While many people use cayenne pepper as an ingredient in their favorite dishes, you may not realize that this spicy little ingredient has a multitude of health benefits as well. Read on to learn about the most surprising health benefits of cayenne pepper, from boosting your metabolism to preventing cancer and heart disease. You might even decide to start using it regularly in your cooking and reap its healing properties without even realizing it!
What is Cayenne Pepper?
Cayenne pepper belongs to the capsicum family and is one of the hottest chilies from this family.
These peppers are also related to bell peppers and jalapenos. Cayenne pepper has a high content of capsaicin which helps add spice and nutritional value to the cayenne pepper.
They can also be dried to make powder form; this powder is used to spice up and add flavor to dishes like curry or rice.
Different Ayurvedic medicines use cayenne pepper in different ways, most commonly to treat blood circulatory problems. Other benefits include relieving joint pain or aches. These healing properties of cayenne pepper come from the pepper’s active ingredient, capsaicin.
Cayenne Pepper Nutritional Value
The values below show the nutritional value of one tablespoon of cayenne pepper:
- Calories: 17
- Fat: 1 gram
- Carbs: 3 grams
- Manganese: 5% of the RDI
- Potassium: 3% of the RDI
- Riboflavin: 3% of the RDI
- Vitamin A: 44% of the RDI
- Vitamin E: 8% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 7% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 6% of the RDI
- Vitamin K: 5% of the RDI
- Fiber: 1.4 grams
- Protein: 0.6 grams
Benefits of Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne is one of my favorite spices to add for a kick of heat, with added health benefits. Read on to find out why!
1. Helps With Migraines
Migraines occur when there’s a constriction of blood circulation in your head. According to an analysis published in Alternatives to Animal Experimentation, cayenne can help with migraines.
Research suggests that capsaicin, the main ingredient in cayenne pepper, may decrease pain in certain types of migraines, including cluster headaches by inhibiting substances P and CGRP, which are both chemicals responsible for increasing inflammation and causing pain.
It also increases serotonin levels, which helps relieve pain.
You can add cayenne pepper to soups or stews or use it as a rub on your temples to relieve migraines.
2. Helps Boost Metabolism
One of the cayenne’s active ingredients, capsaicin, increases metabolic activity in the body by increasing blood flow and stimulating thermogenesis—the generation of heat within your body. Capsaicin can increase metabolism by up to 20 percent for several hours after consumption.
Different studies also show a link between cayenne pepper with increased metabolism and hunger suppression.
If you want to lose weight or avoid gaining it in the first place, consider adding cayenne pepper to your diet on a regular basis. However, consuming too much too soon could lead to stomach upset. (If that happens, simply reduce your intake.) As you get used to eating spicy foods, slowly work your way up to more cayenne pepper over time.
3. Helps Lower Blood Pressure
Cayenne peppers are high in potassium and low in sodium, meaning they can help lower your blood pressure.
Also, eating cayenne peppers regularly can not only lower your blood pressure, but also the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke—which, according to the American Heart Association, kill more than 800,000 people annually. So before you reach for that daily dose of medicine or salt shaker, consider a pinch (or two) of cayenne pepper.
A study published in The Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition found that cayenne pepper extract decreased blood pressure in rats and rabbits. Other animal studies have shown similar results, making it possible that capsaicinoids in cayenne may be a treatment for high blood pressure in humans as well.
One human trial demonstrated that supplementation with cayenne pepper lowered systolic blood pressure by 6 points, but didn’t affect diastolic pressure. Researchers, however, noted it had the therapeutic potential to prevent hypertension and cardiovascular disease risk factors.
According to other studies, capsaicin in cayenne pepper is linked with lowering blood pressure overnight and healing blood pressure symptoms. It does so by dilating the blood vessels, causing the pressure to fall and likewise increasing your blood flow.
In addition, cayenne peppers are particularly good sources of vitamin C and beta-carotene; both of which are important antioxidants associated with lower blood pressure levels. Moreover, capsaicin also affects the sensory nerves that help lower blood pressure.
But remember, cayenne pepper is not a medication; it is a supplement.
4. Helps Improve Digestive Health
Cayenne pepper is linked with improving one’s digestive health. The capsaicin helps increase stomach acid production and stimulates peristalsis. These actions help break down food more quickly, improving digestion and nutrient absorption. It can also help relieve constipation by stimulating intestinal movement. Moreover, capsaicin in cayenne pepper is also known for eliminating ulcers.
If you’re looking for an alternative to over-the-counter laxatives, try adding cayenne pepper to your diet—but be careful: Too much could lead to diarrhea! A small amount added to food or taken as a supplement may be enough to get things moving.
Again, if you experience stomach pain or discomfort after consuming cayenne pepper, lower the amount.
5. Helps in Pain Reduction
Capsaicin, an active ingredient in cayenne pepper, helps to reduce both short-term and chronic pain by depleting a neurotransmitter called substance P. When substance P is reduced, it’s harder for your brain to send pain signals to your body. In some cases, capsaicin even works better than ibuprofen—without any side effects.
That’s why capsaicin can be particularly helpful in treating migraines. But don’t just rub on a bit of cayenne and call it good; research suggests that increasing your daily intake or using capsules might be more effective than applying it directly to your skin.
Just make sure you do so safely – avoid touching your eyes after handling cayenne peppers.
6. Helps Prevent Cancer
A study published in Anticancer Research found that capsaicin, a chemical compound found in cayenne pepper may prevent breast cancer by inhibiting cell proliferation.
In different studies, capsaicin has also been linked with inducing apoptosis (death of cancer cells), which prevents these cells from traveling all over the body.
Other studies show that capsaicin has the ability to manage prostate cancer. In addition, capsaicin also has different anti-tumor abilities, and it can help treat cancer in the breast, prostate, lung, and colon. Eating cayenne pepper can therefore prevent various types of cancer.
Capsaicin appears to be most beneficial when consumed regularly over an extended period of time. To reap its benefits against cancer, add some cayenne pepper to your diet every day.
7. Helps Ease Joint Pain
As mentioned above, capsaicin is linked with pain-relieving effects. Further studies have shown that applying ointment containing capsaicin to painful joints can improve pain and the condition. Capsaicin has anti-inflammatory properties that make it a suitable medication for arthritis and joint pain.
8. Helps in Clearing Congestion
Because cayenne pepper acts as a natural expectorant, it has been traditionally used to treat congestion associated with colds and allergies.
In fact, one study showed that taking capsules containing capsaicin (the main ingredient in cayenne pepper) was just as effective as over-the-counter decongestants. The study also found that subjects taking cayenne found it more effective than those taking a placebo.
However, there could be some side effects—capsaicin can cause heartburn and stomach upset in some people. As such, you should avoid cayenne or take it in minimal amounts.
Otherwise, to effectively use cayenne pepper to clear sinuses naturally, add 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne powder to 4 oz hot water and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain out any leftover particles using a strainer and drink up! Alternatively, make a spicy tea by including fresh ginger root slices, lemon slices, cinnamon sticks, black peppercorns, cloves, and fennel seeds before drinking up.
9. Helps in Protecting the Heart
Research has shown that red pepper can inhibit thromboxane B2 production, an enzyme associated with inflammation and blood clotting. This could be especially helpful for those with heart disease or stroke. The capsaicin in cayenne pepper can also prevent cholesterol deposits in your arteries, reducing your risk for heart attack and stroke.
10. Helps with blood circulation
Cayenne pepper may act as a circulatory stimulant. It dilates blood vessels, meaning your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to get the blood flowing through your body. This can help reduce blood pressure and protect against cardiovascular disease.
If you’re taking medication for high blood pressure, talk with your doctor before incorporating cayenne into your diet; it may react with some medications and cause side effects. You should also avoid cayenne if you have low blood pressure or are on blood-thinning medication. Always check with your doctor before starting any new herbal supplement regimen.
11. Reduces stress
Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, a component that’s well known for its ability to combat stress. Studies show that capsaicin can help lower cortisol. For an effective way to reduce stress, try cayenne pepper capsules. Adding capsicum to your diet can also increase the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter linked to feelings of wellbeing and happiness.
12. Boosts energy
While some people turn to coffee or a caffeinated energy drink for an afternoon boost, cayenne pepper is known for providing a natural pick-me-up. The capsaicin in cayenne has been shown to improve blood flow throughout your body, which may result in more oxygen and nutrients being delivered to your brain and muscles.
13. Offers anti-aging benefits
Research has shown that cayenne pepper can have significant anti-aging properties. A 2004 study in Cellular Biochemistry showed that capsaicin, an active ingredient in cayenne pepper, increased mitochondrial production by 50%. If you want to reverse some signs of aging, consume more cayenne pepper regularly.
Ways to Add Cayenne Pepper to Your Diet
Hot sauce for salads
You might not think of adding hot sauce to your salad, but if you’re looking for a way to spice up your lunchtime salad while getting some extra health benefits, why not give it a try?
Spice Up Oatmeal with Cayenne Pepper Powder
Instead of adding brown sugar or raisins to your oatmeal, try adding a pinch of cayenne pepper powder. This spicy (but healthy) ingredient is loaded with antioxidants that fight against cell damage and aid in weight loss. Cayenne pepper can also help lower bad cholesterol and promote healthy heart function. You don’t have to add a lot—just a pinch will do!
Add cayenne to beans
Beans are a protein-rich, calorie-light food that fills you up without weighing you down. If you’re looking for more ways to incorporate beans into your diet, try adding a dash of cayenne pepper to your next serving. Spicy foods like cayenne pepper have been shown to increase satiety—the feeling of fullness—making them ideal for cutting back on calorie intake without sacrificing satisfaction.
Sauté Veggies in a Dash of Cayenne
Adding a dash of cayenne pepper to vegetables during sautéing can add flavor, but it’s also a good way to burn calories by increasing your body temperature. This spicy addition makes it harder for your body to cool down and burns more calories as a result. Sauteed vegetables are great, but spice them up with cayenne and they’ll be even better!
Use Cayenne in Soups
Put a tablespoon of freshly ground cayenne in your pot while cooking soup or stews. It adds a great flavor and acts as an appetite suppressant. You can adjust how much you add depending on how spicy you want it.
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