Natural Medicine Cabinet: Health Benefits of Cayenne Peppers

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Turn up the heat on your health with cayenne pepper! Capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne and other hot peppers, plays a number of protective and preventive roles in the body, both internally and externally. This spicy vegetable might burn as it goes down or as you apply it to your skin, but you know what they say: no pain, no gain!

Pain Relief: The capsaicin in cayenne peppers can provide pain relief by interfering with the transmission of pain signals between the brain and the body. It can also help reduce inflammation, which plays a major role in conditions such as arthritis. Although it may burn slightly when applied, capsaicin creams, ointments and lotions are effective at treating pain from joint problems such as arthritis, skin conditions, cluster headaches, nervous system problems and post-surgery pain.

Colds and Congestion: Do you know how eating a spicy meal makes your nose run? Well, the same principle is at work in using cayenne peppers to treat colds. Capsaicin stimulates the mucous membranes, breaking up congestion and clearing your nasal passages. Say hello to normal breathing again!

hot peppers 
All chili peppers contain capsaicin. The hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin—and the more health benefits—it contains. Photo By John Winkelman/Courtesy Flickr. 

Antioxidants: Like all colorful vegetables, cayenne peppers are bursting with antioxidants. This spicy vegetable packs a powerful punch of vitamins A and C, including immune-boosting beta-carotene.

Heart Health: Cayenne pepper’s warming properties stimulate blood flow and offer a number of heart-health benefits. Capsaicin in peppers increases production of nitric oxide, which protects blood vessels from damage, and lowers blood pressure with continued use. Capsaicin can also reduce high cholesterol and fight inflammation, a critical element in many heart complications.

Stomach Health: Cayenne pepper stimulates the muscles along the digestive track and aids digestion. Cayenne peppers have also been known to help heal ulcers, too, although most doctors tell patients with ulcers to avoid spicy foods.