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Therapeutic Applications of Capsaicin in Upper Airways

[ Vol. 19 , Issue. 10 ]


Carlo Cavaliere, Simonetta Masieri and Franco Cavaliere*   Pages 1166 - 1176 ( 11 )


Background: Capsaicin (8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) is the substance responsible of the irritation caused by the contact of chili peppers with the skin or mucous membranes. This protoalkaloid acts by stimulating the transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 1 (TRPV1), which is mainly expressed by nociceptive fibers of peripheral sensory neurons, but is also present in the central nervous system, and in some non-neuronal cells. Following the initial, intense neuronal excitation, a brief refractory period occurs. However, repeated and massive exposures to capsaicin can impair nociceptive fiber function for weeks or months. During this lapse of time, disorders related to the hyperreactivity of peripheral nociceptors are abolished or greatly reduced. Capsaicin has been utilized to treat several diseases of upper airways.

Objective: The objective of this review was to report the latest findings on the use of Capsaicin in the treatment of upper airway diseases.

Results: Capsaicin effectiveness has been proved in non allergic rhinitis. Some studies suggest that this substance may be also effective in nasal polyposis and in the burning mouth syndrome. No clear evidence has been obtained about its use in allergic rhinitis.

Conclusion: To date, the use of capsaicin to treat upper airway diseases is still limited in clinical practice. This may originate by the lack of strong, conclusive evidences of its effectiveness, by the variety of therapeutic schemes used in literature, and finally by the unpleasant effects of the exposure to capsaicin, which are only partly relieved by the pretreatment with local anesthetics.


Capsaicin, airways, allergic rhinitis, non-allergic rhinitis, nasal polyposis, burning mouth syndrome.


ENT Clinic, Faculty of Medicine, University "Sapienza", Rome, ENT Clinic, Faculty of Medicine, University "Sapienza", Rome, Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Rome

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