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Chili and cayenne peppers: surprisingly good for you

Health Benefits of cayenne pepper and chili. (Shutterstock)

Health Benefits of cayenne pepper and chili. (Shutterstock)

By Danielle Restuccia/Saludify
Feature to Inside Costa Rica

If you’re eating food with chili or cayenne pepper in it, you may not be thinking about health benefits; instead, you’re more likely to be concerned with wiping away your tears!

Luckily for spice-lovers, though, peppers that are part of the capsicum family of plants have a surprising number of positive side effects. Much of the power behind chili and cayenne peppers comes from their active ingredient, capsaicin.

From pain relief to boosting your metabolism to increasing circulation, capsaicin may be the answer. Time to consider spicing up your meals!

Pain Relief

Ironically, since we often associate hot food with temporary pain, capsicum peppers have been shown to provide pain relief for a variety of ailments. The Food and Drug Administration has approved capsaicin’s use in the specific area of pain management.

Several of the more common applications of capsicum peppers include toothache, topical pain caused by shingles or arthritis, and nerve pain. The herb may be ground up into a powder or paste and applied directly to the skin, though it’s advisable to go slowly: just as cayenne pepper burns your mouth, putting too much on your skin can sting.

Capsicum peppers have also been investigated as a means for treating migraine headaches. Researchers have used chili oil, injected just under the skin, to block the pain signals from nerve to nerve, essentially short-circuiting the headache that migraine sufferers typically experience.

Cancer researchers have also experimented with capsaicin as a means of circumventing patients’ pain. Though states that more study is needed, preliminary findings suggest that the extract can be used topically to treat pain from surgery or the oral sores resulting from chemotherapy and radiation therapy.


Numerous studies have shown that ingesting capsicum plants can boost your metabolism, if only temporarily.

While it may not permanently change the way your body operates, eating chili or cayenne peppers forces your body to burn more calories, which has the effect of slightly increasing your metabolism. If you make those peppers a staple of your diet, UCLA researcher David Heber says that you could see some modest weight loss.

Heber’s team showed that subjects who took a daily capsaicin supplement burned an average of 80 more calories than those taking the placebo supplement.

Heart Health

You can also count cardiovascular health among chili and cayenne peppers’ potential benefits.

Though the herb isn’t as commonly used in this realm, some research has shown peppers in the capsicum family to increase circulation upon topical application. Patients suffering from Raynaud’s Phenomenon, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and other diseases affecting blood flow may find some relief by taking capsaicin pills or applying topical formulas.

The American Nutrition Association reported on scientists at the University of Cincinnati who have taken this even further.

Researchers found that the herb, when applied topically to specific skin areas on mice, caused a chain reaction in the nervous and muscular systems that helped to protect the heart.

The research suggests that capsaicin could act as a temporary protectant for humans suffering from coronary blockages and heart attacks, though further testing is needed.

While it’s always smart to talk to a doctor before radically altering your diet or trying to treat a health issue, chili and cayenne peppers can be surprisingly beneficial. Next time you peruse the produce section or order a meal, think about adding a little extra spice to your choices– your body might thank you!

Originally published by Saludify as “Chili and cayenne peppers: surprisingly good for you”
Republished with permission. 
Featured content does not necessarily reflect the views of Inside Costa Rica and is not subject to our editorial process.

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