Cayenne pepper, also known as chili pepper, has been a staple of diet and medicine since 7000 BC. Rich in nutrients including riboflavin, niacin, iron, magnesium, potassium, flavonoids, and carotenoids, it is also a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, B6, and manganese. Brought to England from Mexico in 1804 by Dr. John Stevens for use in medicinal herbal blends, it has potent antioxidant, analgesic and anti-inflammatory benefits which became well known in American soon after. Its active ingredient, capsaicin, is also found in other hot peppers and has a number of proven medical benefits.
Applied topically, capsaicin cream has strong pain-relieving abilities. It is thought to be able to temporarily block the chemical in nerves that actually transmits pain, thus providing real relief. Its uses include the treatment of fibromyalgia, nerve pain, and cluster headaches, as well as muscle, joint, and lower back pain.
Research has also shown that the pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects of capsaicin can help with the symptoms of both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Topical application can be used up to four times a day with impressive results.
Rubbing capsaicin cream on psoriasis sores can reduce itching and inflammation and lessen the intensity and duration of flare-ups. Many patients, however, do not like the initial, temporary side effects, which may include burning and stinging on application.
Some studies have indicated that ingesting cayenne or other hot peppers can suppress appetite and help you to feel fuller. The results are mixed, however, and some people find that they may become desensitized to the positive effects over time – just as people build up tolerance to eating hot and spicy foods.
There is some indication that regular ingestion of capsaicin may help to treat heartburn and reduce the incidence of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), but there is also contradictory research showing that instead, it exacerbates or even causes symptoms. It’s important to always pay attention to your own body and how it reacts to any potential treatment.
Early research suggests that capsaicin may help in the treatment of heart disease, including atherosclerosis, angina, cardiac hypertrophy, and irregular heart rhythm. More studies are needed, but the results so far are positive.
Some research shows that capsaicin also has tumor-fighting capabilities and may help to treat cancers including those of the gastrointestinal system, colon, skin, and prostate. Its chemo-preventive and chemotherapeutic effects are, however, still being researched and debated.
Other Potential Benefits
There are additional possible benefits of capsaicin that are still being studied, including fighting liver disease, metabolic syndrome, and hypertension.
Capsaicin offers many benefits, both as a culinary spice and as a potential medical treatment. Keep in mind that the best way to integrate any spice into your diet is to use the fresh or dried variety. If you decide to use capsaicin cream or oral supplements, make sure you are aware of The Truth About Supplements before you make any purchase.