Piri Piri Chili Balm - Test Group Feedback

Capsaicin is a funny thing. It causes a burning sensation, yet can help relieve. As odd as that sounds, it's true.

Today's star is a little chili with the common name piri piri. It's got a reasonably healthy dose of capsaicin, rating 175,000 on the scoville scale (that's the lower end of the 'habanero-hot' area).

Place a single piri piri in your mouth and it will burn your tongue and make your lips feel numb. But take a whole handful of them and infuse in oil, then apply that oil to a troubled spot on the skin, and it may well do some seriously impressive magic.

The piri piri balm you see above has been making the rounds with a few of my regular (and a couple of new) testers. Their feedback has been so interesting and surprising, I had to share these first responses with you.

Why Chili Balm

My initial interest in working with capsaicin started when I read it shows real promise for pain relief (to the point where it may even bump traditional use of opioids off the map).

It also shows promise in other areas such as
  • relieving itch
  • helping speed up healing
  • various hair and scalp issues
  Does this all sound a little amazing? I thought so, and have therefore been knee deep in all kinds of chili to test some of these things out for myself.

The Piri Piri Test Group

A batch of piri piri chili balm was made and sent to a willing group of testers, all with pain-related issues.

Tester 1: me (silly foot with arthritic pain)
Tester 2: gent in his 40's with occasional bouts of lower back pain
Tester 3: lady in late 50's with regular pains in wrist
Tester 4: gent in 60's with long-term shoulder pain
Tester 5: retired gent with regular pain in calves and ankles
Tester 6: lady in early 60's with arthritic pain in several joints

Testers were not given any special instructions other than to keep the balm clear of eyes and to otherwise apply as needed/desired, then to give me any and all feedback as they saw fit when they saw fit. (not very scientific, but then again, this is a self-funded experiment driven solely by my own curiosity)

Chili Balm Tester Feedback

Tester 2 

After about a month, tester 2 presented me with his initial feedback.

"I haven't had any back pain, but I get really itchy after showering and tried a bit on one arm. It stopped itching immediately so I put some on the other arm. It worked there too. I will let you know if it works next time I get back pain but meantime you may need to send more because I itch more often than I get back pain and this stuff is a life saver."

Tester 3 

After 2 weeks, the first feedback came in from tester 3, who said it 'seemed like the balm helped some for her wrists'.

She also had something quite unexpected to report.

On a whim, she had decided to apply the balm to an itchy rash she gets 'a few times a year'.

She sent the photos you see below (and kindly allowed me to share them with you). I cropped and put the photos side by side and added the text.

Her report: "When I get these rashes it usually takes a couple of weeks for them to go away, but it was almost completely gone in 24 hours. It did sting a bit when I applied the first time though. That was just before I went to bed, but it wasn't too bad. It already looked a lot better the next morning so I put some more on and then took the second photo the next night."

Tester 4

After about 10 days, I heard from tester 4 who reported the balm had not helped noticeably for his pain, but he did have other feedback.

Like testers 2 and 3, he had experimented with application and tried some balm on his lower leg where he had 'been struggling with a dermatological problem for years'.

He was astounded to discover the balm cleared up the issue completely within a few days and replied he was willing to sign on for any future test batches.

Testers 5 and 6

Still waiting for feedback.

Tester 1

As for my (silly) foot, I have the impression the balm helps, but as it is arthritic pain (and therefore occasional), it's a titch too early to conclude if this is because of the balm or just happenstance.

One thing is certain: I don't foresee being finished testing chili for topical use any time soon.

Do Tell

Do you make and use any chili products topically? Which chilis do you use? Please share in a comment below.

More Hot Stuff and Chili Info

Capsaicin - pubChem
Capsaicin - wikipedia
Capsaicin - current understanding of its mechanisms and therapy of pain and other pre clinical and clinical uses, MDPI, Molecules
New Approaches to Treating Pain, Wolkerstorfer
Systematic review of topical capsaicin in the treatment of pruritis, Intl Jr. of Dermatology, 2010


Anonymous said…
Lisa.....yes! I have used just Capsaicin powder many times on cuts to stop bleeding. The neat thing is that it forms sort of a scab to seal the wound then heals form the inside out. I might have to try infusion it in oil to try. Thanks for sharing. Ju Nell
Adrienne Walker said…
How can I become, a product tester?
LisaLise said…
@Anon - How very interesting that you have had been using the powder in this manner. You just inspired a research session :)

@Adrienne - If you send me some info about yourself via my contact page (there's also a link in the manu at the top of this page), we'll take it from there :)
Unknown said…
Hi Lisa, do you use fresh or dried piri piri in your infusion?
LisaLise said…
Hi Unknown - I have been using dried chilis for these oil infusions
suki-san said…
Hi Lise, i have also used the powder as a styptic..i've found that the most critical point RE: this application is the more finely the powder is ground & sieved,the more efficacious.
Also, i make multiple liniments in which i employ a capsicum oleoresin which i purchased from a company here in Oregon, US(let me know if anyone needs this info, i'll gladly pass it on)..anyways, one of the topical pain remedies i make is for charley-horses & it does not contain this ingredient, however, i make another which is for deep or chronic injury, that i recommend to apply at night before bed, that often helps in resolving the pain & easing much inflammation by morning..but then i made the huge mistake of adding it to a sore throat spray & my husband has yet to forgive me for that.
Ok,that's all the anecdotal data i have thus far gathered on this material.
Muchlove, suki
LisaLise said…
Thank you for sharing Suki — you really had me giggling with the sore throat mixup even though I can imagine it was not the least bit funny at the time :)
Jill A said…
Hi Lise, you have me wondering if this will work on the base of my thumb where I have occasional shooting pain from osteoarthritis that I developed over the last year or so. Closing in on 60 next year and would like to find something to help out as I am a quilter as well as a soap and skincare maker and I'm not looking forward to more pain as I get older thus cutting off my ability to craft. I need to find some of this dried piri piri and start infusing. Can I ask how long you let it infuse before using? Does the carrier oil matter that much? I was thinking of using a skin loving oil like olive, jojoba or sweet almond oil. Thanks for all you do to help us out...your expertise is priceless!
LisaLise said…
hey there Jill — you ask an interesting question! I would hope it helped but one doesn’t know without trying. My infusion for this chili was 6 weeks at room temp (sun infusion). To be honest, I think you could use almost any chili that has about the same strength on the scoville scale — maybe even a stronger or milder one will be helpful. Use any carrier you like - I tend to choose oils with long shelf life as I infuse at room temperature over a period of weeks. Best of luck with it and please feel free to drop a comment about how it goes if you give it a try! No post is too old for comments on the blog :)