Chili Peppers Can Offer Nasal Allergy Relief

Got a stuffy nose or sinus problems? You may want to turn to hot chili peppers for relief.

Scientists from the University of Cincinnati have discovered that an ingredient in hot chili peppers can effectively address certain types of inflamed nasal passages and clogged sinuses.

If you love Mexican food and think this could be a delicious option, it's important to know that the researchers actually tested the key chili pepper ingredient, called Capsicum annum, by adding it into a nasal spray rather than having people eat it. Their hope was that when this spice was inhaled through the nostrils, the rush of heat it provided would help open up the nasal passages.

Research on a Pepper Nose Spray

When they tried this method on a study group of 44 people over a two-week period, the findings were very encouraging. All of the participants had non-allergic, rhinitis-related symptoms such as congestion, sinus pain, and sinus pressure that were caused by scented products, chemicals, or changes in the weather. After using the spray, everyone experienced relief within about a minute, which is faster than a control group who used a placebo nasal spray that didn't have any chili pepper in it. The relief seemed to be sustained as well, offering hope that a form of pepper nose spray may provide a new and effective treatment method for sinus conditions that are particularly challenging to manage. These results were included in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology in August 2011.

Managing Allergic Nasal Symptoms

If you have chronic nasal symptoms, you might talk to your doctor about trying something similar when it's available for the general public. However, if your nasal inflammation is caused by allergies, the researchers caution that the method doesn't seem to be effective. Still, many people with stuffy noses do report feeling better when they eat a spicy meal because it seems to open up their nasal passages and helps them drain. Just remember that if you suffer from food allergies, there's always the danger that chili peppers and other spicy foods could trigger a reaction, so check with your doctor first before you experiment with these types of ingredients.

Other Ways to Control Sinus Inflammation

If you believe that your nasal symptoms are caused by allergies, it's also important to keep a log of your symptoms and when and where they occur.

If your symptoms seem to occur seasonally, you'll want to pay attention to the pollen count and also shower after spending time outdoors to remove any allergens stuck in your hair. You should also take steps to allergy proof your home and especially your bedroom, where you spend the most time. Be sure to keep dust mites, mold, and pet dander to a minimum. You may also need to take allergy medications to help control your allergy symptoms. When these efforts aren't enough to manage your nasal allergies, you may benefit from immunotherapy to build up tolerance to your nasal allergy triggers.




Bernstein, Jonathan A. et al. "A Randomized, Double-Blind, Parallel Trial Comparing Capsaicin Nasal Spray with Placebo in Subjects with a Significant Component of Nonallergic Rhinitis." Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 107 (2) (2011): 171. Web. 12 Sept. 2011.

"Heat in Chili Peppers Can Ease Sinus Problems, Research Shows." University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center, 26 Aug. 2011. Web. 12 Sept. 2011.