7 Spicy Health Benefits of Cayenne Pepper
It’s best known for its bite, but there are multiple cayenne pepper benefits that will help you burn calories, relieve arthritis, aid digestion, and more.
Relieve achy joints and muscles
Cayenne pepper is a potent natural painkiller for achy joints and muscles. Capsaicin, the substance that gives cayenne its spicy taste, is the active ingredient in many over-the-counter treatments for arthritis and muscle pain. A study review in the journal Progressive Drug Research found that the spicy stuff does dial down joint pain from osteoarthritis. And according to the Arthritis Foundation (AF), capsaicin creams also relieve pain from the autoimmune type of arthritis—rheumatoid arthritis—as well as the painful muscle condition fibromyalgia. Over time, the AF reports, these creams over-activate nerve receptors, causing them to not function right and sparing you pain. Try using one of these creams three times a day, but just be sure to wash your hands after handling them and keep them away from your eyes.
Help you lose weight
Fiery foods may fire up your diet. A small study published in the journal Appetite found that when subjects ate spicy red pepper with a meal they reported feeling fuller and had fewer food cravings afterward. Earlier research has suggested that chili peppers are natural metabolism boosters.
Unclog a stuffy nose
Capsaicin is a powerful fix for clogged up noses and sinuses. “It thins your mucous to allow for better drainage,” says Tania Elliott, MD, a clinical instructor in medicine at NYU Langone. That can help whether you have a cold or allergies. Sprinkle it on food (it pairs surprisingly well with chicken noodle soup) and grab some tissues. (There are many cayenne pepper benefits that you can reap, but can you handle the world’s hottest pepper?)
Reduce blood sugar levels
Could spicy food help ward off diabetes? It might, according to a 2017 study done on mice, researchers found that capsaicin consumption significantly inhibited the increase of fasting glucose and insulin levels. The researchers also noted that the mice fed the diets high in capsaicin also had significantly improved glucose tolerance.
Capsaicin may improve circulation and vascular health, according to a 2015 paper published in Open Heart. The authors cite previous research on capsaicin showing it helps with atherosclerosis, blood pressure, fatty liver disease, and angina. So you can add chili peppers to your list of superfoods that play a role in staying healthy longterm.
Good source of vitamin A
Cayenne pepper isn’t just tasty—it’s nutritious too. A dash contains many nutrients, including vitamin A, according to the USDA. What does vitamin A do? It helps to protect your vision, preserve your brain function, and keep your skin healthy. This vitamin is a potent antioxidant that works to reduce inflammation by fighting free radicals. The recommended daily allowance for vitamin A is 700 mcg for women and 900 mcg for men, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. One teaspoon of cayenne pepper nets you 37 mcg.
Here’s a fun fact: Cayenne pepper and marijuana work on the same receptor in the GI system to reduce gut inflammation, according to a University of Connecticut mouse study published in 2017 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers hope this discovery will open up new ways to treat debilitating GI conditions such as colitis. More research is needed, but it suggests that these spicy wonders play a role in great gut health.
- Progress in Drug Research: “Capsaicin for Osteoarthritis Pain”
- Arthritis Foundation: “Supplement Guide: Capsaicin”
- Tania Elliott, MD, clinical instructor in medicine at NYU Langone
- Appetite: “Capsaicin increases sensation of fullness in energy balance, and decreases desire to eat after dinner in negative energy balance.”
- Frontiers: “Dietary capsaicin improves glucose homeostasis and alters the gut microbia in obese diabetic mice.”
- Open Heart: “Capsaicin May Have Important Potential for Promoting Vascular and Metabolic Health
- “USDA: “National Nutrition Database”
- Harvard School of Public Health: “Vitamin A”
- University of Connecticut: “Chili Pepper and Marijuana Calm the Gut”