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Psoriasis and Cayenne

Written by ColleenO, FoundHealth.

Capsaicin is the “hot” in cayenne pepper. Creams made from capsaicin are used to treat a number of conditions. Some evidence indicates that capsaicin cream may be helpful for psoriasis as well.

Effect of Cayenne on Psoriasis

The exact effect of capsaicin on psoriasis is not clear. Capsaicin acts in ways that help reduce pain and itching, so it might help with psoriasis by reducing discomfort. (When applied to tissues, capsaicin causes the release of a chemical called substance P. Substance P is ordinarily released when tissues are damaged; it is part of the system the body uses to detect injury. When hot peppers artificially release substance P, they trick the nervous system into thinking that an injury has occurred. The result: a sensation of burning pain. When capsaicin is applied regularly to a part of the body, substance P becomes depleted in that location. When levels of substance P are reduced in an area, all pain in that area is somewhat reduced.)

Read more details about Cayenne.

Research Evidence on Cayenne

A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of almost 200 people found that use of topical capsaicin can improve itching as well as overall severity of psoriasis.21 Benefits were also seen in a smaller double-blind trial.22

How to Use Cayenne

Capsaicin creams are approved over-the-counter drugs and should be used as directed. If the burning sensation that occurs with initial use is too severe, using weaker forms of the cream at first may be advisable.

Types of Professionals That Would Be Involved with This Treatment

  • MD
  • Naturopath
  • Herbalist

Safety Issues

Capsaicin creams commonly cause an unpleasant burning sensation when they are first applied; this sensation disappears over subsequent days as treatment is continued.

As a commonly used food, cayenne is generally recognized as safe. Contrary to some reports, cayenne does not appear to aggravate stomach ulcers . 1

Interactions You Should Know About

If you are taking:

  • The asthma drug theophylline : Cayenne might increase the amount you absorb, possibly leading to toxic levels. 2
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs : Cayenne might protect your stomach from damage.


  1. Graham DY, Smith JL, Opekun AR. Spicy food and the stomach. Evaluation by videoendoscopy. JAMA. 260(23):3473-5.
  2. Bouraoui A, Toumi A, Mustapha HB, et al. Effects of capsicum fruit on theophylline absorption and bioavailability in rabbits. Drug Nutr Interact. 1998;5:345-350.
  1. Ellis CN, Berberian B, Sulica VI, et al. A double-blind evaluation of topical capsaicin in pruritic psoriasis. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1993;29:438-442.
  2. Bernstein JE, Parish LC, Rapaport M, et al. Effects of topically applied capsaicin on moderate and severe psoriasis vulgaris. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1986;15:504-507.

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