It’s been used as a spice in a wide range of Mexican and Asian dishes, and it’s one of the primary ingredients in a popular juice fast/cleanse. However, cayenne pepper’s widely published benefits don’t preclude potential concerns, side effects or dangers that come with using this pepper. As one of the spiciest peppers, cayenne is best used sparingly and maybe even avoided in certain circumstances.
Using cayenne pepper in dishes or as part of a meal is generally safe. However, if you are considering taking it as a supplement, be aware that it can lead to a range of side effects. These include mild symptoms such as a runny nose or tearing, but it can also have more drastic side effects, like an upset stomach or burning in your mouth. Taking too much cayenne pepper could also lead to very dangerous side effects like kidney damage or even inflammation of the intestinal and stomach linings. Start with small doses of cayenne pepper to ensure you're not putting yourself in unnecessary danger.
Complications with Medicine
In some cases, taking cayenne pepper supplements or having too much cayenne as part of your daily diet can reduce the effectiveness of some medications, such as blood pressure, acid-reduction, and anti-coagulant drugs. Before you start a natural supplement, tell your doctor to avoid any complications with prescription medications that you are currently on or might potentially need.
Possible Stomach Cancer Risks
According to the Blue Shield of California, the link between cayenne pepper, cayenne pepper supplements and stomach cancer is inconclusive, but it is an important consideration. A study in the "British Journal of Cancer" suggests that cayenne pepper can reduce the risk of stomach cancer, while a study in the "American Journal of Epidemiology" states that the risk is increased. However, excessive consumption of cayenne pepper can lead to inflammation of the digestive tract and may also irritate preexisting digestion complications.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Taking cayenne pepper supplements while pregnant could lead to heart burn or complications with digestion and acid reflux. In some cases, cayenne pepper supplements can also affect infants who are breastfeeding. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center advises that breastfeeding and pregnant women avoid cayenne pepper supplements.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Cayenne
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Cayenne
- Blue Shield of California: Cayenne
- Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: Cayenne
- British Journal of Cancer: A Case-Study of Cancers of the Gastric Cardia of Italy
- American Journal of Epidemiology: Chili Pepper Consumption and Gastric Cancer in Mexico
Isabelle Hannigan has been a professional writer since 2004, with articles appearing in nationally distributed newspapers such as "The National Post." She is a registered dietitian and sports nutritionist, and has worked for the University of Guelph and Athlete's World. Hannigan holds a B.S. in biochemistry from McMaster University and an M.S. in nutritional sciences from the University of Guelph.