Hot Sauce Could Be the New Morphine

Chemical in chili peppers that burns also numbs—for days
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 30, 2007 11:09 AM CDT
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(Newser) – Doctors think they have a hot lead on an alternative to opioid pain killers like morphine: chili peppers. California-based researchers are dripping what is essentially a sterile version of hot sauce—containing capsaicin, the chemical that gives peppers their bite—directly into open wounds during surgery. Just like biting into a pepper, it burns at first, the AP explains, but then numbness sets in—for days.

It’s everything morphine isn’t: localized, non-addictive, and convenient. “It's in and it's done,” said one doctor. “You can't abuse it. You can't misuse it.” Surgery isn't the only application being studied; other researchers are using capsaicin to develop epidurals for childbirth, dental injections that won't make the whole mouth numb, and super-potent painkillers for cancer patients.