Capsaicin, the pungent alkaloid of red pepper (Capsicum annuum) has been extensively studied for its biological effects which are of pharmacological relevance. These include: cardio protective influence, anti-lithogenic effect, anti-inflammatory and analgesia, thermogenic influence, and beneficial effects on gastrointestinal system. Therefore, capsaicinoids may have the potential clinical value for pain relief, cancer prevention and weight loss. It has been shown that capsaicinoids are potential agonists of capsaicin receptor (TRPV1). They could exert the effects not only through the receptor-dependent pathway but also through the receptor-independent one. The involvement of neuropeptide Substance P, serotonin, and somatostatin in the pharmacological actions of capsaicin has been extensively investigated. Topical application of capsaicin is proved to alleviate pain in arthritis, post-operative neuralgia, diabetic neuropathy, psoriasis, etc. Toxicological studies on capsaicin administered by different routes are documented. Capsaicin inhibits acid secretion, stimulates alkali and mucus secretion and particularly gastric mucosal blood flow which helps in prevention and healing of gastric ulcers. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of capsaicin are established in a number of studies. Chemopreventive potential of capsaicin is evidenced in cell line studies. The health beneficial hypocholesterolemic influence of capsaicin besides being cardio protective has other implications, viz., prevention of cholesterol gallstones and protection of the structural integrity of erythrocytes under conditions of hypercholesterolemia. Beneficial influences of capsaicin on gastrointestinal system include digestive stimulant action and modulation of intestinal ultra structure so as to enhance permeability to micronutrients.
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