We all know the benefits of plants on our health. From indoor plants improving air quality to algae for skin masks, they are the first on the list when it comes to well-being. Did you know that there are also many vegetables for the treatment of human pathologies and that they can be used for various types of symptoms? You probably did. But, did you know that pain is one of the most disabling symptoms and that there are many different types to target pain?
There are 3 widely accepted pain types that are relevant to our discussion: Nociceptive pain (including nociceptive inflammatory pain), Neuropathic pain and Nociplastic pain. It is not uncommon to also have a “mix” of pain types; one unlucky person may even have all three at the same time.
Neuropathic pain is pain caused by damage or disease affecting the sensory fibres of peripheral nervous system. It may be associated with abnormal sensations called dysesthesia or pain from normally non-painful stimuli (allodynia). It may have continuous and/or episodic (paroxysmal) components, too. The latter resembles stabbings or electric shocks. Common qualities include burning or coldness, “pins and needles” sensations, numbness and itching.
Nerding it out again – the innovative research activity that earned the Nobel Prize for Medicine 2021 has already been applied for the development of effective therapies against pain, primarily through a non-opioid topical therapy of capsaicin – a TRPV1 agonist.
Capsaicin is the pungent ingredient of chilli peppers and is approved as a topical treatment of neuropathic pain. Many studies have shown strong benefits using capsaicin for neuropathic treatment and the analgesia lasts for several months after a single treatment. So, the taboo that spicy foods are not good for inflammation can be scraped right off!
Capsaicin mechanism of action is based on the activation of TRPV1 channels, a special protein on the sensory neuron membrane that changes its conformation when activated. The conformation of activated TRPV1 by capsaicin lets positive ions enter in the sensory neurons and this leads to the analgesic effect.
I know it sounds like a bunch of scientific words thrown out there, but the gist of it is that chilli helps desensitise some channels in your body that cause inflammation!
All these discoveries have contributed to the understanding of the underlying mechanisms of pain and have allowed researchers to study new treatment options that are safer for patients. So, if you suffer from some sort of pain, ask a doctor about what sorts of spices you can take as food supplements to help you!