What is Capsaicin?

Capsaicin (chemical formula: C18H27NO3), is a compound found in chilli peppers. It is a white crystalline powder that is soluble in alcohol, ether, benzene and chloroform. Capsaicin has a highly pungent odour and has a burning taste. 

What is Capsaicin used for?

Because many people enjoy spicy foods, capsaicin is used in food products such as chilli powders, hot sauces (such as Tabasco) and salsa’s to name a few. 

Capsaicin is used in the pharmaceutical industry as a pain relief ingredient for ointments and patches to temporarily treat minor aches and muscle and joint pain commonly experienced with sprains, strains and arthritis. 

Capsaicin is also the active ingredient in pepper spray and pest (mammalian e.g. deer, bears, etc.) repellent products, with the capsaicin causing a burning pain when inhaled and exposed to the skin.

Chilli peppers are naturally rich in capsaicin, making it no surprise it is used to “heat” many different products.
Chilli peppers are naturally rich in capsaicin, making it no surprise it is used to “heat” many different products. 

Capsaicin Hazards

The routes of exposure for capsaicin include; inhalation, ingestion and skin and eye contact. 

Inhalation of capsaicin may produce irritation and inflammation to the respiratory tract. Inhalation of dusts can cause serious symptoms such as bronchoconstriction, coughing, nausea and incoordination. Capsaicin is a sternulator (may cause violent sneezing upon inhalation). Those with impaired respiratory and kidney function are at further risk if exposed to the chemical.

Ingestion of capsaicin can cause temporary irritation throughout the body’s entire gastrointestinal tract. Other symptoms may include; eye and nose irritation, diarrhoea, vomiting, excessive salivation, excessive sweating, coughing, sneezing, skin inflammation and loss of appetite.

Skin contact can cause symptoms including; irritation, inflammation, redness, burning, severe irritation/inflammation  and even numbness in cases of prolonged exposure. Entry into the bloodstream through open cuts or wounds may also cause other harmful effects. 

Eye exposure can result in severe ocular lesions.

Capsaicin Safety

If inhaled, remove the patient from the contaminated area to the nearest fresh air source. Lay the patient down and keep them warm and rested. If the patient is not breathing and you are qualified to do so, perform CPR, preferably with a bag-valve mask device. Transport to hospital without delay. 

If swallowed, give the patient a slurry of at least 3 tablespoons of activated charcoal in water to drink. Vomiting may be recommended, but it is generally dissuaded due to the risk of aspiration, however if charcoal is unavailable, vomiting is the answer. Seek medical attention without delay. 

If skin exposure occurs, bathe or immerse the affected area in vinegar (5% acetic acid) and this should continue for as long as the skin feels the irritation (this can take hours in severe cases). Another method of treatment is to use vegetable oil in place of vinegar. 

If the chemical is exposed to the eyes, flush the eyes out with fresh running water for at least 15 minutes, remembering to wash under the eyelids. Removal of contact lenses should only be done by a skilled individual. Transport to hospital without delay. 

Capsaicin Safety Handling

Emergency eyewash fountains and safety showers should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure to the chemical and there should be adequate ventilation to remove or dilute any air contaminants, when handling powder formulations (install local exhaust if necessary). 

The PPE recommended when handling capsaicin includes; chemical protective goggles with full seal, shielded mask (gas type), rubber/PVC gloves,  lab coats, full body protective suits, protective shoe covers and safety boots.

Refer to your SDS for more comprehensive safety handling information for capsaicin. Click here for a trial of our SDS Management Software or contact us at for more information about our chemicals management solutions. 

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