Hot and spicy, cayenne not only adds zest to foods, it delivers some powerful health benefits. The cayenne shrub Capsicum annuum produces red, orange or yellow pods that can be eaten raw or cooked or dried and powdered for use as a spice. Cayenne is also available in capsules to be taken orally and in creams for external use. Capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne, has been researched extensively to learn more about its beneficial effects.
Cayenne has been found to slow or prevent the growth of cancerous cells. A study by Dr. Sanjay K. Srivastava of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that capsaicin showed anticancer activity against pancreatic cancer cells. Cell death was induced in the cancerous cells with no damaging effect to the normal pancreatic cells.
Cayenne may help in the management of Type 2 diabetes. A study published in 2009 in the "Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand" evaluated the effect of 5 grams of capsicum given to healthy subjects. Researchers found that those who received the capsicum had decreased blood glucose levels and higher insulin levels compared to those who did not receive the capsicum.
Relief of Rhinitis
Rhinitis is an inflammation of the mucous membrane of the nose, often characterized by sneezing, a runny nose or a stuffy nose. In a study published in 2011 in "Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology," the effectiveness of a homeopathic preparation of capsicum and eucalyptol was evaluated. Results showed that capsaicin improved symptoms in the subjects with no adverse events observed.
Capsaicin is a strong pain reliever when applied to the skin. It works by decreasing the amount of a chemical in the body that's responsible for pain messages to the brain, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center website. When less of this chemical is present, you experience relief because the pain messages no longer reach the brain. Topical capsaicin cream has been used for conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, low back pain and nerve pain from shingles and diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
Consultation with a licensed health care professional before using any herbal supplement is advisable.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Cayenne
- Innovations Report: Spice It Up or Just Veg Out, Either Way You May Be Helping to Defend Against Cancer
- Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand: Pharmacokinetic and the Effect of Capsaicin in Capsicum frutescens on Decreasing Plasma Glucose Level
- Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: A Randomized, Double-blind, Parallel Trial Comparing Capsaicin Nasal Spray with Placebo in Subjects with a Significant Component of Nonallergic Rhinitis
Based near Boulder, Colo., Amber Olson has been writing health-related articles since 2009. She has served as a respiratory therapist, exercise specialist and yoga instructor. Olson holds a bachelor's degree in health, physical education and recreation from South Dakota State University and an associate's degree in respiratory care from Dakota State University.