Health Alert 173
Most people think that hot spicy food is bad for your health. Yet in some cases, the exact opposite is true. Cayenne peppers can make your eyes water and your tongue burn, but they also have healing power.
Several widely separated cultures have used cayenne for medicinal purposes for centuries. Now modern scientific research validates much of the folk lore. Cayenne peppers can ward off the common cold and flu. They take away arthritic pain and help asthma sufferers. Cayenne pepper can stop itching and both internal and external bleeding. Cayenne peppers can help your body fend off ailments such as heart disease, cancers, cataracts, Alzheimer’s disease and others.
Today you will learn about the naturally occurring, medicinal properties in cayenne peppers and how to use them to improve your health.
*Cayenne Can Change Your Life*
Cayenne contains a compound called capsaicin. Capsaicin is the ingredient that gives peppers their heat. Generally, the hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin it contains. In addition to adding heat to the pepper, capsaicin acts to reduce platelet stickiness and relieve pain. Other constituents of cayenne are vitamin E and vitamin C. Research shows cayenne can help with the following:
Improved Circulation. Cayenne peppers are a circulatory stimulant that facilitates blood flow. Used as a heart attack preventative, cayenne can do wonders in toning your heart and keeping it in top condition. Also, cayenne is one of the richest and most stable sources of Vitamin E, which is also cardioprotective1.
Cardiovascular Benefits. Cayenne and other red chili peppers reduce blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and platelet aggregation, while increasing the body’s ability to dissolve fibrin, a substance integral to the formation of blood clots. Cultures that use hot peppers like cayenne liberally have a much lower rate of heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism.2
Fight Inflammation. Capsaicin is a potent inhibitor of substance P, a neuropeptide associated with inflammatory processes. When animals injected with a substance that causes arthritis ate capsaicin, they had significantly reduced inflammation. Other research shows that peppers can help control pain associated with arthritis, psoriasis, and diabetic neuropathy.3
Clear Congestion. The peppery heat in capsaicin also stimulates secretions that help clear mucus from your stuffed up nose or congested lungs. Capsaicin is similar to a compound found in many cold remedies for breaking up congestion, except that capsaicin works much faster. A tea made with hot cayenne pepper very quickly stimulates the mucus membranes lining the nasal passages to drain, helping to relieve congestion and stuffiness.4
Boost Immunity. Cayenne also helps maintain healthy epithelial tissues including the mucous membranes that line the nasal passages, lungs, intestinal tract and urinary tract and serve as the body’s first line of defense against invading pathogens.5
Prevent Stomach Ulcers. Cayenne peppers have a bad–and undeserved–reputation for contributing to stomach ulcers. Not only do they not cause ulcers, these hot peppers may help prevent them by killing harmful bacteria and stimulating the stomach to secrete protective buffering juices that prevent ulcer formation. The use of cayenne pepper is actually associated with a reduced risk of stomach ulcers.6 It stimulates peristalsis and emptying of the stomach.7
Lose Weight. That heat you feel after eating hot peppers takes energy and calories to produce. Peppers contain substances that significantly increase thermogenesis (heat production) and oxygen consumption for more than 20 minutes after you eat them.8
*Adding the Hot Spice to Your Life*
If you like to eat peppers, don’t listen to the “naysayers”. Hot Mexican, Szechwan, Indian, or those smoldering Thai dishes can make healthy choices. Cayenne has the strongest research. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to incorporate cayenne into your cuisine. I tend to use cayenne by taste and add it to my food in place of black pepper. It is also quite good in salsa.
I also keep a bottle of cayenne in my house for emergencies. The other day, I was cutting down some bananas and accidentally cut my hand with a machete. I sprinkled some cayenne on the cut, applied pressure and the bleeding stopped immediately.
Cayenne is a perfect example of the maxim of Hippocrates, “Let thy food be thy medicine.”
Al Sears, MD
1. Cayenne. http://www.herbsfirst.com/NewsLetters/0299cayenne.html. April 2004
2. Holistic- Online Herb information http://www.holistic-online.com/Herbal-Med/_Herbs/h43.htm April 2004
3. Todd C. Meeting the therapeutic challenge of the patient with osteoarthritis. J Am Pharm Assoc (Wash). 2002;42:74-82.
4. Biser, Sam. A Layman’s Guide to Curing with Cayenne and its Herbal Partners. Save Your Life Videos, California.1999
6. Graham DY, Smith JL, Opekun AR. Spicy food and the stomach. Evaluation by videoendoscopy. JAMA. 1988;260:3473-3475
7. Rodriguez-Stanley S, Collings KL, Robinson M, et al. The effects of capsaicin on reflux, gastric emptying and dyspepsia. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2000;14:129-134.