Capsaicin, the pungent ingredient of chilli, is gastroprotective against experimental gastric injury when given intragastrically. Epidemiological and clinical data suggest that chilli ingestion may have a beneficial effect on human peptic ulcer disease. This study showed a gastroprotective effect of intragastric capsaicin, in doses of 2 and 5 mg, on ethanol induced gastric mucosal injury using macroscopic, histological, scanning electron microscopic, and biochemical indices. Subcutaneous administration of 2 mg of capsaicin had the same gastroprotective effect as intragastric administration. Acute intragastric administration and chronic ingestion of chilli powder in doses comparable with that consumed in humans (up to 200 mg in single doses or 200 mg daily for four weeks) likewise protected the gastric mucosa. Both the mucosa and gastric juice had higher mucus contents when capsaicin or chilli rather than saline or solvent was used before ethanol challenge. In control animals capsaicin also increased gastric juice mucus content although the mucosal content was unaffected. Increased gastric mucus production may therefore be one mechanism by which capsaicin and chilli exert their gastroprotective effect although an alternative explanation is that the reduction in mucosal mucus depletion is secondary to the protective effect of capsaicin and chilli.
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