my hands submerged in a bowl of ice water.

I found this photo on my camera this morning, which Garrett must have taken around midnight when I finally got a 30 minute nap before the burning sensation came back and woke me up.

After a quick call to Telehealth Ontario, I realized there was only one thing left to do….…go to the hospital.

By 4:30am we were back home with a pharmacy bag full of Tylenol 3’s, anti-inflammatory pills, steroid cream and an antibiotic cream to prevent infection. And a fast food burger because it had been 9 hours since we had the Ratatouille. Nothing like a burger in the middle of the night.

The pills thankfully gave me some much needed sleep, but I still had to keep my hands in an ice water bath even while I slept. As soon as the water got warm again, I’d wake up in pain.

After 24 hours of this cocktail of pills and creams, I finally started to feel normal in the early hours this morning. I still can’t drive because of the pills, so even though I can use my hands again, I’m staying home from work today. Not exactly how I wanted to spend the last days of summer, but it could have been much worse.

I can still expect to feel sensitivity on my skin and nerve endings in the hands, but other than that, I should expect a full recovery.

So what did I learn from this?


Even if you think you know how hot a pepper is, you can never be sure, until it is too late. I’ve already got “disposable gloves” on the shopping list this week.

Capsaicin Topical

Use exactly as directed on the label, or as prescribed by your doctor. Do not use in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.

Do not take by mouth. Topical medicine is for use only on the skin.

Do not use this medicine on open wounds or on sunburned, windburned, dry, chapped, or irritated skin. If this medicine gets in your eyes, nose, mouth, rectum, or vagina, rinse with water.

Make sure your skin is clean and dry before you apply capsaicin topical.

When using the cream or lotion, apply a thin layer to the affected area and rub in gently until completely absorbed.

To use the liquid or stick, uncap the applicator and press it firmly on your skin to apply the medication. Massage gently onto the affected are until completely absorbed.

Capsaicin topical may be used up to 4 times daily or as directed on the medicine label.

To apply a capsaicin topical skin patch, remove the liner and apply the patch to your skin over the area of pain. Press the edges firmly into place. Remove the patch and apply a new patch 1 or 2 times daily if needed.

Wash your hands with soap and water immediately after applying capsaicin topical or handling the skin patch. If you have applied the medicine to your hands or fingers to treat pain in those areas, wait at least 30 minutes before washing your hands.

To keep the medication from getting on your fingers when you apply it, you may use a rubber glove, finger cot, cotton ball, or clean tissue to apply the medicine.

Capsaicin can cause a burning sensation wherever it is applied. This sensation is usually mild and should gradually lessen over time with continued regular use of the medicine.

If the burning sensation is painful or causes significant discomfort, wash the treated skin area with soap and cool water. Get medical attention right away if you have severe burning, pain, swelling, or blistering.

Do not cover treated skin with a bandage or heating pad, which can increase the burning sensation. You may cover the skin with clothing.

Avoid taking a bath or shower within 1 hour before or after you apply capsaicin to your skin. Also avoid swimming or vigorous exercise. Warm water or perspiration can increase the burning sensation caused by capsaicin.

Avoid getting capsaicin topical in your eyes or near your nose where you might inhale it. If it does get into any of these areas, rinse thoroughly with water.

Also avoid getting this medication on contact lenses, dentures, and other items that come into contact with sensitive areas of your body.

It may take up to 2 weeks of using this medicine regularly before your symptoms improve. For best results, keep using the medication as directed. Pain relief should occur gradually as the substance P in your body is decreased in the nerve cells.

Call your doctor if your pain does not improve after using this medication for 7 days, or if your symptoms get worse or get better and then come back in a few days.

Store capsaicin topical at room temperature away from moisture and heat, in a place where children and pets cannot get to it.

Capsaicin topical liquid is flammable. Do not use or store near fire or open flame.

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222, especially if anyone has accidentally swallowed it.

Accidental swallowing of capsaicin can cause severe burning in or around the mouth, watery eyes, runny nose, and trouble swallowing or breathing.

Applying too much capsaicin topical to the skin can cause severe burning or redness.

Use the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not apply capsaicin more than 4 times in one day, or use extra medicine to make up a missed dose .

A missed dose of capsaicin topical will not cause harm but may make the medication less effective reducing substance P and relieving your pain.

Copyright 1996-2020 Cerner Multum, Inc.

Latest Update: 11/9/2018, Version: 4.01

How to Remove Capsaicin From Skin

Capsaicin is a medication, available over the counter and with a prescription, that helps relieve pain associated with shingles, rheumatoid arthritis and muscle sprains. Available as a topical patch, cream or ointment, capsaicin is also the same substance that makes chili peppers hot. This medication relieves pain by heating the painful area of your body, reducing the amount of pain messenger chemicals in that area. Knowing how to remove capsaicin from your skin is important to reduce risk of irritation, remove the product from your hands after application to other parts of your body and remove residual medication from a capsaicin patch.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Wash hands with soap and water after applying the medication to affected areas of your body. If the hands are the affected area, wait at least 30 minutes prior to washing them so the medication has time to absorb into your skin. To reduce skin irritation after application, wash off the medication with warm water and mild soap 3. Do not use hot water since it can heat up the capsaicin and cause further irritation.

Avoid touching sensitive areas of your body after applying capsaicin to your hands. The chemical can burn delicate areas, such as your eyes. Flush sensitive areas with warm water and use a mild soap to remove the remaining capsaicin. Avoid touching items such as dentures, contact lenses and food with capsaicin on your hands.

Use the supplied cleaning gel after removing a capsaicin patch 4. Apply the gel to the entire area previously covered by the patch and wait for at least one minute. Wipe the area clean with a dry cloth before using a mild soap and water to wash the area. Dry your skin completely with a towel.


Contact a physician for irritation and discomfort caused by using capsaicin.

The Wrap Up

Capsaicin is a medication, available over the counter and with a prescription, that helps relieve pain associated with shingles, rheumatoid arthritis and muscle sprains. Knowing how to remove capsaicin from your skin is important to reduce risk of irritation, remove the product from your hands after application to other parts of your body and remove residual medication from a capsaicin patch. Apply the gel to the entire area previously covered by the patch and wait for at least one minute.

Q: I de-seeded 15 jalapeños without using gloves. Afterward, my hands were burning. My daughter-in-law said that her grandfather had always told her to apply “something creamy,” so I rubbed on some AmLactin I normally use for dry skin.

The burning stopped almost immediately!

A: Capsaicin, the hot stuff in chili peppers, is alkaline. AmLactin hand and body lotion is acidic, containing alpha-hydroxy acid. We suspect that may explain why it worked so well.

Capsaicin is not soluble in water, which is why running your hands under cold water probably wouldn’t do much for the burn. But the casein protein in milk (or cream, as per grandfather) can grab onto capsaicin and help neutralize it.

Q: I read with interest your advice to those with pain in their ears when flying. I found a wonderful remedy for this problem.

The pain used to feel like knives in my ears and lasted for hours after a flight was over. When I flew to Australia on Qantas Airways, they routinely offered a warm towel with the aroma of eucalyptus oil for fliers with ear pain. I used it and had total relief.

Since then, I take a small bottle of eucalyptus oil with me on flights, and if I have pain, I open it and smell the eucalyptus oil. The pain vanishes. I wish that airlines in the U.S. would offer this remedy for fliers.

A: This is an intriguing idea. Eucalyptus is found in many cough drops and is an ingredient in Vicks VapoRub. It has a distinctive aroma.

One study found that a mixture of eucalyptus and other essential oils was found beneficial for nasal congestion (American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy, May-June 2014).

It’s not clear whether you would be allowed to pass through airport security with a bottle of eucalyptus oil. Check with the Transportation Security Administration before flying. You might be able to put some on a few cotton balls and put them inside a plastic bag. Another option would be a tiny tin of Vicks.

We all know that certain peppers are hotter than hot, but have you ever wondered why? The capsaicin in peppers causes the heat you experience while eating hot peppers. The more capsaicin in the pepper, the hotter it is. When consuming capsaicin you endure pain because your body is fighting the heat of the pepper. “When you eat a hot pepper, endorphins work to block the heat,” says Paul Bosland, co-founder and director of New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute.

Those that can’t get enough of spicy foods can’t get enough of capsaicin. For some, it creates a euphoric state of mind when eating. This unique, natural chemical is found prominent in the seeds of the pepper. Most try to avoid this part of the pepper but others look to eat the seeds. The article below from CulinaryArts.About.com explains unique features of capsaicin.


Capsaicin is the chemical in chili peppers that makes them spicy. Specifically, capsaicin occurs in the fruits of plants in the Capsicum family, including bell peppers, jalapeño peppers, cayenne peppers and other chili peppers.

Capsaicin in chili peppers is measured on the Scoville Scale and expressed in terms of Scoville Heat Units. Bell peppers are the only member of the capsicum family that don’t contain capsaicin, and thus register zero Scoville units.

Besides being the source of the heat, or pungency, in chili peppers, capsaicin will cause a burning sensation in any part of the skin or other tissues it contacts. Thus, when a cook is working with cut chili peppers, the capsaicin from their hands can burn their eyes if they should rub their eyes.

The white membranes inside a pepper contain the most capsaicin, and the actual flesh of the pepper contains less. The seeds of the pepper don’t contain any capsaicin at all.

Capsaicin may also stimulate the production of endorphins, which is why some people report experiencing a sense of euphoria when eating spicy foods.

Capsaicin is an oil-like compound in the sense that it repels water. Therefore, drinking water to soothe the burning caused by eating chilis isn’t particularly effective, other than the cooling effect if the water happens to be cold. Capsaicin is soluble in milk and alcohol, however. So a sip of cold milk, or to a lesser extent, a cold alcoholic beverage, can soothe the burning feeling from capsaicin.

Interestingly, while all mammals are sensitive to capsaicin, making it unappealing to rabbits and other such garden pests, birds are immune to its effects.

Capsaicin has a number of non-culinary applications, including as a pain reliever and as the active ingredient in pepper spray.
Pronunciation: cap-SAY-a-sin

The mysterious correlation of heat and peppers is answered with capsaicin. Not only is it unique, but it’s oddly beneficial for the body. Capsaicin is used for medical conditions such as arthritis pain, neuropathic pain, dermatologic conditions, even skin conditions. Its chemical compounds can be used to alleviate pain, even though it ironically induces slight pain when eating peppers.

Are you feeling spicy food tonight? Add some zesty capsaicin to your diet with a dish from our Acapulcos Mexican Restaurants. Visit our location to get hands on experience with capsaicin, and discover why we can’t get enough of it.

When it comes to food, there are two types of people in this world: those who EAT TO LIVE and those who LIVE TO EAT. I, unapologetically, belong to the second group. I am a foodie through and through! If I hadn’t become a scientist, I would have become a chef or a baker. Whenever I’m having a bad day, food has the ability to cheer me up. When I’m having a great day, food is how I celebrate. My favorite foods have generally included anything that is fried, but recently I’ve acquired a craving for all things spicy, especially peppers.

A few years ago, I swore up and down that spicy food was not for me! “I would have to be insane to want to eat something so spicy it brings me to tears,” I would tell my now hubby, who has always had an affinity for spicy foods. Inevitably, he got me to try a spicy dish that he ordered and my life changed. I’m not going to lie, that first taste was rough. My mouth and lips were on FIRE!! I probably downed a whole glass of cold water to get any kind of relief from the burn. However, with each new bite of spicy food I started to get used to the sensation and almost even craved it. Soon I was eating entire dishes of spicy food on my own and slowly but surely I started seeking out things that were hotter and hotter. You could almost say I’ve developed an “addiction” to spicy food, but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. Although you can come to crave spicy foods, your body will not develop a dependence on them like you would to truly addicting molecules like caffeine or nicotine. However, there is some very real chemistry and neuroscience involved in that craving for spicy food.

So let’s talk some food science! That painful burning associated with the consumption of a chili pepper comes from compounds known as capsaicinoids, the most well-known of which is capsaicin. (FUN FACT: Capsaicinoids are derived from the compound vanillin, which gives vanilla its delicious taste and smell.) Surprisingly, their “hotness” or “spiciness” is not a taste but rather a sensation. There are no taste buds associated with capsaicinoids.

When they reach the tongue, capsaicinoids interact with a special type of protein located on the surface of nerve cells. This protein, called TRPV1, acts a sensor for the cell giving it information about the outside world. Normally, TRPV1 gets turned on by physical heat, like a fire, above 109˚F (43˚C). This signal will turn the nerve cell on to allow it to trigger other nerve cells that will carry the message to the brain that it has to respond to this dangerous temperature (think of it as your neurons playing telephone). When capsaicinoids interact with TRPV1 they also turn the protein on and cause the same signal to be transmitted to the brain into thinking it is being burned even though there is no real heat present. Note: TRPV1 is actually present on nerve cells in many locations on the body so this burning sensation can be experienced elsewhere, which is why you should always wash your hands after dealing with chili peppers, especially before touching your eyes!

Now that we know why peppers are hot, you might be asking yourself, “Why exactly would anyone seek out this burning sensation?” The answer to this question can be found in the way our brains are wired. Capsaicinoids trick the brain into thinking it is being burned, which is a painful experience, through the transmission of neurotransmitters. Remember, earlier when I said your neurons play telephone. Well, when your body senses pain somewhere like the tongue that message has to make it to the brain. The message is sent from the location it is initially generated to the brain through a network of neurons by talking to each other via neurotransmitters, which are essentially chemical messages. One such message produced by capsaicinoids is substance P, which transmits pain signals. The brain responds by releasing another type of neurotransmitter known as endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s natural way of relieving pain by blocking the nerve’s ability to transmit pain signals. Additionally, the neurotransmitter dopamine, responsible for a sense of reward and pleasure, is also released. In essence, for some people eating large amounts of spicy food triggers a sense of euphoria similar to a “runner’s high”.

So next time you need a little pick-me-up consider giving into the power of the chili pepper and discover why chiliphiles have come to love the burn!

To learn more about chilies visit: http://www.chilepepperinstitute.org/

Behind the Burn

There are 2 main chemicals responsible for the burning sensation that chili heads crave. The first, Capsaicin, is found in hot chili peppers and the other, allyl isothiocyanate, is found in foods like wasabi and horseradish. Both produce a different kind of burn and affect the body in different ways. Lets first consider Capsaicin the primary “burning” agent of chili peppers:


Molecular Formula: C18H27NO3

Molecular Weight: 305.41

A.K.A: Zostrix, Styptysat, capsaicine

Capsaicin is a member of a group of compounds called vanilloids. This group includes chemicals with very distinctive flavors and similar molecular structure. They all contain a hexagonal ring of carbons called a benzene ring. Other examples of vanilloids are vanillin (in vanilla), eugenol (in cloves) and zingerone (in ginger). Capsaicin contains a polar amide (-NHCO-) group that makes it odorless with a very low volatility. Even though you can not smell it, you sure can feel it!

The capsaicin molecule contains a long hydrocarbon (fatty) tail which allows it to strongly bind with the lipoprotein receptor of cells. This binding is what triggers the burning. The tail also allows the molecule to penetrate the lipid-rich cell membrane, extending and intensifying the burn. Once capsaicin binds to the receptors it “opens a door” in the cell membrane that allows for the flow of calcium ions into the cell, triggering a pain signal. This signal is then transmitted to the next cell just as if those cells were exposed to actual heat. Capsaicin excites heat receptors (pain fibers) in the skin called polymodal nociceptors. In doing so, it fools the central nervous system into triggering a neural response. Capsaicin does not trick the central nervous system into thinking it is in danger, as an extreme temperature would cause, but just that there is an intense stimuli producing a moderate warmth on the skin. The central nevous system then signals the body’s defense mechanism which widens the blood vessels, produces sweat and causes flushing (redness of skin). As many chili heads know spicy food can be addictive. In response to capsaicin, the central nervous system also triggers the release of endorphins, which promote a sense of pleasure. On molecular, cellular and sensory levels the body shows a similar reaction when faced with either chili burns or heat burns.

This reaction is not only contained to the mouth, in fact the “burn” is not a taste at all. It is a related, but distinct sensory experience. The pain receptors involved are located all over the body. This is why rubbing a habanero on your arm causes the same “burn” and warmth as if it were placed in the mouth. This type of chemical “trick” of the nervious system can also be seen, in a different way with menthol. Menthol tricks the body into sensing a cool burn, while capsaicin a hot burn. These chemicals are accidents of human physiology. They fool pain receptors who’s real function is to warn the body of dangerous events, like burns and inflammation. Luckily, we have been able to turn this accidental physiological response into something pleasurable.

Allyl Isothiocyanate:

Molecular Formula: C4H5NS

Molecular Weight: 99.1542

A.K.A: Mustard Oil, Redskin

The burning sensation and burning chemical from hot mustard, wasabi or horseradish is very different from that of peppers. While capsaicin is responsible for the burn in peppers, allyl isothiocyanate produces the nasal flaring sensation to which wasabi and horseradish are known. When either of these plants are chewed, grated or processed the plant cells are damaged. This damage releases the enzyme myrosinase which catalyzes the degradation of sinigrin, in horseradish or rhizome thioglucsides in wasabi, into allyl isothiocyanate. Allyl Isothiocyanate is very volatile (vaporizes easily) which is why the flavor hits the nose so strongly. The TRPA1 receptors in the nasal cavity recognize Allyl Isothiocyanate and sends a pain signal to the brain. Since it is in a vapor form and not bound as tightly to the receptors the burn subsides much more quickly than the burn from capsaicin. This chemical reaction in an evolutionary sense was supposed to ward of animals from eating them, which has not worked out all that well!

Ask the doctor: How does hot pepper cream work to relieve pain?

Published: October, 2011

Q. I have pain from osteoarthritis in both knees. I’m curious about the cream made from a substance in hot peppers. How does it relieve pain?

A. You’re referring to capsaicin, the substance in chili peppers that gives them their hot taste. Capsaicin is an ingredient in many over-the-counter topical pain-relief preparations, which include creams, gels, lotions, patches, and sticks. When first applied, topical capsaicin causes a burning sensation. This sensation lessens within a few minutes, and also over time with repeated applications. There are few, if any, systemic side effects.

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Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online “Hot peppers burn because of a chemical called capsaicin. (Scott Bauer, USDA)

You may like the burn of hot peppers, but it’s possible to get too much of a good thing. From a chemistry standpoint, what can you do that actually stops the burning of hot peppers? What doesn’t work? Here’s what you need to know:

Why Hot Peppers Burn

Hot peppers contain a compound called capsaicin or any of the related compounds called capsaicinoids which produce a burning sensation when they comes into contact with mucous membranes. Although capsaicinoids produce a feeling of heat, they won’t actually attack your tissue or cause a chemical burn. The molecules bind to a pain receptor, so you may suffer excruciating agony, but your body isn’t being harmed by the chemical. Capsaicin is an alkaline oil. If you keep its chemical properties in mind, you’ll have a better chance of soothing the burn.

Water Does Not Help

Drinking water doesn’t stop the burning because the oil-based capsaicin won’t dissolve in water. If anything, water spreads the burning to parts that weren’t previously affected.

Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol is useless against the heat of a hot pepper. Chasing hot food with alcohol will magnify the burn because the capsaicin will dissolve in the alcohol, but won’t be neutralized by it. You’ll only spread the burn around. The exception here would be if you’ve had enough alcohol to dull pain reception.

Drink Acid

No, we’re not talking about sulfuric acid or anything like that, but if you follow the hot peppers with an acidic food or drink you can neutralize some of the activity of the alkaline capsaicinoid. Good choices include cold lemonade, a lemon or lime, orange juice, anything tomato-based, or drinking milk (which is acidic).

Do Dairy

Milk, yogurt, and sour cream are acidic, which helps to combat the burning. The milk protein called casein acts as a natural detergent, breaking up the capsaicin. Many dairy products also contain fat which can help to dissolve the capsaicin. To get the most benefit from dairy, go for an acidic product that contains fat. In other words, sour cream or ice cream will help you more than skim milk.

Add Carbohydrates

If you eat your hot peppers with bread, rice, tortillas or any other starchy carbohydrate you’ll lessen the burning from the peppers. This works by providing a physical barrier between your mouth and some of the capsaicin so less of it contacts your tongue, lips, etc. The sugars in the carbohydrates may also help lessen the activity of the capsaicinoids.

Other Remedies

Do you know of other hot pepper remedies that work? Any that definitely do not help? Post a reply and share your experience.

Rose Johnson says:

For pepper burn my husband and I dissolve a sugar cube in our mouth (or a teaspoon of sugar). This also helps to stop hiccups.

David Bird says:

Thanks for this. Up to now the only remedy that has ever worked for me was to bang my head really hard against a wall. Doesn’t directly alleviate the burning but takes my mind off of it until it passes.

Mike Borrello says:

I’ve found that sucking on a lemon or lime such that the juices flow over the affected area of the tongue can provide immediate relief for the burning sensation caused by peppers. The citric acid rapidly neutralizes the alkaline pH.

Qudratullah says:

Oil and ghee has done good to me.

Bill says:

Vinegar — acetic acid; topically or internally

Marly says:

Sugar can help, although its sometimes disgusting with the taste of the pepper

Keith says:

This is gross , but it works. Get a teaspoon of salt, swish it in your mouth for a minute and spit it out. The salt draws the hot oils out of your mouth and it seems to work.

Jenn says:

I once was slicing some rather juicy peppers, and got sprayed in the face, just a drop on my forehead, and the burning sensation slowly crawled across my face and eyeballs. I actually put my face in a bowl of milk, but it was useless. I ended up just waiting it out.. what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Mc collins says:

when I was young my grand mum will always tell us to go and bite the stem of a plantain each time we ate scorching pepper.We did this and found some relief. But this is absurd to me now. Vinegar can be the best remedy.

Sysarc says:

Acetic acid is an easy solution, so following up an ethnic meal with a tablespoon of Spanish Olives along with a bit of the juice provides enough vinegar to sooth the mouth and more importantly, heartburn. I keep a large jar in the frig for just such an occasion.

Pepperqueen says:

I have had a few instances with peppers…. cubenelle and jalapenos destroy me (more topically than internally). I dip my hands in white vinegar if the burning starts, and within minutes, the pain is gone!

Mike says:

I got the juice from some very hot peppers in my eyes,I poured apple cider vinegar on a paper towel and rubbed it on my eyes and face. The burning started going away in seconds!

Straightedgebill says:

An ex gf used to cut up lemon wedges and stick them in a bowl of sugar . She swore by it. I always wanted to be Mr. Tough Guy so would not use them because hot foods actually release pain reducing hormones and help elevate your mood naturally. But one day I was given some hot sauce called “BURN YOUR A$$” hot sauce, and there was a guy on the bottle sitting with his pants down on a block of ice with flames shooting out. Needless to say I was gobbling sugar lemons. I wasn’t so tough after all lol. But they work great for hot peppers. It took nearly all the burn away instantly.

Randy Harper says:

I’ve been growing a wide variety of peppers for over 11 years now including some of the mildest and some of the hottest. I’m glad to find a chemistry perspective of it. Don’t be fooled into thinking capsaisin is harmless. It can cause blistering and chemical burn in adequate concentration, although most people will never be exposed to that high a level.

Water soluble oils and acids are the best for dispersion and neutralizing. Starches are pretty good and absorbing and can pull even deeply embedded oils from the skin, but will not neutralize the oil. Probably the toughest area for a pepper burn is the eyes. While sour cream or fresh avocado may be effective at dispersion and neutralizing, there is a risk to stuffing organic matter into your eyeballs. Generally the best approach to an eye burn is face downward and let your natural tears clean it out. If it’s a problem burn the tears will come and the water soluble oils will dissolve and flush out the capsaicin. Just remember to avoid rubbing it over your face.

For in the mouth burns I’ve found nothing works better or faster than avocado, pineapple second. Then sour cream, then citrus. Also soaking a piece of non-oily bread is a great way to slowly draw the oils from the mucus membrane. Vinegar is only somewhat effective and can create problems with your internal acid level. Alcohol is useless.

For external skin I typically wash with soap and water then soak in corn starch for 45 minutes sometimes repeating up to two more times for heavy exposure. And have a beer in the meantime.

If you use the oil concentrate follow saftey instrusctions, wear your ppe and keep neutralizing agents (plural) on hand. The burns can cause adequate tissue dammage to expose you to infection risk and can lead to permanent scar buildup in the eyes.

In summary always remember “If it works, do it”.

Kari says:

So, I was using the new ICY HOT Naturals…that contains capsaicin. I started working in the yard, working up a sweat. WRONG!! The capsaicin felt like acid; I was in horrible pain and couldn’t find a way to relieve it. I tried to rub and wash it off, even putting yogurt on my skin. It didn’t work.

A gardening website recomended rubbing alcohol! Pour onto a cloth and wipe across the skin. It absolutely worked…within seconds! I don’t know how, but it completely stopped the pain and the pain did not return.

(This goes without saying, but please do not ingest rubbing alcohol. I used this externally, on my skin only).

Go to your local dollar store and stick in your medicine cabinet for future use.

Zeno says:

I find that a handful of salty nuts helps

Kp says:

Ok, I know this would never be a first choice, but if you get hot peppers on your hands & don’t have anything handy to stop the burn or nothing else is working then you could use urine. I know it’s nasty but it works instantly. Just make sure you wash up extra, extra good! Then buy gloves for the future.:)

Norma says:

why would you want the good oils of the pepper not to work is a natural thing .just feel pain for your own good .

Lisa says:

I made some sauce with haberno peppers ,what worked to stop the burning was gojo {hand greese cleaner} the thing u used to clean grease off after you work on a car and then I washed it off with bleach then after i rinsed it with vinegar and then put some aloe vera gel. definitely help stop the burning. Also only use bleach if it is something you are use to using otherwise it will also burn your skin.

Frank says:

I ate some Doritos Flamas (a new flavor, that I kid you not, is hotter than hell!) and drank Diet Pepsi to neutralize the peppers.

Csd says:

for an external pepper burn dissolve a antacid in a little bit of water then soak the area in it. It works

Dana says:

I read that the spicy molecule is oil based, so I tried washing my mouth out and gargling with soap. It reduced the burn faster than vinegar.

James says:

Well I just ate 2 habaneros and figured out that peanut butter is the way to go.

Tommy Vu says:

I found that hot sauce can be ceased by a pinch of salt as well or two pinches.

Chance says:

I think that if you put flour on your tounge it would stop the burn. Since capsaicin is made of oil it should soak it up. We use cat litter to clean up oil in our garge floor so the principle should apply.

Erika says:

I’m not sure if this would work for peppers but I know that when I give myself a facial peel and it starts to burn I mix baking soda in water and put it on my face and the burning stops immediately..

Terry Duncan says:

Honey will stop the burn like nothing else I have ever tried. Take a teaspoon of honey into your mouth and swirl it around to cover everywhere the pepper is burning you. Swallow when you finish.

Susie says:

I have never heard it before but I have found that I can drink coffee with my Bojangles chicken and it will not burn me. I drink coffee with cream and Sweet n Low or Splenda. Why does it work? Milk does not help but coffee does. Crazy, huh?

Katie says:

I tried all of the solutions in previous comments. Some worked for about 30 seconds, then the heat came back! I finally used “Monky Butt” a powder that absorbs sweat. I coated my hands and left it on for about 5 minutes. I sprayed Shout on my hands and added more Monkey Butt and rinsed. It really helped reduce the pain to a very low level

Ida says:

My husband taught me to eat butter along with hot sauces or peppers years ago, and the pain will not even attack, or it will alleviate the pain if it starts. It probably has something to do with the fat in the butter which explains why avocados work as well. It sure is a better option than getting rid of the pleasant taste of the foods I enjoy by taking a mouthful of sugar or salt.

Payal says:

Honey..yes it works like miracle !!!

5 Alarm burn! says:

Well I’ll tell ya what works because I just did an (accidental) homemade experiment! Just had a Subway veggie delight and I ALWAYS get jalapeños. Well I must have gotten one with a TON of seeds because I was about to call the fire dept, LOL. Here’s my results:
First I went for the milk. I only have skim. It only helped if I kept it in my mouth. Couldn’t drink THAT much.
Second I went for the cottage cheese. Again, it only helped while I had it in my mouth. But helped a bit more than the skim.
While shoveling cottage cheese with one hand and typing with the other, (Thank you google auto suggestions!) I found this page. I quickly scrolled thru.
Third I tried sugar. Damn! I had to try to open the new package with one hand while still shoveling cottage cheese with the other hand! Ok sugar didn’t really work.
It wouldn’t stop burning!!!!
Fourth–WE HAVE A WINNER! Straight lemon juice!!! I wasn’t going to guzzle it because of the milk and cottage cheese I just ate so I sipped from a teaspoon and swished it. Two teaspoons did the trick. Besides I only had a couple tablespoons left in the bottle.
Wow. Have never burned myself like that except when I ate too much unripe pineapple once. But that was more painful than burning.
I may nix the jalapeños next time.

Dennis says:

I would think the best thing to use on your skin would be what we use for pepper spray training. Johnson and Johnson Baby Shampoo – because of the oil base the soap will take it off and you can spray it in your eyes. This is just a suggestion.

Perrsephanie18 says:

was cutting a pablano chili yesterday and (dumb I know) didn’t wear gloves. I tried EVERYTHING to get rid of the burn on my left hand. Here’s what I tried: milk, ice water, Pepto Bismal, lemon juice, canola oil, alcohol, diluted bleach, cottage cheese, yogurt, apple cider vinegar, tomato juice, AND vaseline; each separately. I even soaked my hand in the canola oil for 30 minutes. What worked? The milk works INSTANTLY but only for 3 minutes at a time (then the sting comes back). The Vaseline took 30 minutes to work but had a lasting effect. Hope this is helpful for someone.

Kim says:

Burning eyes! Chopped up some birds eye chili peppers and then touched my eye. A friend sent me this article and told me to flush with milk. I did and had instant relief! Thank you thank you thank you.

Sandy says:

Ok, I bought Capzasin for very painful arthritis in my hands, I put cream on all over my hands and in about 3 minutes, I thought that I had gotten stung with a million red ants. It was very painful. I couldnt get rid of the pain, I tried the dish soap and the vinegar that I read here but nothing worked. So I tried the old remedy that I remembered and read here. I urinated on my hands: it stopped instantly! PLEASE wash well, but it worked after suffering 3 hours of terrible burning redness and pain.

Dr Rita Jacobsen says:

I am a chili researcher. There is no doubt that any OIL applied to the area experiencing the burning sensation, is significantly the best solution. Oil is a solvent for capsaicin, the chemical responsible for the pain. Our research has shown the even when eyes have been in contact with the ‘Trinidad scorpion’, the Guiness world record hottest chili on the planet, washing the eye out with OIL removes the pain within a few minutes. It is best to wipe off the first application with paper, then refresh the oil etc. Keep well away from water, which only spreads the capsaicin and worsens the pain. Any OIL may be used including olive oil, sunlower oil etc. If the mouth is burning, swirl a tablespoon of oil in the mouth, then swallow it or spit it out. Interestingly, in India, chilis are used to treat stomach ulcers. Similarly, one may safely work by bare hand with raw chillis, without pain, if the hands are dipped in oil before handling. When finished, wipe oil off with a paper towel, then wash with soap to remove the oil. It is also handy to know that the sensatuon of burning is intensified with heat, e.g. taking a hot shower, or having a hot drink. Cold lessens the sensation.

The responses that your body might have if you’d swallowed a caustic substance come into play with high levels of capsaicin because that is, after all, what the molecule mimics. Those burn-sensing neurons, in your mouth, stomach, and elsewhere, are going to do their thing whether what you’ve swallowed will really kill you or just give you some discomfort on the toilet.

But, hours or a day or so of very serious discomfort aside, there don’t seem to be long-term dangers, per se, in eating very hot peppers. Biologists have observed, however, that administering capsaicin over long periods of time in young mammals does result in the death of the pain neurons, Bryant says. Setting the neurons off repeatedly wears them out, and they don’t grow back.

Interestingly, there is even a theory that pepper plants might have developed the molecule as a way to deter mammals from chewing up their seeds. Birds, which eat pepper seeds whole and helpfully spread them in their faeces, do not have the necessary receptors to feel the burn. But in humans, pepper plants have encountered a special kind of mammal that courts the feeling, to the edge of reason and probably a little bit beyond.

Luckily for the pepper, this does not seem to have damaged its fortunes.

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