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Capsicum Plasters: What’s Old is New Again

Margaret on October 5th, 2007 at 5:04PM

I just read that scientists at Harvard Medical School have developed a new anaesthetic that uses capsaicin – the active ingredient in chili peppers that makes them spicy – in combination with another chemical, to block pain without affecting touch or movement. In other words, this may eventually hold the possibility of being able to block pain without numbing or paralyzing the affected area.   The articles are here, here and here.  

capsicum-plasters10001.jpg

Page from 19th Century Salesman’s Book Showing Capsicum Plasters 

The interesting thing is that over 100 years ago, capsaicin was being used as a medication to…block pain.  In fact, Johnson & Johnson manufactured and sold a medicated plaster called a Capsicum Plaster with exactly this active ingredient.  Capsicum Plasters were used for topical pain relief, and were placed directly over the area of the body that was hurting. 

 capsicum-plasters3.jpg

Popular Medicated Plasters, Including Capsicum Plasters (Left).  The bright orange-red of the package is reminiscent of the color of a chili pepper.

The Company also sold a plaster called a Bellcapsic Plaster, which contained both capsaicin and belladonna – both pain relievers. Here’s a picture of a box of Dr. Grosvenor’s Bellcapsic Plasters, which is an example of some of the beautiful packaging found on some 19th century products.   

Dr. Grosvenor's Bellcapsic Plaster, 1800s

Dr. Grosvenor’s Bellcapsic Plaster Box

Medicated plasters were made from an India rubber compound that was infused with a medication and rolled into flat pieces.  One side of the plaster would have an adhesive so that it could stick to the skin and deliver the medication directly to or over the affected area of the body.  They were one of the most popular 19th century medical products, and plasters are still made today in some areas of the world, such as Asia.

Open Response to Capsicum Plasters: What’s Old is New Again

  1. Hi,

    Can you help? My mother bought something called a capsicum plaster/bandage in India and wondered how she could buy it in the uk?

  2. Kamal,

    Unfortunately, I can’t help with that. Johnson & Johnson has not made capsicum plasters for about one hundred years now. Your mother should check to see if anyone carries the modern-day ones close to where she lives.

  3. I AM REALLY SURPRISED TO SEE NOTE ABOVE( YOUR REPLY) JOHNSON & JOHNSON WAS REGULARLY MANUFACTURING CAPSICUM PLASTERS FOR SEVERAL YEARS IN INDIA. EVEN NOW, THIS PLASTER IS AVAILABLE ABROAD ( MANUFACTURED IN INDIA). I REALLY DONT KNOW WHETHER IT IS AVAILABLE IN INDIA OR NOT, BUT YES IT IS FREELY AVAILABLE ABROAD ( I WAS IN DUBAI RECENTLY AND IT IS AVAILABLE FREELY THERE)

  4. SURPRISINGLY IT IS NOT AVAILABLE IN INDIA. BESIDES, THERE ARE SEVERAL BELLADONNA PLASTER MANUFACTURERS IN INDIA, BUT HARDLY ANY ONE WHO MANUFACTURE CAPSICUM BELLADONNA PLASTER. IT IS ALSO NOT AVAILABLE COMMONLY IN GUJARAT – INDIAN MARKET.

  5. My brother is suffering from veins blockage and for the treatment he instantly needs johnson and johnson capsicum plaster. Can you suggest me where in India can i get these plaster.

  6. Bhavisha,

    Unfortunately, we have not made capsicum plasters in many, many decades. They are an historical product from the early days of Johnson & Johnson, as I had noted in the post. Your best chance would be to look locally in India.

    Best of luck,

    Margaret

  7. I found these plasters in Sana’a, Yemen; they are very common there. Manufactured in India (I did not photograph the back of the package, unfortunately)

    Image at :

    http://www.glowfoto.com/static_image/11-025319L/9965/jpg/10/2010/img6/glowfoto

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