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Pepper Spray Eases Symptoms of Nasal Sinus Infection

Tim Boyer's picture
Red peppers become nasal sprays

A nasal spray that contains the burning component of a hot chili pepper seems about as counterintuitive of a thing to do as making an eyewash out of acid; however, this is exactly what one researcher at the University of Cincinnati has come up with: a capsaicin-containing nasal spray that is reported to ease the symptoms of nasal sinus infection of people with non-allergic rhinitis.

Capsaicin is the active component of chili peppers that gives many peppers their sting. The highest concentration of capsaicin can be found in the white pith of the inner wall where the seeds are attached inside a pepper. Because capsaicin is a mucous membrane irritant, it is widely used in personal defense chemical pepper sprays. Contact with capsaicin can not only cause severe burns, but can also cause difficulty in breathing as any cook who uses peppers when frying food can attest to.

Capsaicin is believed to have evolved as chemical defense against herbivores and possibly some fungal species. Birds appear to among the few animals that are unaffected by capsaicin because they do not possess capsaicin binding receptors. This may be a selective advantage for both birds and pepper plants as birds eat the pepper and eventually spread the seeds via their digestive tract.

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Aside from personal defense and the food industry, capsaicin is used in a wide range of creams for treating minor aches and pain. In a cream form, the capsaicin stimulates neurons to the extent that it overwhelms the nerves and causes a depletion of a presynaptic neurotransmitter called “substance P.” Substance P is used to signal the sensations of heat and pain to the brain. The depletion of substance P leaves the affected/treated part of the body insensate to pain.

Research Study on Nasal Sinus Infection

In the August issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, University of Cincinnati allergy researcher Jonathan Bernstein, MD published his findings comparing the effects of a Capsicum annum nasal spray to a placebo spray on individuals with non-allergenic rhinitis. Non-allergenic rhinitis is an upper respiratory condition that is caused by environmental factors such as smoke, dust or chemicals as opposed to typical seasonal allergies related to pollen and mold exposure. Patients with non-allergenic rhinitis typically suffer from symptoms of nasal sinus infection, which include chronic sneezing and/or an unexplainable constant drippy nose.

The Capiscum annum spray Dr. Bernstein used contains capsaicin from chili peppers. Previous studies using capsaicin on nasal mucosal membranes proved to be too hot to be applied directly without anesthesia. However, in the University of Cincinnati study, the Capiscum annum spray proved to be well-tolerated by the test subjects and was a success. According to Dr. Bernstein, "Basically, we concluded that the spray was safe and effective on non-allergic rhinitis.” On average, the test subjects who were given the spray reported that within one minute they had an onset of action or relief from their symptoms of nasal sinus infection after applying the Capiscum annum spray.

The significance of the result is that it demonstrates for the first time a controlled clinical trial using capsaicin to alleviate the symptoms of nasal sinus infection and inflammation related to non-allergenic rhinitis. For non-allergenic rhinitis patients who previously lacked an effective therapy for relief from their symptoms of nasal sinus infection, they now have hope for an over-the-counter medication that may result from the study.

Source: University of Cincinnati, 2011 Academic Health Center Public Relations & Communications, http://healthnews.uc.edu/news/?/14343/



The guy who invented the first pepper nasal spray, Sinus buster has recently launched a nasal spray with pepper and horseradish! It's called Sinus Plumber and I bought it on Amazon. It blows your top off but it's fantastic.