Using pepper spray didn’t start to be popular as a self defense product until the 1980’s. However, history indicates that red chili pepper was in use for personal protection in ancient India and China.
There are quite a few historical documents showing it’s use in China thousands of years ago. Chinese people and even warriors had a innovative technique of making use of this spice. They would wrap grounded cayenne in rice papers making it easy to throw in the faces of people.
It was favored as a weapon of choice for self defense because it would incapacitate a person momentarily. The secret martial art society in ancient Japan called the Ninjas has been using grounded pepper for disabling their adversaries for hundreds of years.
Historical data reveals that in the Tokugawa Empire era in Japan, starting in the early 1600’s, the police used a weapon called the Metsubishi. This Japanese weapon would temporarily blind an enemy. Ninja and law officers use it when they wanted to take someone alive. The Metsubishi was a little square or round box that was hollow and could be opened and loaded with different powders. These included pepper and ground glass, depending on what they were trying to accomplish. Attach a mouthpiece to the box and you could easily blow the powders into the face of the target. It was a very small and easily concealed weapon.