Cayenne Pepper Benefits

Cayenne pepper is reemerging as a hot item among herbalists.  It may be a “bitter” medicine to swallow, but it packs a lot of punch.

Otherwise known as Capsicum annuum, cayenne pepper was mentioned in print by Nicholas Culpeper, an English physician who was also an avid cataloguer of medicinal herbs, in his 17th century book “Complete Herbal.”

The Mayan curanderos, or native healers in the highlands of Guatemala, use cayenne pepper to combat extreme cold, and in some cases, frostbite.  But while it encourages blood circulation, cayenne pepper is also notable as a coagulant, reducing bleeding and promoting clotting fast.

A plethora of clinical studies that have been conducted in our time have validated the age-old therapeutic value of cayenne pepper.  Now we know that capsaicin is largely responsible for cayenne pepper’s medicinal prowess.

Capsaicin is what causes the peppers’ burning sensation.  In medical practice, capsaicin is an active ingredient in topical ointments and concentrated dermal patches to relieve pain in the peripherals.  Relief comes because the chemical overwhelms the nerves by the influx of heat, and are therefore unable to report pain to the brain.  The effect stays as long as capsaicin is administered.  Once the chemical is removed, the neurons are able to recover and resume normal function.

Given the spice’s pain-relieving effects, a paste of dried and powdered cayenne pepper can be applied to aches and pains caused by arthritis, strains and sprains.  Then, when heat is felt, the paste is removed.  The same can be done to treat psoriasis.  Capsaicin reduces itching and causes inflammation to subside.

Since capsaicin produces heat, carbohydrates break down faster.  This suggests that cayenne pepper can be consumed to regulate blood sugar levels and possibly reverse diabetes.

You can throw away the apple and substitute cayenne pepper to keep the heart doctor away.  Capsaicin is known to stop heart attack on its tracks when administered at the onset of the attack.  Its heart benefits result from capsaicin’s ability to stabilize blood pressure, clear up arteries, and disperse bad cholesterol.  This is one reason why eating spicy foods make dieters lose weight gradually.  It has been said – and validated in the lab – that a glass of extra warm cayenne water can short-circuit cardiac arrest.

Going back to the promise of curing diabetes, capsaicin is currently being explored to treat Type 1 diabetes because capsaicin is thought to attract cells that attack pancreatic beta cells responsible for the disease.

Further, the American Association for Cancer Research reports studies that suggest capsaicin can induce apoptosis of prostate cancer cells.  In plain speak, this means that cancer cells are killed, before they can further colonize other organs.   In China and Japan, scientists have discovered that directly-injected natural capsaicin stunts the progress of leukemia.

Apart from these medical wonders out of a humble spice, there are a few more benefits that cayenne pepper confers:

  • Digestive aid.  Capsaicin rebuilds stomach tissues and improves the peristaltic action of the intestines (the action that moves undigested material out of the colon for evacuation).  Cayenne pepper also stimulates the stomach to secrete hydrochloric acid, which is the acidic building block of digestion.  This is also the reason why cayenne pepper is excellent for dyspepsia.
  • Anti-fungal agent.  The growth of fungi phomopsis and collectotrichum is stunted with capsaicin.
  • Anti-bacterial.  Cayenne pepper is traditionally used to prevent spoilage.
  • Toothache pain reliever.  The principle in relieving pain in decayed teeth is the same as the principle in relieving pain in muscle and joints:  neurons are overwhelmed, and they are short on time to signal the brain fast.
  • Anti-venom.  Cayenne pepper can be ground and applied on the snake bite area.
  • Liver decongestant.  The alkaloids in capsaicin – glucosides – cleanse the liver, combat anorexia, and cause hemorrhoids to regress.

Given the wealth of benefits that cayenne pepper bestows upon the eager, it won’t hurt to spice up one’s life.