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Exp Ther Med. 2019 Aug;18(2):916-925. doi: 10.3892/etm.2019.7513. Epub 2019 Apr 19.

Capsaicin: Physicochemical properties, cutaneous reactions and potential applications in painful and inflammatory conditions.

Author information

1
Dermatology Research Laboratory, 'Carol Davila' University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Bucharest 020021, Romania.
2
Department of Biochemistry, 'Carol Davila' University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Bucharest 020021, Romania.
3
Department of Physiology, 'Carol Davila' University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Bucharest 020021, Romania.
4
Department of Dermatology, 'Prof. N.C. Paulescu' National Institute of Diabetes, Nutrition and Metabolic Diseases, Bucharest 020475, Romania.
5
Department of Dermatology, 'Carol Davila' University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Bucharest 020021, Romania.
6
Department of Toxicology, Faculty of Pharmacy, 'Carol Davila' University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Bucharest 020956, Romania.
7
The National Institute for Research and Development in Chemistry and Petrochemistry - ICECHIM, Bucharest 060021, Romania.
8
Department of Immunology, 'Victor Babes' National Institute of Pathology, Bucharest 050096, Romania.
9
Department of Pathology, Colentina Clinical Hospital, 020125 Bucharest, Romania.
10
Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Biology, University of Bucharest, Bucharest 020125, Romania.

Abstract

Capsaicin is a natural protoalkaloid recognized as the main pungent component in hot peppers (Capsicum annuum L.). The capsaicin receptor is highly expressed in the unmyelinated type C nerve fibers originating from small diameter sensory neurons in dorsal root ganglia and cranial nerve ganglia correspondents. Capsaicin and related vanilloids have a variety of effects on primary sensory neurons function, from sensory neuron excitation characterized by local burning sensation and neurogenic inflammation, followed by conduction blockage accompanied by reversible ultrastructural changes of peripheral nociceptive endings (desensitization), going as far as irreversible degenerative changes (neurotoxicity). The main role in capsaicin-induced neurogenic inflammation relies on the capsaicin sensitive, small diameter primary sensory neurons, therefore its evaluation could be used as a diagnostic instrument in functional alterations of cutaneous sensory nerve fibers. Moreover, capsaicin-induced desensitization and neurotoxicity explain the analgesic/anti-nociceptive and anti-inflammatory effects of topical capsaicin and its potential use in the management of painful and inflammatory conditions. In this study, we describe the effects of capsaicin on neurogenic inflammation and nociception, as well as its potential diagnostic value and therapeutic impact in various conditions involving impairment of sensory nerve fibers.

KEYWORDS:

capsaicin; desensitization; hyperalgesia; neurotoxicity; skin reactions

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