Using Capsaicin for Nasal Symptoms

Capsaicin has been used as a nasal spray to treat the effects of non-allergic rhinitis. While some studies have looked at the possible efficacy, the FDA has not approved capsaicin nasal spray for the treatment of any disease process. Any available capsaicin nasal spray is considered homeopathic and is not a regulated product with known quantities of capsaicin.

Woman using allergy relief nasal spray
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How Does Capsaicin Work?

Capsaicin is found in hot red and chili peppers and it's responsible for the burning sensation that comes from eating these foods. When this substance comes into contact with mucous membranes and skin, the body’s pain sensors are stimulated, which leads to symptoms of burning, stinging, and a sensation of heat.

Capsaicin has a wide variety of uses, including as a spice, an herbal supplement, a topical pain treatment, and as a self-defense weapon (pepper spray). It is the active ingredient in OTC topical pain medications, such as Zostrix cream, used for treating pain associated with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetic neuropathy, and post-herpetic neuralgia.

Capsaicin acts on the nerve fibers that transmit pain, decreasing the amount of substance P, a chemical that signals pain in the nervous system. With continued application of topical capsaicin, the amount of substance P decreases, lessening the body's ability to sense pain at the site of application.

What Is Non-Allergic Rhinitis?

Non-allergic rhinitis is a chronic nasal condition that's not caused by allergies. It typically causes nasal congestion, runny nose, sinus pressure, and post-nasal drip.

The most common form of non-allergic rhinitis is vasomotor rhinitis, which is caused by an abnormal response of the nervous system in the nose to irritant stimuli—such as strong odors and changes in temperature and humidity.

Capsaicin for the Treatment of Non-Allergic Rhinitis

There is some evidence suggesting that capsaicin nasal spray might be safe and effective in the treatment of rhinitis symptoms, although more studies are needed, and dosing is not well established.

  • The results of a small research study (68 participants) published in 2020 supported the safety and efficacy of using daily low dose nasal capsaicin spray for treating symptoms of rhinitis. Participants who received treatment with low dose capsaicin nasal spray experienced a measurable improvement of rhinitis symptoms.
  • In another small research study, a total of 46 participants who had non-allergic rhinitis received either daily nasal capsaicin spray or a placebo. Symptoms significantly improved in the capsaicin group compared to the placebo group. Improvement began from as early as 10 minutes after treatment in the capsaicin treatment group and the improvement typically lasted for at least 60 minutes.

Other Therapies for the Treatment of Non-Allergic Rhinitis

There are few treatments that are effective for the treatment of non-allergic rhinitis. Many traditional therapies for allergies, such as oral antihistamines and allergy shots, are not helpful for the symptoms of non-allergic rhinitis.

Medications that are at least partially effective include nasal steroid sprays, nasal antihistamine sprays, nasal anti-cholinergic sprays, and oral decongestants. Nasal saline may also useful.

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5 Sources
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  2. Leader P, Geiger Z. Vasomotor Rhinitis. StatPearls Publishing. Updated October 3, 2019.

  3. Van Gerven L, Steelant B, Cools L, Callebaut I, Backaert W, de Hoon J, Ampe E, Talavera K, Hellings PW. Low-dose capsaicin (0.01 mM) nasal spray is equally effective as the current standard treatment for idiopathic rhinitis: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2021 Jan;147(1):397-400.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2020.04.054. Epub 2020 May 19. PMID: 32439432.

  4. Couroux PR, Ismail B, Houtman D, Khadari T, Salapatek AMM. Capsaicin nasal spray showed significant and rapid relief in all nasal symptoms in subjects with non-allergic rhinitis. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2019;143(2):AB63. doi.10.1016/j.jaci.2018.12.193
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Additional Reading
  • Bernstein JA, et al. A Randomized, Double-Blind, Parallel Trial Comparing Capsaicin Nasal Spray with Placebo in Subjects with a Significant Component of Nonallergic Rhinitis. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2011;107;171-8.