Q. I have diabetes and high blood pressure. My blood sugar is under control with insulin and I am on Diovan for the blood pressure.
Over the last few years, I have suffered with numbness and pain in my ankles, feet and toes. It had gotten so bad that I had to stop my half-hour daily walks.
Many years ago I read that cayenne would improve circulation. I started with a 40,000 hu dose and worked my way up to 100,000 hu with no problems, but didn’t see any benefit. I stopped taking cayenne about four years ago.
Last week I started taking it again. I take six 100,000 hu capsules a day. In just a few days, I noticed that the numbness and pain in my feet had greatly subsided. After a week, the discomfort in my ankles, feet and toes is nearly gone. I walked for 30 minutes today for the first time in a very long while without pain.
Cayenne must indeed have a powerful effect on circulation. Has anyone else had such an experience with cayenne?

A. The chemical in chili peppers that creates the hotness is called capsaicin. It has been used in topical arthritis rubs for decades. There are also creams and patches (Qutenza, Zostrix, etc.) containing capsaicin for shingles pain and diabetic neuropathy.
Some readers tell us that taking cayenne in juice helps ease their arthritis pain. This is the first time we’ve heard of taking it orally for neuropathy.

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  1. MM10
    Reply

    Capsaicin has long been recognized as beneficial to arthritis and in pain management both as an external ointment and when taken internally. Enteric coated Capsaicin has been used in irritable bowel symptom and in Cancer treatment. Most of the enteric coated Capsaicin is used in Europe but is finally being recognized here in America. An article in a medical magazine indicated a recent study showing ingestion of Capsaicin equivalent to four Jalepenos doubled standard caloric burning in every case due to the increase in body heat or metabolic rates.
    I am trying to find Enteric coated Capsacin here in the United States.
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: DON’T COUNT ON IT FOR WEIGHT LOSS. THE EFFECT MAY BE SMALL:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20826626

  2. J H
    Reply

    A friend has started taking cayenne tablets for numbness is his feet: his tablets are 450 mg and he has started with 2 per day. How does this translate to heat units?

  3. pearl
    Reply

    Does 40,000 hu translate into milligrams? What is capsaicin?
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: CAPSAICIN IS THE “HOT” COMPOUND IN HOT PEPPERS. APPARENTLY THE DOSE IS SOMETIMES MEASURED IN HEAT UNITS.

  4. Roberta
    Reply

    I am not diabetic but have a severe case of neuropathy in both the bottom and top of my feet, which is literally debilitating. I take a huge dose of Neurontin daily to take the edge off (3x a day), but it doesn’t last long. I’m curious as to how much of a dose of the capsaicin I should take to try and alleviate some of the discomfort of the neuropathy?
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: YOU WILL HAVE TO EXPERIMENT, AS THERE IS NO STANDARDIZATION.

  5. cpmt
    Reply

    WELL I am also diabetic, I had the same problem with my legs feet etc. when I started taking VIT. D and omega 3 all disappear immediately. Maybe you (or someone) should try this??
    THANK you for the information.

  6. J. Lewis
    Reply

    Question-I have a “form” of neuropathy in my feet and ankles; worse in the left foot. What is capsaicin? What is the person talking about who says “40,000 hu dose?” Have no idea what that means, but I’m willing to read and learn.
    Thank you.
    J. Lewis
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: IF YOU LOOK FOR CAPSAICIN CAPSULES, YOU WILL FIND THAT SOME HAVE THE DOSE NOTED IN HEAT UNITS OR HU.

  7. Brent B.
    Reply

    There’s also a book called ‘Left for Dead’ by a man with heart disease who used red pepper to overcome his illness. But what about the internal side effects? I wonder if there would be something like an enteric-coated form that might overcome that. Red pepper is also great for respiratory conditions, so it’s definitely something to look into for a variety of health concerns. Just watch out for the bite!

  8. Helen M
    Reply

    Certain cultures use a lot of hot peppers in their cooking and good effects, rather than bad, have been found. I have been thinking about capsaicin for its heart protective benefits; this is the first time I read that it might be good for neuropathy. Of which I have plenty, widely located on my body. Years of undiagnosed diabetes. This would be another good reason to try it.

  9. Dan
    Reply

    I used a topical preparation containing capsaicin a while back and it worked pretty well. Then I took a shower a few hours later and it burned like crazy, I thought my skin was going to peel off. So I’m wondering how wise it is to take this internally in larger amounts?
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: IT IS LIKE EATING A LOT OF HOT PEPPERS. YOU’D WANT TO START WITH THE LOWEST DOSE AND WORK UP GRADUALLY TO A HIGHER DOSE.

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