It is part of the Capsicum family of vegetables, commonly known as chili peppers, and it was originally cultivated in South and Central America. Its spicy heat comes because of the high concentration of capsaicin.
We have listed the top 10 health benefits provided by cayenne pepper, including some of the reasons why you should be careful when it comes to including this spice in your diet.
1. Cayenne Pepper Reduces Muscle And Joint Pain, as Well as Inflammation
Applying cayenne pepper can be really effective in reducing muscle and joint pain, or even inflammation. This comes due to its counter-irritant effect: when applying cayenne on the affected area, it usually causes a mild irritation to the tissue, distracting you from the original pain. Cayenne contains an active ingredient called capsaicin, which relieves pain by affecting the sensory nerves. Actually, it hinders the transmission of the neurotransmitter which is responsible for transmitting pain signals to the brain.
2. Relieves Migraine
Once cayenne pepper hits your stomach, your brains starts releasing endorphins, known as natural painkillers. If you have no problems consuming this spice, add 1 to 3 teaspoons of cayenne pepper to a glass of water and there you have your instant remedy for migraine headache.
3. Increases metabolism
The capsaicin in cayenne pepper is known to increase metabolism by increasing the internal heat of the body. In order to increase heat, energy is needed, and thus cayenne pepper contributes to increased metabolism. Another theory by a South Korean research suggests that capsaicin might raise the metabolism by positively affecting proteins that help break down fat. You can find here more foods to increase your metabolism.
4. Improves blood circulation
Cayenne has been used to improve blood circulation in traditional Asian medicine as well as in the Indian medicine of Ayurveda. To improve blood circulation, some herbalists suggest taking a quarter-teaspoon three times a day or placing a poultice made with cayenne to boost circulation in a troublesome area. Eating spicy foods, which contain capsaicin from hot peppers increases blood flow throughout the body, and this is why many people become flushed when they eat certain spicy foods. Read here how to improve blood circulation and why it’s so important, and how to recognize symptoms of poor blood circulation.
5. Treats psoriasis
Applying a topical cream, ointment or gel containing capsaicin can help to relieve psoriasis symptoms. According to one study, applying capsaicin cream to the skin relieved itching and skin lesions in people with psoriasis. The concentration of capsaicin in these applications can vary. Higher concentrations can cause a burning sensation to the skin, which improves the longer you use it. Don’t apply it to the sensitive areas near the eyes and mucous membranes and don’t forget to wash your hands well and avoid touching your eyes after using capsaicin. It’s always a good idea to test capsaicin cream on a small area of the skin before extended use.
6. Treats ulcers
Cayenne pepper may prevent the development of gastric ulcer or eliminate the pain caused by it. While hot spices have a bad reputation in the context of an ulcer, the truth is that capsaicin in cayenne pepper has the ability to destroy invasive bacteria in the digestive system and reduce inflammation in the body. A 2006 review published in the journal “Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition” reported that capsaicin slows the production of acid in the stomach, stimulates blood flow to the stomach lining and enhances the release of mucus in the stomach, and all these aid in healing. The capsaicin in cayenne pepper has anti-bacterial properties that also actively fight the Helicobacter pylori bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers. You can find here more information in my other post on how to treat stomach ulcers.
7. Reducing nasal mucus
Capsaicin effects tissue lining mucous membranes in the nose, sinuses and lungs. Cayenne pepper thins mucous in the nasal passageways and sinuses and makes breathing easier when you are suffering from seasonal allergies, a sinus infection and even the common cold. You can, for example, add cayenne pepper to a tea if you have a cold, as it stimulates drainage of nasal mucus and reduces cold symptoms.
8. Improves heart health
Research available from the U.S. National Library of Medicine shows that capsaicin can lower blood pressure. Also a comparison between different cultures shows that those which use a lot of cayenne pepper in cooking have lower rates of heart attacks and strokes.
Cayenne pepper has been shown to reduce plaque in the blood vessels. It does this by helping break up the fibrin networks that hold the plaque in place. It also reduces the formation of blood clots, and thus keeps blood flowing freely through the blood vessels. This may help prevent or reduce the risk of heart disease.
9. Aids digestion
Cayenne pepper can improve your digestive process and make it more effective and fast. It stimulates the digestive tract, and increases the flow of enzyme production and gastric juices, thus improving the body’s ability to metabolize food. You can make a drink of ¼ – ½ teaspoon cayenne powder with the juice of half a lemon, mixed with warm purified or distilled water. To improve the taste, you can add a teaspoon of honey or other sugar substitute. If you suffer from digestive problems, you can read my previous article about the 8 best natural methods to treat digestive problems.
10. Possible anti-cancer agent
According to the American Cancer Society, the capsaicin in cayenne pepper has the ability to stop the growth of prostate cancer cells. However, the research that supports cayenne pepper as a treatment for prostate cancer was conducted only in laboratory and it was tested only on animals. Researchers are still investigating the potential use of cayenne pepper to treat cancer in humans.
How to use cayenne pepper
Cayenne pepper is available as a fresh or dried pepper, ground spice, in capsule form and creams for external use. You can drink cayenne pepper tea (about one quarter to half teaspoon of cayenne pepper steeped in a cup of hot water). You can add it to food, or stir it into juice, tea or milk. Capsaicin isn’t destroyed by heat, so you can use it in cooking as well.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center website, topical applications contain 0.025% – 0.075% capsaicin and may be applied directly to the affected area up to 4 times a day. Pain may get slightly worse at first, but then may get better over the next few days. Capsaicin should be applied regularly several times a day, and it usually takes 3 – 7 days before you notice substantial pain relief.
Precautions when using cayenne pepper
- Cayenne pepper can interact with certain medications (such as aspirin and blood thinners). Therefore if you are currently taking medications, talk to your doctor before you include large amounts of cayenne pepper in your diet or take cayenne supplements.
- Eating too much cayenne pepper can result in stomach irritation as well as stomach pain.
- Don’t apply capsaicin cream to cracked skin or open wounds.
- Eating cayenne in food is considered safe during pregnancy, but pregnant women as well as breastfeeding women, should not take cayenne as a supplement.