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  • Writer's pictureDr. Cari S. Miller

Cayenne Pepper benefits your gut, heart, relieves pain, and MORE!

Many of us have used cayenne pepper to add a little spice to meals, but did you know it is also a powerful herb that has many health benefits? It has been used as a food additive, as well as a medicine for over 9,000 years! Cayenne pepper is a fruit of the capsicum plant and contains a chemical called capsaicin.



Cayenne Pepper

Health Benefits

 

1.     Helps Digestion and Gut Function Capsaicin has a positive effect on the digestive system. It helps to stimulate our salivary glands to produce saliva, which is needed to begin the digestion process. It also stimulates production of gastric juices which aid in our body’s ability to metabolize foods and eliminate toxins.

2.     Helps in Weight-Loss  If you’re trying to lose weight, you should consider adding capsaicin to your diet, as research has found this to help lower body weight, speed up metabolism, burn fat and suppresses appetite.

3.     Aids in Blood Sugar and Insulin Regulation, especially for people with Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome Capsaicin has been shown to improve blood sugar and insulin sensitivity, even in women with gestational diabetes. Capsaicin cream is also helpful in treating diabetic neuropathy, a painful condition associated with diabetes.

4.     Relieves Pain in Joints and from Nerve Pain Capsaicin is a natural painkiller. While researchers have yet to discover the exact mechanism of action for this property, we are learning more all the time. It appears, capsaicin provides an analgesic relief through activation of the TRPV1 receptor which causes the brain to release a neurotransmitter called "Substance P." A 2021 study found capsaicin was effective in relieving neuropathic pain. This is the type of pain which commonly involves weakness, numbness, and pain from nerve damage usually in the hands of feet. Similarly, research has also revealed positive pain-relieving aspect of injecting capsaicin into cartilage and tendons connected to damaged rotator cuffs.

5.     Helps Protect the Brain Studies show that capsaicin can help the brain and central nervous system in various ways, such as reducing neurodegeneration and memory impairment for Alzheimer’s patients. For those with Parkinson’s Disease, capsaicin acts as a neuroprotectant, which fights against oxidative damage and lessens behavioral impairments.

6.     Decreases Incidence of Cluster Headaches and Migraines This is an example of capsaicin’s pain-relieving properties. In this situation, capsaicin is applied as a cream to the inside of the nostril on the side of your head suffering from the headaches. A study conducted by the Institute of Internal Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Florence, Italy found a decrease in the frequency of headaches for their test subjects for up to 60 days after ending this treatment option. Studies suggest capsaicin stimulates a pain response in a different part of the body that causes the brain to focus attention on the new site allowing it to no longer focus on the pain in the head which would lead to migraines.

7.     Treats Psoriasis Capsaicin has a long history of being used to treat skin conditions, including dry, itchy psoriasis. Studies have shown application of capsaicin cream to dramatically decrease psoriasis break-outs. (Be aware some patients have reported initial application of capsaicin cream brings some minor burning, itching and/or stinging, but these go away after the first few applications.)

8.     Helpful in Treating Cancer One of the many benefits of consuming capsaicin from cayenne pepper is its powerful effect against cancer. It has been found to have positive effects on shrinking tumors, preventing metastasis, causing apoptosis in various cancer models, and even potentially preventing cancer in the first place. Various studies have shown capsaicin can be effective in fighting prostate cancer, including a 2006 study at UCLA School of Medicine which showed it to have a “profound anti-proliferative effect” on this type of cancer. Another example is a study which showed capsaicin to be effective in killing breast cancer stem cells. Animal research suggests capsaicin helps to decrease the size and frequency of lung tumors.

 

How to Use it?

The simplest away is by adding some cayenne pepper to your foods or eating foods with a high capsaicin content, such as different chili peppers (except bell peppers). You can also take it in supplement form, such as cayenne powder pills” or as a cream. I like to add some to my coffee each morning. Risks… Don’t put it in your eyes…it will burn. Use it in moderate doses – too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Cayenne pepper/capsaicin may increase bleeding during and after surgery, so stop using it a couple of weeks before scheduled surgeries. Be careful if you are using pharmaceuticals which can slow blood clotting, such as anticoagulants and anti-platelet drugs (clopidogrel, diclofenac, warfarin). Also, be aware capsicum can also increase your response to theophylline – a bronchodilator used to treat asthma and lung problems.

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