Many people who take CBD do so because the non-intoxicating cannabinoid is thought to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. Working through the body’s own endocannabinoid system, cannabinoids like CBD activate receptors throughout the body.
One such receptor of interest is called TRPV1, (transient receptor potential ca on channel subfamily V member 1), also called the “capsaicin receptor”. TRPV1 receptors primarily live in nociceptive (pain-signalling) neurons throughout the peripheral and central nervous systems.
The main job of the TRPV1 receptor is to transmit and modulate pain. But, in order for TRPV1 to send pain signals, it has to be activated by “noxious stimuli”, an internal or external factor that triggers pain. When TRPV1 is activated by an external stimulus - say, burning your hand on the stove - you will feel pain and experience inflammation.
Now, burning your hand on the stove is (hopefully) a one-time occurrence, but there are some chronic and painful conditions like peripheral neuropathy that have TRPV1 receptors working overtime. Fortunately, there are natural remedies that could be very helpful in modulating TRPV1, and they can be found in our kitchen cabinets.
Capsaicin is a compound found in most spicy peppers such as jalapeno, habanero, & cayenne peppers. You know that burning feeling in your mouth when you eat hot peppers? That is the mouth's sensation of capsaicin. Research shows that the capsaicin binds to the nerve receptors -TRPV1 - that transmit pain and heat.
The action of capsaicin’s pain-relieving effects seem somewhat counterintuitive, after all, eating hot peppers can be a very uncomfortable experience. However, research shows that topically, capsaicin activates and then placates the TRPV1 receptors. So, after that initial burning sensation, the sensory receptors become desensitized, providing analgesic pain relief.
Capsaicin topicals are frequently used for arthritis, neuropathic pain, and migraines. Though studies are ongoing, drug stores have been stocking their shelves with capsaicin topicals like Capzasin and Zostrix for a long time.
Another natural compound that shows promise in tamping down the pain response is -gingerol. As its name suggests, this chemical relative of capsaicin is found in fresh ginger. Though studies on the pain relieving effects of gingerol are not as widely researched as capsaicin, research conducted at TzuHui Institute of Technology in Taiwan suggested that gingerol may contain both analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
A separate study conducted by the world renowned ginger-researcher Dr Tessa Therkleson of New Zealand found that topical ginger in the form of compresses and patches helped patients with osteoarthritis to manage their pain when used consistently.
The international research of Capsaicin and Gingerol was taken into consideration in the development of our Warming Muscle Rub which features cayenne pepper and ginger extracts.
Though many studies suggest that formulations directly targeting TRPV1 receptors, such as a topical preparation, maybe the most effective for direct pain and inflammation relief, consuming capsaicin-containing foods and ginger as part of a healthy diet may contribute to a broader anti-inflammatory effect.