The transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) is an excitatory cation channel, rather selectively expressed in a subpopulation of nociceptive, primary sensory neurons that promote neurogenic inflammation via neuropeptide release. TRPV1 is activated by noxious temperature, low extracellular pH and diverse lipid derivatives, and is uniquely sensitive to vanilloid molecules, including capsaicin. TRPV1 expression and sensitivity is highly regulated by diverse G protein-coupled and tyrosine kinase receptors. Other exogenous or endogenous chemical agents, including reactive oxygen species, ethanol and hydrogen sulphide sensitize/activate TRPV1. In the airways, TRPV1 agonists cause cough, bronchoconstriction, microvascular leakage, hyperreactivity and hypersecretion. Patients with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are more sensitive to the tussive effect of TRPV1 agonists and TRPV1 activation may contribute to respiratory symptoms caused by acidic media present in the airways during asthma exacerbation, gastroesophageal reflux induced asthma or in other conditions. TRPV1 antagonists may be useful in the treatment of these diseases.