The health benefits of cayenne pepper have long been recognized by civilizations across the globe. A potent ingredient with a wide variety of therapeutic uses, cayenne pepper has recently achieved notoriety in the United States as a popular natural remedy for anything from headaches to joint pain.
While American health practitioners have used cayenne pepper for a number of years, it was not until a weight loss diet called the Master Cleanse came about that things really heated up. And I mean that in the most literal sense possible — the cleanse places great emphasis on something called cayenne pepper tea. Not only is this cayenne tea consumed hot, it also contains one of the hottest spices on the planet… that’s some serious heat!
According to anecdotal evidence, cayenne pepper tea is very effective in improving circulation, stimulating digestion, alleviating pain and soothing stomach issues. Much of this effect is due to a powerful active ingredient found in cayenne called capsaicin. The subject of scientific interest even as far back as 1919, capsaicin is the compound in cayenne which gives it that characteristic heat we all know and (sometimes) love!
Health benefits of cayenne pepper
The benefits of cayenne are surprisingly wide-ranging. What’s more, cayenne pepper is one of the few natural remedies to actually receive substantial scientific research. Most claims about the health benefits of cayenne pepper are in fact verified by science.
Cayenne pepper has long been used (even by the pharmaceutical industry!) as a means of alleviating pain. Either applying cayenne topically or ingesting it (such as in a tea) dramatically reduces the production of something called substance P. Substance P is a chemical that carries pain messages to the brain. Therefore, with a reduction in substance P, patients experience less or no pain.
A study published in the Journal of Life Sciences applied 20 to 80 milligrams of capsaicin (the active ingredient in cayenne) to rats. Prior to treatment, researchers inoculated the rats with a bacterial strain that caused widespread inflammation.
The study found that the capsaicin began working within 24 hours. It continued to lower inflammation for 20 days after ingestion. As a surprising side-effect, researchers also discovered that the capsaicin also decreased the production of substance P in nerves associated with arthritis.
Another study (on humans this time!) sought to test the efficacy and safety of 0.025 percent capsaicin cream on osteoarthritis patients. When compared to the placebo group, researchers found that capsaicin-treated patients experienced a substantial reduction in both pain and tenderness at weeks four, eight and 12.
Other studies confirm that the capsaicin in cayenne pepper helps to alleviate pain from nerve damage in the feet and legs, lower back pain, and fibromyalgia symptoms.
Despite what you might otherwise think, cayenne is actually classified as an anti-irritant. This makes it an effective treatment for stomach gastric ulcers, upset stomach, and even bowel issues like diarrhea or constipation.
A study published in the Journal of Pharmacological Research found that small doses of capsaicin did not cause gastric mucosal damage, contrary to popular belief. At the same time, capsaicin ingestion was noted to create localized gastric desensitization, meaning it showed promise for alleviating gastrointestinal pain.
Another study presented in the Journal of Neuroscience found that “intragastric capsaicin reduces lesion formation by an action on afferent neurons.” This essentially means that capsaicin taken internally can protect against gastric ulcers and other gastrointestinal damage.
Researchers think that this protective effect on the digestive tract occurs due to a number of cayenne-induced factors. These include inhibition of acid secretion, stimulation of alkali, and an increase in mucus secretions. All of these factors help in both the prevention and healing of gastric ulcers.
One of the reasons why cayenne tea is such an integral part of the Master Cleanse is due to the positive effect it has on the digestive system. Cayenne pepper helps to stimulate the production of saliva, which is critical to effective digestion. It also helps in the prevention of bad breath.
Cayenne pepper also increases the body’s production of digestive enzymes, which help to break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates. It also stimulates gastric juices, which help the body metabolize food and break down toxins.
Cayenne pepper is a well-known anti-inflammatory agent. Chronic inflammation is now a worldwide pandemic. It affects the vast majority of the population due to poor diet, environmental toxins, constantly elevated stress levels and a range of other factors. Researchers have linked chronic inflammation to all major autoimmune diseases. It is, therefore, a major problem in today’s society.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology noted that capsaicin inhibited the production of mast cells in the human body. These cells are inflammatory and have been found to be very prominent in inflammatory diseases such as allergies and asthma. For this reason, consuming plenty of cayenne can be an effective way to lower inflammation in your body.
Cayenne pepper also contains high levels of vitamin A, which plays a critical role in reducing inflammation. Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant, meaning it reduces the oxidative damage causes by free radicals. This damage is one of the leading causes of inflammation. Getting plenty of vitamin A is a key step towards treating your chronic inflammation.
One of the many cayenne pepper benefits is its ability to treat a range of skin conditions. Cayenne has been shown to be particularly effective against psoriasis, which occurs when skin cells replicate too rapidly and swollen, scaled patches develop.
According to this source, multiple studies have found topical treatment with capsaicin cream to be effective in the treatment of psoriasis. One of the studies showed that a 0.025 percent capsaicin cream resulted in a significant decrease in scaling and redness over the course of six weeks. Another double-blind study involving 197 patients over six weeks saw large reductions in scaling, thickness and itching in patients suffering from psoriasis.
Capsaicin, that same wonderful ingredient in cayenne pepper which is responsible for so many health benefits, is a proven treatment for migraines. This is due to what is essentially a sensory overload. It is induced when cayenne causes your pain nerves to fire so much that they become exhausted. This causes your nerve fibers to deplete their substance P reserves, meaning the sensation of actual pain is significantly reduced.
In this way, tricking the body into thinking that pain is occurring elsewhere in the body means that your migraine headache fades into the background. So next time you feel a migraine coming on, either brew up a nice warm cayenne tea or pop a couple of cayenne pepper supplements. Either one should give you a welcome reprieve from a splitting headache.
Many diets these days are all about the word “detox.” However, they often lose sight of how to achieve this beyond a few “cleansing” green smoothies. Cayenne pepper is a proven detoxifier, due to its ability to stimulate circulation and eliminate acidity. Cayenne stimulates an inefficient circulatory system by opening the capillaries and regulating blood sugar. At the same time, it improves your digestive capacity by forcing harmful bacteria and toxins from your gastrointestinal tract.
Cayenne can make a great addition to any weight loss program, as it suppresses appetite. This makes you less likely to reach for those salty, delicious, fatty snacks between meals. Cayenne also helps to speed up metabolic processes in your body, helping to burn off those calories even while you’re sitting down watching TV or reading a book!
Studies also show that the capsaicin in cayenne pepper helps to reduce inflammation. Considering inflammation is a common contributor to bloating, food sensitivities and infection (all of which are associated with weight gain), cayenne is a powerful ally to have on your side.
Due to things like antibiotics, oral contraceptives and chronic stress, most people have problems with fungal infections and overgrowth in their gut. This can result in a wide range of problems, including hormonal imbalances, toxicity issues, nutrient malabsorption and reduced immunity.
A 2003 study published in the Journal of Medical Mycology found that the ingredients in cayenne pepper were effective against 16 different fungal strains. This included the notorious Candida albicans, the overgrowth of which causes all kinds of problems in the body, including sugar dependency, mood disorders, and reduced immune function. Researchers think cayenne helps to remove fungal species in the body by disrupting the membrane integrity of fungal cells. And the best part? No side effects!
How to make cayenne pepper tea
Cayenne pepper tea combines all of the wonderful anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and pro-digestive effects of cayenne into one powerful tonic. Drinking this tea once in the morning and once again in the evening can help you to detoxify your body, reduce chronic inflammation and attain overall better health.
- 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
- 1 cup filtered water
- 1/2 fresh lemon
1. Boil one cup of filtered water or mineral water. Remove the water from heat just before it reaches the boil, if possible.
2. While the water is boiling, place one teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper into a cup or mug. Add in the hot water.
3. Using a spoon, stir the cayenne until it has fully dissolved into the water. There may be some cayenne which refuses to mix and instead floats on the top — don’t worry about it!
4. Squeeze the juice of half a fresh lemon into the cup. Use the spoon to stir the mixture once more.
5. Cover the cup with a small plate or saucer and leave to steep for around five minutes, or until it is cool enough to drink. Make sure you drink it before it cools down completely, however!
Sip the drink slowly and reap the rewards! Many people like to sip this tea before breakfast, to stimulate the metabolism and reduce appetite. It’s great to drink again before bed to help the body detoxify itself while you sleep. Mix in other ingredients, like fresh grated ginger or fine-chopped garlic, for additional health benefits.
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— Liivi Hess
Still not convinced? Here are more reasons why you need cayenne in your life!