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B. The Therapeutic Value of Hot Chili Peppers

Narrator: This is Science Today. Patients who suffered from chronic, debilitating nerve pain associated with diabetes, HIV or shingles, found relief from high doses of capsaicin, a derivative of hot chili peppers. Wendye Robbins, a professor of anesthesia at the University of California, San Francisco says although capsaicin has been around for over a hundred years, it's never been used at high doses.

Robbins: The problem has always been that use of capsaicin, whether in food or for medical purposes, is associated with an intense burning, which develops immediately after exposure to peripheral nerves.

Narrator: To reduce this burning, a regional anesthesia was applied to the area before high doses of capsaicin.

Robbins: We're very hopeful that this will turn into something which can make a difference for a lot of people that are suffering. We know that there are over 16 million people with diabetes out there and approximately a third of them suffer from significant, peripheral neuropathies. That's a lot of patients that could conceivably have burning hand and foot pain.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.