Looking for a way to burn extra calories, lower your blood pressure or fight infections? Spice up your health by adding hot peppers to your next meal. Capsaicin, the phytochemical that makes peppers like chipotle, jalapeno, cayenne, ancho, serrano and habaneros hot has some amazing health benefits.
Capsaicin works equally as well when eaten raw, cooked, dried into a powder, as a dietary supplement or used in topical creams and ointments. Make sure you include some of the seeds and ribs of the hot peppers when eating them as they contain 80% of the capsaicin in the pepper. Wondering how much capsaicin different varieties of hot peppers have? A good rule of thumb is the hotter the pepper the more capsaicin it contains.
Health Benefits of Capsaicin: Rev Your Metabolism
Capsaicin can help spice up your metabolism. Seasoning your food with capsaicin rich hot peppers can also help you eat less and lose weight. A recent study found that people who ate chili peppers three times a day burned more fat.
Health Benefits of Capsaicin: Pain Relief
Ironically, the same intense heat from capsaicin that makes hot peppers intolerable to some people also makes it an effective pain reliever. Topical capsaicin cream or ointment can be used on the skin to help relieve pain from surgery, neuralgia, shingles, cluster headaches, arthritis, psoriasis and mouth sores caused by chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Capsaicin relieves pain by stimulating and then immediately decreasing intensity of pain signals sent to the brain. It also blocks Substance P, a neuropeptide responsible for transmitting pain signals to the brain and causing swelling of nerve fibers.
Special care is needed when using creams and ointments containing capsaicin because they can burn your eyes, nose and mouth. They should also not be used on broken skin and no more than 4 times a day. Using gloves when applying capsaicin creams and thoroughly washing hands with vinegar or soap afterward can help prevent this troublesome side effect.
Health Benefits of Capsaicin: Protect Your Heart
Capsaicin helps protect your heart by reducing the risk factors that may lead to heart disease. According to a recent study in Cell Metabolism, capsaicin can improve heart health by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, preventing clotting and hardening of the arteries. Capsaicin also helps curb inflammation in the body. Inflammation can be a precursor to certain cancers and heart disease.
Health Benefits of Capsaicin: Cancer Fighter
As reported in Cancer Research, capsaicin helps fight cancer cells, causing them to die. When treated with capsaicin, prostate tumors only grew to one fifth of the size of untreated tumors. According to Dr. H. Phillip Koeffler director of hematology and oncology at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, “capsaicin inhibits the growth of human prostate cancer cells in Petri dishes and mice.”
Health Benefits of Capsaicin: Improve Intestinal Conditions
Capsaicin can help improve digestion, fight Irritable Bowel Syndrome, prevent diarrhea and stop intestinal infections. It does this by increasing the levels of digestive fluid in the stomach. Capsaicin also helps kill bacteria that may cause infection or diarrhea.
Health Benefits of Capsaicin: Relieve Congestion & Improve Lung Function
Capsaicin helps make mucus thinner and clear it from nasal passages, relieving congestion and easing the symptoms of lung diseases like COPD and emphysema. Capsaicin is being studied to see if it may offer prevention for lung diseases as well. Capsaicin has antibacterial properties that ward off and help fight chronic sinus infections, sinusitis and allergy symptoms.
Health Benefits of Capsaicin: Get More Capsaicin
Adding chopped hot peppers or hot sauce to soups, chili, salsa, egg dishes, burgers, sandwiches and salads will help you start reaping the many health rewards from capsaicin. Not a fan of hot peppers? No problem. You can get the same health benefits of capsaicin from a supplement.
Web MD: Capsaicin
Web MD: Spices & Herbs