The benefits of cayenne pepper might actually be of greater value to your health as a staple in your medicine cabinet rather than in your spice rack.
The cayenne pepper, or Capiscum annum, derives its proper name from a Greek word meaning “to bite,” a clear allusion to the pungent properties of the plant and its seeds. However, it’s the many medicinal benefits of cayenne pepper that earned it the nickname “The King of Herbs”.
Many people think of this spicy little beauty as just a delicious way to boost the flavor of their cooking, but the health benefits of cayenne pepper is a valuable medical tool with a wide range of uses.
According to a combination of herbal lore and medical research, cayenne pepper benefits may:
- Ease congestion
- Aid in weight reduction
- Prevent tooth decay
- Support digestion
- Heal ulcers
- Stop hemorrhaging
- Relieve infection
- Cure arthritis
- Numb pain
- Clean the blood
- Regulate blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol
- Nourish the heart
Part of the logic behind the many herbal applications of capsicum is that it is a catalyst, and can be used to enhance the effects of other treatments. Little is known about the pharmacological activities of capsicum in humans, but it is abundantly clear that capsicum is a stimulant. In fact, it has been called “the purest and most certain stimulant in the herbal materia medica.”
The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 23 ed., 1943, states that “Capsicum is a powerful local stimulant, producing, when swallowed, a sense of heat in the stomach, and a general glow over the body without narcotic effect.”
Chili peppers have long reigned over the canon of folk medicine. Archeological remains show that capsicum was a dietary staple in Mexico 9,000 years ago. In Indonesia, capsicum is used as a traditional remedy for gonorrhea. In central Africa, it’s used as a calming, stress-relieving tonic. In Hawaii, it’s used for backaches, rheumatism, and swollen feet.
Cayenne Pepper Health Benefits: Treating Heart Conditions
Some reports even suggest that capsicum, one of the benefits of cayenne pepper can prevent heart attacks. One study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 1979 found that capsicum contained the most natural vitamin E — often used to treat heart conditions — of all the edible plants analyzed by the research team.
In a fresh, ripe pepper, the researchers measured 3-10mg/.100gs, meaning capsicum can be considered a significant dietary source of vitamin E.
Additionally, the form of vitamin E found in capsicum is an especially stable one, which makes it particularly well-suited for medical applications.
Recently, capsicum research has been centered on the pepper’s potential viability as a cancer treatment. According to the American Association for Cancer Research, capsaicin (the same component of the cayenne that makes the peppers so peppery) causes cancer cells to commit apoptosis. In plain language, that means that capsaicin causes cancer cells to kill themselves.
This claim comes from a study done by a team of researchers from the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, along with colleagues from UCLA. The researchers discovered that the capsaicin component of the cayenne pepper caused human prostate cells to undergo programmed cell death.
As exciting as these results are, the Association has been careful to emphasize that more studies need to be done before it’s clear how capsaicin can be used in treating humans.
The benefits of cayenne pepper range from cancer to our daily health needs. Another promising line of research is the use of capsicum as an important aid to weight reduction. Studies done over the last 30 years indicate that capsicum has enormous potential for promoting fat loss.
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition stated that capsicum has been successfully used to increase the loss of abdominal fat for overweight or obese individuals.
Other studies indicate that capsicum can help those looking to shed pounds by:
- Normalizing insulin and glucose levels
- Boosting energy
- Increasing metabolic speed
- Suppressing hunger
- Promoting satiety (the feeling of fullness)
Those last 2 items — suppressing hunger and promoting satiety — can be strengthened if you also consume green tea regularly as a part of your weight management strategy.
There are just as many good ways to work capsicum into your diet as there are good reasons. If you like spice, go for the peppers themselves — the options for using peppers in cooking are endless! If your mouth can’t take the heat, there are a number of good quality supplements available that won’t leave your tongue tingling.