Fiercely hot and pungent cayenne pepper is one of the most popular spicy ingredients. Belonging to the Capsicum genus, the hotness of cayenne on the Scoville scale is 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville heat units.
It is used in whole and powdered form in different cuisines, particularly in south-western American and Mexican cuisine.
It has been a part of Native American cuisine and medicine for thousands of years. Plus, it’s widely used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines.
The active compound capsaicin is what brings the heat to the table. In fact, many of the health benefits of cayenne pepper are also attributed to the capsaicin.
It also contains vitamins C, A, B6 and E, potassium, manganese, copper, iron and several flavonoids, which provide its powerful antioxidant properties.
Capsaicin is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in over-the-counter products and can be found in creams and ointments.
Regular intake of a very small amount of cayenne pepper is also beneficial for your health in many ways.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of cayenne pepper.
The compound capsaicin in cayenne pepper exhibits an anti-inflammatory effect that helps reduce pain and inflammation.
It also prevents the activation of the brain’s pain transmitters, which in turn reduces the feeling of pain. Be it achy joints or tender muscles, cayenne pepper is highly effective.
Over-the-counter creams or ointments containing between 0.025 and 0.075 percent purified capsaicin is recommended by health experts to relieve pain and tenderness from osteoarthritis, joint pain due to arthritis, nerve pain from shingles, pain after surgery, leg pain from diabetic neuropathy and even back pain.
A 2011 study published in the British Journal of Anesthesia notes that topical application of capsaicin cream is effective for pain management.
Also, a 2010 study published in Phytotherapy Research shed light on the effectiveness and safety of topical capsaicin cream in the treatment of chronic soft tissue pain.
Using cayenne pepper, you can make a homemade pain-relieving ointment.
Note: Never use cayenne pepper on broken or irritated skin.
Capsaicin in cayenne pepper works as a powerful antioxidant and helps dilate blood vessels to ensure proper blood flow throughout the body and organs.
It even encourages fibrinolytic activity and prevents factors that lead to the formation of blood clots.
With proper blood circulation, the risk of developing blood clots and several heart problems is reduced.
Capsaicin also helps reduce triglycerides and low-density lipoproteins (LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol), two of the major risk factors for heart disease. It even helps lower blood pressure and get rid of blockages in arteries and veins.
This spicy ingredient helps to reduce appetite. This means less caloric intake throughout the day, which helps in reaching your weight-loss target.
Plus, being a great metabolic-booster, cayenne pepper helps the body burn excess fat more quickly.
Also, it aids in digestion and absorption of nutrients, which are essential for maintaining a healthy body weight.
A 2009 study published in Clinical Nutrition notes that capsaicin as well as green tea suppressed hunger and increased satiety more during negative than positive energy balance.
Another 2009 study published in the same journal reports that treatment with 6 mg/d capsinoids orally safely promoted loss of abdominal fat.
A 2011 study published in Physiology & Behavior also highlights the positive effects of hedonically acceptable red pepper doses on appetite.
Add ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper to your breakfast juice or smoothie to suppress appetite and burn calories.
In addition to weight loss, cayenne pepper also supports detoxification, which in turn protects your body from diseases and promotes optimum health. Detoxification assists the liver and gallbladder to get rid of harmful toxins in the body.
As cayenne is a circulatory stimulant, it raises the temperature of the body and kick-starts your metabolism to streamline the natural detoxification process. Plus, it activates the sweat glands, another important factor in detoxification.
Cayenne is also effective when suffering from a sore throat. Capsaicin works as a natural decongestant to provide relieve from inflammation and even controls mucus production in the nasal passages. Plus, it helps eliminate infection causing germs.
Note: These remedies are not recommended for small children.
Cayenne pepper may help prevent cancer of the lungs, liver, prostate, breast and skin. This again is related to the goodness of capsaicin, which induces cancer cells to kill themselves in a process called apoptosis.
A 2006 study published in Cancer Research reports that capsaicin inhibits the growth of androgen-independent, p53 mutant prostate cancer cells in animals.
However, further studies are still needed to determine if the benefits of capsaicin extend to humans.
Another 2010 study published in Oncogene notes that capsaicin causes cell-cycle arrest and apoptosis in ER-positive and negative breast cancer cells by modulating the EGFR/HER-2 pathway. This helps in the treatment and prevention of breast cancer.
Simply include a little bit of cayenne pepper in your daily diet to reduce you risk of cancer.
Whether you are suffering from a tension, migraine or cluster headache, you can reduce the pain with cayenne pepper.
Capsaicin offers pain-relief abilities and healing powers. It is very effective for migraine pain. Capsaicin reduces the platelet aggregation factor, which is often responsible for the onset of migraine headaches by constricting blood circulation in your head.
You can also get relief from a cluster headache with capsaicin-based gels or ointments.
A 1993 double-blind placebo-controlled trial published in Cephalalgia suggested that topical application of capsaicin cream is effective for treatment of cluster headaches.
Capsaicin desensitizes sensory neurons by depleting the nerve terminals of substance P., a neuropeptide associated with inflammatory processes and pain.
Cayenne pepper also works as an anti-cold and flu agent and provides quick relief from common cold and flu symptoms, particularly congestion.
The fiery effect of cayenne helps stimulate secretions, which in turn relieves nasal congestion and blocked sinuses. It even induces sneezing to help get rid of the mucus and allergens in your sinuses.
A 2011 study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology reports that patients who used a capsaicin nasal spray over a period of two weeks had less congestion.
Topical application of capsaicin is effective in treating psoriasis. Its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties significantly improve itching and other symptoms. Plus, being an antimicrobial agent, it helps prevent infection.
A 1993 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology states that topical application of capsaicin effectively treats pruritic psoriasis.
In this double-blind study, 197 patients applied 0.025 percent capsaicin cream four times a day for six weeks and the result was very satisfactory.
Apply capsaicin-based cream or lotion on the affected area a few times a day. It usually takes 3 to 7 days before you start noticing improvement in your skin condition.
Note: Do not apply it onthe sensitive areas near the eyes and mucous membranes and always wash your hands thoroughly after using capsaicin.
Cayenne pepper is an excellent agent for supporting oral health and preventing gum disease that can range from gingivitis to periodontitis. Be it swollen gums, a toothache, bad breath, bleeding gums or dry mouth, cayenne pepper can help deal with these oral problems.
It has pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce pain and swelling of the gums. As it stimulates saliva production, it can even treat dry mouth and bad breath.
Warnings and Safety Measures
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