Chilli and its pungent ingredient, capsaicin, have been shown to protect against experimental gastric mucosal injury induced by various necrotizing agents such as ethanol and aspirin and stress. We investigated the effect of capsaicin and long-term ingestion of chilli on haemorrhagic shock-induced gastric mucosal injury in the rat. Anaesthetized male Sprague-Dawley rats were subjected to haemorrhagic shock by withdrawing blood to reduce the mean arterial blood pressure to 30-40 mmHg with subsequent reinfusion of shed blood. This resulted in gastric mucosal injury with readily identifiable haemorrhagic lesions. Capsaicin (5 mg) administered prior to, but not after, haemorrhagic shock, significantly reduced the gastric mucosal injury in intact animals. Sensory ablation with capsaicin pretreatment (125 mg/kg bodyweight) abolished the gastroprotective effect afforded by capsaicin. Similarly, 4 week intake of chilli powder (360 mg daily) reduced the gastric mucosal injury in intact, but not in capsaicin-desensitized rats. Capsaicin and long-term chilli intake protected against haemorrhagic shock-induced gastric mucosal injury and the protection may be mediated by capsaicin-sensitive afferent neurons. Our studies are of potential significance in the context of stress ulcer disease in the human.