Cayenne Pepper Health Benefits

Cayenne pepper, also known as red pepper, hot pepper, or chili pepper, is obtained from the dried and ground fruits of the Capsicum annuum plant, native to southern North America and northern South America. It’s used in various culinary traditions for adding spiciness to a dish. That distinctive burning-hot spiciness is due to the high concentration of capsaicin in the dried cayenne pepper. Capsaicin is also the active phytochemical responsible for the health benefits of consuming cayenne pepper. Cayenne has been used medicinally for centuries, and only recently have scientific studies been carried out on the spice, confirming its analgesic, antioxidant, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-obesity properties.

Anticancer Properties of Cayenne Pepper

In many types of cancer, apoptosis (programmed cell death) is suppressed, leading to abnormal cell growth and malignancy formation. The capsaicin in cayenne pepper has been shown to induce apoptosis in many different types of cancer cells, effectively killing them, while leaving healthy cells unharmed. This cancer-cell targeted killing has been shown in cancers of the pancreas, colon, prostate, liver, esophagus, bladder, skin, blood, lung, and endothelium. Further studies will likely show that there are other types of cancer cells that can be eliminated by capsaicin.

Capsaicin’s effectiveness against cancer is a multi-pronged attack. Besides simply killing cancer cells, it has been shown to suppress their growth. Rapidly growing and dividing cancer cells were shown to enter a state of arrest of the cell cycle growth phase after being exposed to capsaicin.

Another anticancer trick of the cayenne pepper is its ability to inhibit the growth of new blood vessels. Since malignant tumors require the ingrowth of vasculature to feed their expansion, the capsaicin in cayenne pepper may be able to prevent cancers from becoming malignant.

As if that weren’t enough to convince you that cayenne pepper is effective against cancer, capsaicin has also been shown to inhibit metastasis in cancers. Metastasis is the process by which cancer cells migrate from the original tumor site and invade other tissues and organs. Capsaicin has anti-invasive and anti-migratory activity, and can effectively suppress advanced stages of cancer, as shown in studies on mouse prostate cancer and skin cancer. However, in one study capsaicin promoted metastasis of colon cancer.

It’s important to remember that there are many phytochemicals in spices, fruits, and vegetables that have anticancer properties, and combining different ones by eating a varied diet is more effective in preventing and treating cancer than consuming a single one. The combination of low doses of different anticancer agents enhances their efficacy by attacking cancer cells from different angles while reducing the risk of toxicity caused by higher doses of a single compound. Capsaicin was studied in combination with resveratrol (from grapes) and indole-3-carbinol (present in broccoli), and the apoptotic effect against colorectal and prostate cancers was found to be enhanced. [1]

Cayenne Pepper for Chronic Pain Relief

A recent study [2] showed that a skin-contacting patch containing 8% capsaicin was very effective in treating peripheral neuropathic pain (PNP). PNP can be caused by nerve injury, diabetes, cancer, or HIV infection, and reduces the quality of life for its sufferers, effecting sleep and work productivity. The application of the capsaicin patch to the site of nerve pain for only 30 minutes had a fast and long-lasting action of reducing the pain. Additional treatments were required only after an average of 26 weeks.

Cayenne Pepper for Weight Loss


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