Health Benefits

Millions of people from cultures around the world enjoy the flavor and fire of hot foods. After all, chilies are the second most common spices in the world, following salt. Few people, however, realize the many health benefits that chili peppers offer. A substance called capsaicin causes the heat of chilies and peppers. Capsaicin has been associated with many cures that include lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol and warding off strokes and heart attacks, speeding up metabolism, treating colds and fevers, preventing cancer and pain control. Capsaicin is a flavorless, odorless chemical concentrated in the veins of chilies and peppers.

This information is presented for informational purposes only. Anyone experiencing a medical problem should, of course, contact his or her physician.

Arthritis I A protein ion receptor [Vanilloid Receptor Subtype 1 (VR1)] binds with capsaicin to manage chronic pain. This allows the influx of calcium and sodium ions to react to sensory nerve cells. Researchers are attempting to develop more advanced drugs which would kill the pain signals transmitted through the VR1 without harming neighboring cells. This treatment is still in development.

Arthritis II Capsaicin cream can help ease the pain of arthritis when rubbed on stiff joints by eliminating the ability of sensitive nerve cells to transmit pain sensations. (Not recommended for Rheumatoid Arthritis, an auto-immune disorder.)

Arthritis III Topical capsaicin creams (such as Zostrix or Dr. K’s) counter the production of a neuro-transmitter in the joints, thus lessening pain. First, capsaicin stimulates the brain to release this neuro-transmitter (called substance P), which lets the brain know something painful is going on – and the application of these capsaicin creams encourages the brain to continue releasing substance P. Eventually, this depletes the body’s store of substance P, and reduces further releases from the nerve endings. Another benefit these creams provide is a decrease in joint inflammation, as substance P also tends to prolong inflammation (which may cause the cartilage in joints to break down.) Topical capsaicin creams offer a more effective treatment for inflammation than internal pain relievers such as Ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Regular use of NSAIDs has been linked to an increased rate of ulcers in the stomach and intestines.

High Blood Pressure The consumption of chili peppers increases peripheral circulation and lowers blood pressure. Peppers, high in vitamins A and C and bioflavinoids (all necessary nutrients for healthy cell growth), help strengthen blood vessel walls. This helps the vessel walls to become more elastic and better able to adjust to differences in blood pressure. Peppers are also excellent scavengers of free radicals; provide a momentary boost to the metabolic system; and the sweating which occurs while eating hot peppers causes a loss of fluid, which temporarily reduces overall blood volume.

Cluster Headaches and Migraines Zostrix, a topical capsaicin cream, has been found to relieve the pain of cluster headaches when applied inside the nostrils 2x/day. Research is on-going for migraine treatment, but one researcher postulates that pepper powder, snorted up the nose, will offer some sufferers effective migraine relief.

Depression Chili Peppers increase endorphin production – those mood-elevating substances which are released when performing aerobic exercise. Endorphins are natural opiates.

Flu or Respiratory Problems Eating hot peppers can reduce the discomfort of the flu (in part, by promoting sweating). It also opens clogged breathing passages, and functions as an effective expectorant.

Herpes Simplex Application of the topical capsaicin cream Zostrix helps to reduce Herpes Simplex flare-ups. A fresh, cut-up pepper is applied to the area in question. Eruptions are usually gone within 24 hours (as compared to 12 – 14 days if left untreated). This treatment may also work on shingles (Herpes Zoster).

Muscle Pain The topical cream, Heet, has been used for many years to reduce muscle pain (such as that caused by over-exertion in sports). Applying a fresh, cut-up pepper to the source of the pain is also a effective treatment.

Overactive Bladder/Incontinence Capsaicin dripped into the bladder by catheter desensitizes hyperirritable, aberrant neurons in the bladder for extended periods of time. This activity blocks the premature bladder contractions which cause an unpredictable loss of urine.

Pain & Discomfort Chili peppers can reduce the itching from dialysis, reduce the pain from shingles (Herpes Zoster), and reduce the pain and tingling associated with diabetes mellitus. Capsaicin candy is also prescribed to cancer patients, to ease mouth pain. And burn victims have started using topical capsaicin cream to relieve their pain.

Poison Ivy/Poison Oak Dried peppers mixed with a little water and applied directly to the rash will cut the itch and speed the drying process.

Post-Operative Pain The topical capsaicin cream, Zostrix, has been prescribed for mastectomy patients and amputees.

Psoriasis Topical capsaicin creams have been prescribed to dry up psoriasis patches.

Sinusitis, Tension, and Sinus Headaches Ground chili peppers are snorted up the nose to relieve headaches brought on by tension or sinus problems (capsaicin turns off the nerve release fiber that triggers sinus and tension headaches). This treatment has been found effective to relieve sinusutis and non-allergic rhinitis by desensitizing the nasal nerves. Eating peppers has also been found to help one get rid of a headache.

Sore Throat A spray made of 1 T 80 proof spirits, 1 T water and _ tsp. hot pepper powder reduces or eliminates sore throat pain for up to 3 hours. As a bonus, it also clears nasal passages.

Spinal-Cord Injury A protein ion receptor [Vanilloid Receptor Subtype 1 (VR1)] binds with capsaicin to manage chronic pain. This allows the influx of calcium and sodium ions to react to sensory nerve cells. Researchers are attempting to develop more advanced drugs which would kill the pain signals transmitted through the VR1 without harming neighboring cells. This testament is still in development.

Ulcers Hot peppers inhibit the growth of H. Pylori, the bacteria that causes certain kinds of ulcers.