Capsaicin is a popular cream for pain relief - and a new review suggests it works. It's available by prescription in the UK (although you can find it in small doses in creams available in the stores), and as an over-the-counter remedy in the USA.
Researchers reviewed the findings of six studies that involved a total of 656 patients and found that it was far more effective a pain-reliever than a placebo, or sugar pill. They also thought it was a useful therapy for those who get no relief from standard painkillers.
Capsaicin, which is derived from chilli peppers, is typically used to relieve pain from neuralgia, diabetic neuropathy, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
It's not without its side-effects, however, which include sensations of burning, stinging, and respiratory irritation if inhaled.
(Source: British Medical Journal, 2004; 328: 991-4).