A rubefacient is a substance for topical application that produces redness of the skin e.g. by causing dilation of the capillaries and an increase in blood circulation. They have sometimes been used to relieve acute or chronic pain, but there is limited evidence as to their efficacy; and as of 2010 the best evidence does not support using gels and creams containing rubefacients for this purpose.
Common medicinal rubefacients include:
- Salicylates, such as methyl salicylate (oil of wintergreen)
- Nicotinate esters
- Capsaicin, derived from Cayenne, Capsicum minimum, "incites irritation without rubefaction"
- Isopropanol (rubbing alcohol)
- Thurfyl nicotinate (Trafuril)
Common herbal rubefacients include:
- Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum)
- Garlic (Allium sativum)
- Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
- Horseradish (Cochlearia armoracia)
- Mustard (Brassica alba or Brassica nigra)
- Nettle (Urtica dioica)
- Rosemary oil (Rosmarinus officinalis)
- Rue (Ruta graveolens)
- Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
- Matthews et al. 2009 Topical rubefacients for acute and chronic pain in adults Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009 (3):CD007403
- Mason et al. 2004 Systematic review of efficacy of topical rubefacients containing salicylates for the treatment of acute and chronic pain BMJ 328:995
- Matthews, P; Derry, S; Moore, RA; McQuay, HJ (November 2010). "Topical rubefacients for acute and chronic pain in adults.". Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Online) (3): CD007403. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007403.pub2. PMID 19588430.