Capsaicin: A Look At The Health Benefits of Spicy Foods

The watery eyes, the runny nose, and that burning feeling in your mouth….

Yep, you just ate a hot pepper.

Whether you know it or not, capsaicin is beginning to do its job.

What is Capsaicin?

Capsaicin is the active ingredient in hot peppers. Different hot peppers including chili peppers and cayenne pepper are often used in Asian and Indian cuisine, as well as Central and South America foods. And although it may have some unpleasant side effects, it is loaded with some amazing health benefits.

Each pepper has different capsaicin content and heat levels. The spice levels are measured on a scale called the scoville heat scale.

Now, I’m not saying that you should start eating chili peppers like they are candy. Everything should be taken in moderation. Plus, there are some other ways to use this powerful compound in order to improve your health.capsaicin in hot peppers

The 8 Capsaicin Benefits

1. Pain Reliever

Studies have found that capsaicin can be used topically to relieve pain.(1) Low dose creams and lotions are usually available for over the counter purchase without a prescription. Although more recently, research performed with higher dose patches with up to 8% capsaicin has shown remarkable longer term benefits with a single 60 minute application.

Capsaicin cream is great for pain relief because you do not have to eat spicy foods such as cayenne pepper to get the beneficial effects of this amazing compound.

2. Relieve Sinus Issues and Congestion

Do you suffer from nasal allergies?

Rhinitis is a condition of the sinuses that is responsible for nasal congestion and blockages, sneezing, and runny nose. It affects many people.

One study conducted showed that capsaicin as a nasal spray could possibly help to reduce symptoms for up to 36 weeks.

And another compared the effects of capsaicin spray to budesonide, which is an intranasal corticosteroid. Researchers found that participants that used the capsaicin showed less symptoms that using the steroid. (2)

Maybe this is part of the reason eating hot peppers makes your nose run!

3. Releases Endorphins

Did you know that there are hot pepper eating contests?

Lovers of spicy foods and adrenaline junkies compete to see how far they can push themselves. After each round,  contestants eat a hotter pepper on the scoville scale until these is only 1 person left.

Crazy, right?

Actually, it makes perfect sense. Due to the physiological reactions of eating a hot peppers, your brain releases loads of endorphins. Consequently, this is done as a response to help block the pain.

But as the brain releases endorphins, it is common for people to feel a sort of high. Similarly, euphoria and an overall boosted mood are usual.

Now, these effects are not just for people who are in these contests, but for anyone who is looking for an increase in their mood.

4. Fat burner

capsaicin fat loss

According to an article by Muscle and Strength, capsaicin is a powerful fat loss supplement that helps to boost metabolism. “Several studies looking at the impact of capsaicin on metabolic rate have shown that capsaicin does enhance energy expenditure while boosting fat oxidation, promoting significant weight loss.”(3)

It is also known for its ability to suppress your appetite, which helps you eat less.

This is great for anyone looking to lose weight and burn stubborn fat.

Now, this isn’t an excuse to skip exercise. But when you combine a capsaicin supplement with an exercise program and a healthy diet, you will accelerate your weight loss to help get you to a healthy body mass index.

5. May Help Prevent Cancer

The good thing is that many studies have concluded that capsaicin has the ability to help prevent different types of cancer such as bone, pancreatic, and prostate cancer. This happens because it has the ability to kill those cancer cells before they have a change to spread.

The bad news is that diets high in capsaicin is also linked to causing other types of cancer such as stomach and liver cancer. While this seems like that would be a reason to not consider taking it, a new study has some incredible information.

Ginger, when taken with capsaicin, appears to counteract this and actually reduce the risk of those cancers.(4) We all know the vast benefits of ginger root, but the effects of them in combination is amazing.

6. Fights Inflammation

Scientists were able to find that capsaicin can help in fighting inflammation. This is especially relevant for patients with issues such related to joint inflammation.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, “many studies have shown that capsaicin effectively reduces pain from osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia. In a 2010 German study, joint pain decreased nearly 50 percent after three weeks’ use of 0.05 percent capsaicin cream.”(5)

7. Heart Health

Capsaicin also can play a role in promoting heart health. In a study on rats, scientists found that supplementing with the chemical found in chili peppers was able to help lower blood pressure in hypertensive rats.(6) This happens by helping the blood vessels relax.

Although more research needs to be conducted on human, it appears that supplementing with capsaicin may help to reduce heart disease in humans.

Warnings

Before starting any supplementation plan, consult your doctor for medical advice. If you notice any side effects, stop the use and call a medical professional.

Also, use extra care when cutting hot peppers such as cayenne peppers. Keep your hands away from your eyes and genitals as direct contact could cause a burning sensation and possible damage.

Conclusion

Capsaicin is one of those medicinal compounds that has many health benefits.

Consequently, there are many different ways to get them. Using a capsaicin cream, patches, nasal sprays, or even sprinkling some chili pepper flakes on your food will help you improve your health.

Maybe you shouldn’t go out and sign up for the next eating contest. Or actually, go for it, if that’s what you are into.

But the next time someone offers you some cayenne peppers or some spicy food, think of all the capsaicin benefits and enjoy.

References:

(1) Topical capsaicin (high concentration) for chronic neuropathic pain in adults.

(2) Capsaicin for non‐allergic rhinitis

(3) Capsaicin: A Potent Fat Loss Supplement

(4) Ginger and chili peppers could work together to lower cancer risk

(5) Supplement Guide: Capsaicin

(6) Hypertension and Chili Peppers

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