Capsaicin and Gut Microbiota in Health and Disease

Molecules. 2020 Dec 2;25(23):5681. doi: 10.3390/molecules25235681.


Capsaicin is a widespread spice known for its analgesic qualities. Although a comprehensive body of evidence suggests pleiotropic benefits of capsaicin, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-proliferative, metabolic, or cardioprotective effects, it is frequently avoided due to reported digestive side-effects. As the gut bacterial profile is strongly linked to diet and capsaicin displays modulatory effects on gut microbiota, a new hypothesis has recently emerged about its possible applicability against widespread pathologies, such as metabolic and inflammatory diseases. The present review explores the capsaicin-microbiota crosstalk and capsaicin effect on dysbiosis, and illustrates the intimate mechanisms that underlie its action in preventing the onset or development of pathologies like obesity, diabetes, or inflammatory bowel diseases. A possible antimicrobial property of capsaicin, mediated by the beneficial alteration of microbiota, is also discussed. However, as data are coming mostly from experimental models, caution is needed in translating these findings to humans.

Keywords: antioxidant; antitumoral; capsaicin; capsinoids; diabetes; energy metabolism; immune system; inflammatory bowel disease; microbiota; obesity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antipruritics / pharmacology*
  • Capsaicin / pharmacology*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / prevention & control*


  • Antipruritics
  • Capsaicin