Cannabinoid agonists attenuate capsaicin-induced responses in human skin

Pain. 2003 Apr;102(3):283-288. doi: 10.1016/S0304-3959(02)00401-3.


The induction of hyperalgesia upon capsaicin administration requires activation of specific sub-classes of nociceptive afferent C-fibres providing nociceptive input to the central nervous system. It has been demonstrated in animal models that the endocannabinoid anandamide has anti-hyperalgesic properties upon capsaicin stimulation, albeit it also binds to vanilloid receptors. In the present study we topically administered the cannabinoid receptor ligand HU210 to human skin and investigated its effects on capsaicin-induced pain and hyperalgesia.We demonstrated that pre-treatment with HU210 significantly reduced the perception of pain following the administration of capsaicin. Heat pain thresholds were significantly reduced by capsaicin application measured 5 and 30min after administration. In contrast, at the HU210 pre-treated skin sites capsaicin failed to induce heat hyperalgesia during the fifth minute of administration. Secondary mechanical hyperalgesia to touch (allodynia) was measured during the fifth, 15th and 30th minute after capsaicin administration. In comparison to the ethanol control site, the area of touch-evoked allodynia was significantly reduced at the HU210 skin site during the first two measures. However, 30min after the administration of capsaicin no significant differences of allodynia were observed between the HU210 and ethanol pre-treated skin. The present study provided evidence for analgesic and anti-hyperalgesic properties of a topically applied cannabinoid receptor ligand, which might have important therapeutic implications in humans.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology*
  • Cannabinoids / therapeutic use
  • Capsaicin / pharmacology*
  • Dronabinol / analogs & derivatives*
  • Dronabinol / pharmacology
  • Dronabinol / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperalgesia
  • Male
  • Pain Measurement / drug effects*
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Pain Measurement / psychology
  • Skin / drug effects*


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Cannabinoids
  • Dronabinol
  • HU 211
  • Capsaicin