The Health Benefits of Cayenne and Chili Peppers
Cayenne is a wonderful natural remedy to boost our health and get rid of numerous health problems such as digestive ailments, rheumatism, and improve circulation. Cayenne is also known as hot pepper, chili pepper, paprika, red pepper or its Latin name of Capsicum annuum.
The cayenne pepper is part of the capsicum family of vegetables more commonly known as chili peppers. The name cayenne was given to this pepper because it was grown near the city of Cayenne in French Guiana. The active ingredient in cayenne that gives it the medicinal properties is called capsaicin. All chili peppers contain capsaicin, which is what gives peppers their heat. The more capsaicin in a pepper the hotter it is.
Cayenne is full of nutritional and medicinal properties. Cayenne is high in both vitamins A and C, the complete range of the B complex vitamins, beta-carotene, which is a potent anti-oxidant and rich in calcium and potassium making it wonderful for the heart. Besides cayenne, there are many other types of chili peppers.
Inflammation and Pain Fighting
Topical creams and ointments containing capsaicin have been shown to reduce pain from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, muscle spasms, back pain, psoriasis and shingles and diabetic neuropathy. Capsaicin is the main active ingredient in the over-the-counter drugs Zostrix and Dolorac. In A study of 200 people, a topical application of capsaicin improved the itching and overall severity of psoriasis.
Cayenne itself instead of the capsaicin was used in a three-week double-blind study of 154 individuals with back pain, the cayenne was applied topically as a plaster and improved the pain to a greater extent than the placebo did.
Hungarian wax chili peppers. Photo by Greg Younger
Stomach Ailments and the Digestion System
For a long time it was thought that hot and spicy foods, like peppers were the cause of stomach ulcers. Since then it has been found that a bacterium, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) was found to be the leading cause of peptic ulcers and gastritis, which is inflammation of the stomach lining. Studies have shown that cayenne has the ability to prevent ulcers by killing this bacterium while also stimulating the cells lining the stomach causing the stomach to secrete protective buffering juices that prevent ulcer formation.
Cayenne helps the stomach to create hydrochloric acid, which the stomach needs to digest food properly and for the body to assimilate the nutrients from the food. Cayenne can relieve constipation by stimulating the peristaltic action of the intestines. Cayenne is great for relieving gas, bloating and rebuilding the tissues of the stomach.
Our circulatory systems can get sluggish because of a heavier fatty diet and a sedentary lifestyle. A diet higher in animal fats will cause the blood to become sluggish from a higher cholesterol level. Cayenne is a blood detoxifier and has been found to reduce cholesterol; triglyceride levels and platelet aggregation while at the same time increase the body’s ability to dissolve fibrin, a substance that is involved in the formation of blood clots. Smoother flowing blood means more oxygen flowing through the body, which means more energy and a higher metabolism and that can help with weight loss. Cayenne’s ability to cleanse the blood and improve circulation is very good for the heart and possibly reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular disease. Some have said that cayenne tea has revived heart attack patients.
Poblano chili pepper. Photo by Stef Yau
Colds and Flu Help
Cayenne is good for stimulating the immune system. Just eating a small amount of cayenne, chili peppers or chili powder makes you sweat and is good for breaking a fever, fighting infection and cleansing of your body. Cayenne and chili peppers can relieve congestion quickly. When you have a cold or flu and the mucous membranes are swollen and clogged up, just a little chili pepper in a bowl of chili can relieve the stuffiness almost instantly. This can also relieve tightness in the chest due to respiratory infections and illness.
With cayenne, chili peppers and chili powder, remember that a little bit goes a long way, unless you’re one of those individuals who can eat hot peppers all day long. Peppers like these are also used in pepper sprays that can stop a bear, so do not touch your face or eyes after handling peppers.
For some of these benefits like clearing a stuffy nose and lungs or breaking a fever it is probably better to eat the actual food itself. Add just a little bit of chili powder or peppers to chili, lentil stews and other dishes and soups. You can also buy cayenne already made into capsules and even tinctures. If you can’t eat hot peppers and you want the benefits of cayenne, you can take it in capsule form. The cayenne is usually in 450 to 500 mg (milligrams) capsules. You will also see a Scoville heat units (hu) on the container and the higher the number the hotter the peppers and the more capsaicin. I started taking 470 mg capsules rated at 42,000 heat units. Higher heat units can bother some people’s stomachs; if these don’t then you can raise the heat units. If you can, add some peppers to as many meals per week and get all the health benefits of cayenne and chili peppers.
The asthma drug theophylline; Cayenne might increase the amount you absorb, possibly leading to toxic levels.
If you are taking a blood thinner such as Warfarin (Coumadin), talk to your doctor before taking cayenne supplements since cayenne can reduce blood clotting.
© 2009 Sam Montana
The Health Benefits of Cayenne by John Heinerman
 Frerick H, Keitel W, Kuhn U, et al. Topical treatment of chronic low back pain with a capsicum plaster. Pain . 2003;106:59-64
 Bouraoui A, Toumi A, Mustapha HB, et al. Effects of capsicum fruit on theophylline absorption and bioavailability in rabbits. Drug Nutr Interact. 1998;5:345-350.