Cayenne the Miracle Herb?                                                     More Articles
By CJ Puotinen

Reprinted from "Country Sun" magazine

Useful for heart health
Chili peppers, aka cayenne, are full of contradictions. They’re hot enough to hurt, yet they can relieve pain, improve circulation, stimulate the appetite, and actually cool you down in hot weather. If that’s not good enough, they’re both tasty and medicinal.

Popular in the Americas for at least 9,000 years, cayenne spread quickly around the world. Chili peppers are now widely used in the cuisines of Southeast Asia, china, and Southern Italy, as well as their native Mexico. Traditional Ayurvedic, Chinese, Japanese and Korean medicines use cayenne as a remedy for digestive problems, muscle pain, and frostbite. In Europe and the U.S., cayenne is used topically to relieve the pain of arthritis, shingles (Herpes zoster), and cancer. But you don’t want to breathe this hot spice or get it in your eyes: Capsaicin, cayenne’s active ingredient, irritates mucous membranes, making it a potent chemical in personal defense sprays.

Relieve Pain
How does cayenne relieve pain? Capsaicin eases pain by destroying “substance P,” a chemical messenger that transmits pain signals to the brain. With substance P incapacitated, pain disappears. Conditions that respond to the capsaicin in topical creams or capsules include the following:

  • Joint and muscle pain from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other causes.
  • Post-surgical pain from mastectomies or amputations.
  • Cluster headaches and chronic headaches (the cream is applied inside the nose).
  • Diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage in the feet or legs caused by diabetes.
  • Toothaches
  • Colds
  • Itching and inflammation of psoriasis.

Ironically, cayenne may even help heal stomach ulcers, whose sufferers in the past have been told to avoid hot peppers and spices. Cayenne may also thin mucus and help remove it from the lungs, as well as strengthen lung tissue to help prevent or treat emphysema, a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Protect your heart
Now, scientists are exploring the possibility that cayenne improves blood flow to the heart when atherosclerosis or plaque blocks the arteries. Cayenne and capsaicin stimulate the cardiovascular system, improve circulation, lower blood cholesterol, reduce triglyceride levels, and help prevent clotting and hardening of the arteries. Cayenne also helps the body dissolve fibrin, a substance involved in the formation of blood clots. Cultures in which hot peppers spice up the local cuisine have a much lower rate of heart attack, stroke, and pulmonary embolism than do other societies.

Cayenne is a friend to the heart because it feeds the cells, improves capillary strength, and strengthens arteries and veins. This spicy herb regulates the flow of blood from head to toe and strengthens the pulse without increasing the frequency of heartbeats or raising blood pressure.

Too hot to handle?
Cayenne isn’t for everyone, and its heat-producing capsaicin can cause problems even for its fans. Capsaicin, the chemical that makes peppers hot, comes in different concentrations depending on the variety of chili pepper. Habanero and Scotch bonnet peppers are at the top of the heat scale, followed by jalapenos, which are followed by milder varieties such as Spanish pimientos, Anaheim chilies, and Hungarian cherry peppers.

Wash you hands very well after cutting fresh cayenne or handling cayenne powder, and keep your hands away from your eyes! The burning, itching sensation that cayenne produces on the skin should quickly subside, but you can chase it away faster by applying any vegetable oil and wiping it away. Capsaicin is oil soluble, not water soluble. Cayenne, like other peppers, is a member of the nightshade family, which includes all green, yellow, and red peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and tobacco. Someone who is sensitive to nightshade chemicals may not be able to use cayenne internally or capsaicin creams topically.


Selected Sources

"Alternative Treatments for Weight Loss" By D.B. Allison
"Clinical Applications of Capsaicinoids" By w. Robbins.
"Natural Relief from Aches and Pains" By Cj Puotinen
"Other herbs for your heart" By Roy Kiss

 

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