Wellness Wednesdays: A few benefits of cayenne pepper

Cayenne pepper, which is a member of the Capsicum family of vegetables (chillis) is not only a great addition to your food because of the flavourful spice it provides but because of its nutritional value too. Due to its high capsaicin content, cayenne pepper is widely known for its pain-reducing effects, cardiovascular benefits, ability to prevent ulcers and open congested nasal passages. It is also a very good source of vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B6, dietary gibre, vitamin C, manganese and vitamin K.

Some more benefits (from WHfoods.org):

  • Fights inflammation: All chili peppers, including cayenne, contain capsaicin, which in addition to giving cayenne its characteristic heat, is a potent inhibitor of substance P, a neuropeptide associated with inflammatory processes. The hotter the chili pepper, the more capsaicin it contains. The hottest varieties include habanero and Scotch bonnet as well as cayenne peppers. 
  • Natural pain relief: Topical capsaicin has been shown in studies to be an effective treatment for cluster headaches and osteoarthritis pain. S
  • Reduce cholestrol: Cayenne and other red chili peppers have been shown to reduce blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and platelet aggregation, while increasing the body’s ability to dissolve fibrin, a substance integral to the formation of blood clots. Cultures where hot peppers like cayenne are used liberally have a much lower rate of heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism.
  • Clears congestion: Capsaicin not only reduces pain, but its peppery heat also stimulates secretions that help clear mucus from your stuffed up nose or congested lungs. Capsaicin is similar to a compound found in many cold remedies for breaking up congestion, except that capsaicin works much faster. A tea made with hot cayenne pepper very quickly stimulates the mucus membranes lining the nasal passages to drain, helping to relieve congestion and stuffiness. Next cold and flu season, give it a try.
  • Boosts immunity: Cayenne peppers’ bright red color signals its high content of beta-carotene or pro-vitamin A. Often called the anti-infection vitamin, vitamin A is essential for healthy epithelial tissues including the mucous membranes that line the nasal passages, lungs, intestinal tract and urinary tract and serve as the body’s first line of defense against invading pathogens. 
  • Prevents stomach ulcers: Chili peppers like cayenne have a bad – and undeserved – reputation for contributing to stomach ulcers. Not only do they not cause ulcers, these hot peppers may help prevent them by killing bacteria you may have ingested, while powerfully stimulating the cells lining the stomach to secrete protective buffering juices that prevent ulcer formation. The use of cayenne pepper is actually associated with a reduced risk of stomach ulcers.
  • Aids weight loss:All that heat you feel after eating hot chili peppers takes energy, and calories to produce. Even sweet red peppers have been found to contain substances that significantly increase thermogenesis (heat production) and oxygen consumption for more than 20 minutes after they are eaten.

We recommend adding a pinch to any food that you cook or if you are brave enough out half a teaspoon into a shot of water in the morning or add it to your morning cup of rooibos tea – it burns a lot the first time but you do get used to it!

Do you include cayenne pepper in your diet? How?