Cayenne Pepper Health Benefits

November 4, 2010 in Herbal Medicine by admin

Cayenne Pepper - Health Benefits

Cayenne Pepper - Health Benefits

Cayenne, also known as red pepper, was first introduced to the world outside the Americas by the Caribbean Indians, who gave it to Columbus. Since then its popularity has spread, and it has become an important spice, particularly in Cajun and Creole cooking, and in the cuisines of southeast Asia, China, southern Italy, and Mexico. Capsaicin is the ingredient in cayenne that makes it hot. Even though cayenne tastes hot, capsaicin actually helps lower body temperature, which is one of the reasons that people in hot climates like to eat so much of it. Capsaicin also contributes to many of cayenne’s other medicinal properties to stimulate the cardiovascular system, relieve pain on the surface of the skin or in joints, improve digestion, act as an expectorant, and fight bacteria.

Cayenne lowers levels of cholesterol in the blood, which helps lower blood pressure. It also prevents blood in your arteries from clotting. These properties help prevent heart disease, such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

Even though cayenne can sting your tongue, it is actually a powerful pain reliever. It initially stimulates, but then decreases the intensity of pain signals in the body. This makes it particularly effective for people with chronic pain, since it takes several days to see significant results. Those who suffer from shingles, pain from diabetes, postmastectomy pain, and other postsurgical pain, may especially benefit from several different cayenne or capsaicin creams that are available. The capsaicin in cayenne not only relieves the pain of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, but it also helps reduce the swelling from these conditions when used as a rub.

Cayenne improves digestion by stimulating production of digestive juices in the stomach and by fighting bacteria that could cause infection. Its antibacterial power also fights diarrhea caused by infection. As an expectorant, it thins mucus and helps move it out of the lungs. Because it also strengthens lung tissue, it is helpful for those with emphysema.

Plant Description of Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne is a shrub that grows in subtropical and tropical climates. Its fruit grows into long pods that turn red, orange, or yellow when they are ripe. The fruit is eaten raw or cooked, or is dried and powdered into the spice that has been used for centuries in food and medicines.

What’s Cayenne Pepper Made Of?

Studies have shown that capsaicin, the most active ingredient in cayenne, lowers blood cholesterol levels and decreases the intensity of pain signals in the body. It is also an antioxidant (which helps protect your cells from damage) and an antibacterial.

Available Forms of Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne may be taken by eating raw or cooked red pepper. Dried red pepper is available powdered, which may be added to food, stirred into juice, tea, or milk, or taken in capsule form. It also comes in creams for external use (should contain at least 0.025 percent capsaicin).

How to Take Cayenne Pepper

Because cayenne is so good for your heart, adding it regularly to food or taking it in capsule form can help prevent heart disease. Although it is spicy, it actually aids digestion and is not irritating to most ulcers. It is powerful even in small doses, so it is best not to take more than you would eat with food.

As a pain reliever, cayenne powder or cream can help relieve toothache, shingles, arthritis, psoriasis, and other kinds of chronic pain. Although it may cause some initial burning or itching, this should go away quickly. Because cayenne works by first stimulating and then decreasing the intensity of pain signals in the body, the pain may increase slightly but then should diminish greatly over the first few days.

As an external pain reliever (that is, when applied to the skin), capsaicin cream (0.025 to 0.075 percent capsaicin) may be applied directly to the affected area up to four times a day (brand names include Zostrix, Axsain, Capzasin-P).

For improved digestion and prevention of heart disease, capsaicin may be taken in capsules (30 to 120 mg, three times daily). You can make an infusion by adding 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. of powder to a cup of boiling water and drinking it.

Precautions for Cayenne Pepper

Keep cayenne away from your eyes, and wash your hands thoroughly after use. Because cayenne does not dissolve easily in water, use vinegar to remove it. Capsaicin cream may cause skin irritation in some people. Test it on a small area of your skin before extended use. If it causes irritation, discontinue use. It may cause stomach irritation, but does not worsen duodenal ulcers. Do not use it for children under age 2. It is safe for use during pregnancy. It is not known if the spicy compounds are transferred through breast-feeding.

Possible Interactions with Cayenne Pepper

Using capsaicin cream on the skin may increase the risk of cough associated with angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, medications used to regulate blood pressure. If you use capsaicin cream while on these medications and you develop a cough, discontinue use of the capsaicin cream.

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