What’s there not to love about cayenne? It’s a pepper that adds a splendid kick to almost any meal (even breakfast, in some cases) and which doubles in its other world as a therapeutic compound with thousands of years of practical use and dozens of uses ranging from treating heartburn and delirium to going head to head with sore throat and hemorrhoids. Not to mention (but we are, anyway) it can also do a number in helping to cleanse the body as a detoxifying agent.
What is Cayenne?
Actually, a better question might be, What are cayenne peppers? Thanks for asking. They are a kind of chili pepper belonging to the nightshade family of flowering plants, besides being close relatives to bell peppers and jalapenos, per healthline.com.
Cayenne peppers originated in Central America and South America, making their way to Europe – and eventually to what is now the U.S. – in the 15th century by an explorer known as Christopher Columbus. Cayenne peppers are packed full of healthy nutrients as well as an assortment of antioxidants that provide much of the punch for those health benefits.
The main active ingredient in the peppers is capsaicin, which is what provides cayenne with its medicinal properties. Here are a few other interesting facts about cayenne pepper, courtesy of medicalnewstoday.com:
- It has been a part of Native American cuisine and medicine for at least 9,000 years.
- Vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin E, manganese, potassium, and flavonoids are also among the nutrients included in cayenne pepper.
- Don’t expose capsaicin to breaks or open wounds in the skin.
- Cayenne peppers are a staple in Southwestern American and Mexican cuisine, in addition to being used extensively in Cajun and Creole cooking.
Cayenne’s Potential Health Benefits
Cayenne has a long and storied history of providing a wide variety of therapeutic uses that benefit our health. It certainly has a credible track record, having been widely used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines, mostly to help alleviate circulation problems and to increase appetite, per medicalnewstoday.com. Here are some of those potential health benefits in more detail:
- Pain relief. Chalk this up to the presence of capsaicin, which has shown the capacity to reduce “substance P,” a chemical that transmits pain messages to the brain. The less there is of substance P, the fewer pain transmissions reach the brain, thus reducing the experience of pain.
- Relieve congestion. This possibility is based more on anecdotal evidence than scientific proof. It is believed that cayenne might help relieve congestion (temporarily) by shrinking the blood vessels in the nose and throat, per medicalnewstoday.com.
- Prevent migraine headaches. Scientists believe that the pepper has an ability to create a pain response elsewhere in the body, thus diverting your brain’s attention to pain in a new site, per globalhealingcenter.com.
- Assist with digestion. Cayenne can stimulate the digestive tract, enhancing the flow of enzyme production and gastric juices. This boosts the body’s metabolization of food as well as toxins. The pepper can also help deal with intestinal gas, and also help in the production of saliva, a key substance needed in proper digestion.
- Detoxification. Not only is cayenne a circulatory stimulant, it can “warm up” the body, a process that helps streamline the natural mechanism of detoxification. Cayenne also activates sweating, which also has a role in detox of our bodies.
- Anti-bacterial. Per globalhealingcenter.com, cayenne works very well as a preservative and has long been used to keep food from being contaminated by bacteria.
- Weight loss. Scientists in Quebec, conducting research using volunteers, found that those who consumed cayenne pepper for breakfast showed decreased appetite, leading to reduced caloric intake for the rest of the day. It’s also a known metabolic booster, which helps the body in burning off excess fat, accomplishing this via a process known as diet-induced thermogenesis, per healthline.com.
- Lower blood pressure. This is supported by animal studies. One involving mice showed that long-term ingestion of capsaicin resulted in reduced blood pressure. Similarly, a study involving pigs indicated that capsaicin assisted in relaxing blood vessels, leading to reduced blood pressure.
- Reduce psoriasis symptoms. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder known for its patches of red, itchy, and scaly skin. While the condition can’t be cured, psoriasis-affected areas of the skin, when covered with topical capsaicin creams, can show a reduction of itching and improved appearance.