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A peppery preventive for pain.

Capsaicin, the chemical that puts the zing in chili peppers, can block a person's ability to feel pain without producing numbness, according to a new study. The finding suggests that physicians may one day slather capsaicin-like compounds on the skin of burn patients or smear it into the incisions of individuals undergoing surgery.

Richard A. Meyer of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore and his colleagues injected a capsaicin analog under the skin of one inner forearm of each of eight volunteers. The volunteers received a control injection of an inactive substance in the other inner forearm.

The volunteers reported reduced pain in the capsaicin-treated forearm immediately after receiving a burn on each arm equivalent to touching a hot stove. Moreover, on the day after the burns, the subjects said the treated arm was much less sensitive to touch and heat than the control arm.

Meyer says capsaicin works by killing small-diameter nerve fibers, the ones responsible for pain. However, it has no effect on large-diameter nerve fibers, he says, and so does not totally numb a treated area. Capsaicin has also proved beneficial in treating cluster headaches (SN: 7/13/91, p.20).

Meyer and his colleagues are working with Procter & Gamble scientists to develop drugs based on capsaicin analogs.
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Title Annotation:capsaicin blocks pain without numbness
Author:Ezzell, Carol
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Nov 14, 1992
Words:213
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