You may reach for cayenne pepper to spice up your favorite recipes, but did you know it’s also impressively good for your health? Long before becoming a popular ingredient in some of the best detox recipes, cayenne was cultivated as an herbal remedy. It has been used for millennia across the Americas, Europe and Asia as a health tonic, as well as in Ayurveda and Native American medicines for everything from circulatory issues to respiratory health.
So, What’s so Hot About Cayenne Pepper?
In a word: capsaicin. Many of the beneficial properties of cayenne peppers come from the same compound that makes them hot – a phytochemical known as capsaicin. Capsaicin feels hot because it tricks heat-sensitive pain receptors into thinking they’ve been exposed to something hot, even though the temperature isn’t a factor at all.
Some people believe the heat is just in the seeds, but it’s actually in the white membrane and fruit tissue, too. Yes, peppers are often thought of as vegetables, but they’re actually fruit, like tomatoes and other nightshades. Like other peppers, they contain vitamins A and C, and the extra heat they add to the body may help burn more calories each day.
What are the Benefits of Cayenne Pepper?
Scientists continue to study how the capsaicin in peppers may help your health. Capsaicin benefits may include vascular and metabolic health1 and a host of other health benefits. We’ve listed some of the most commonly sought benefits of cayenne pepper below.
Cayenne Pepper Benefits
- Metabolism & Weight Loss – Cayenne may reduce your appetite and boost your metabolism to help support weight loss.
- Digestive Aid – Cayenne stimulates saliva and digestive enzyme production so your body is primed for healthy digestion, which helps your body absorb more nutrients from the foods you eat.
- Heart & Blood Health – Cayenne helps promote healthy circulation and cardiovascular function.
- Detox Support – Cayenne stimulates circulation and helps the digestive system clear out toxins.
- Muscle and Joint Support – Cayenne is sometimes used topically in ointments to stimulate blood flood to muscles and joints.
- Immune Health Support – Cayenne provides antioxidants and healthy vitamins and minerals that support immune health.
- Great Source of Vitamin A – Cayenne is an excellent source of vitamin A (1 tsp provides 44% of the recommended daily value).
How to Use Cayenne Pepper
Get all the cayenne pepper benefits you need by adding fresh or ground cayenne pepper, in small amounts, to the foods you eat. As long as you don’t mind spicy food, you can add it to almost any type of dish including meats, pasta, eggs and even vegetable dips. Start by adding just a small pinch and build up from there, so you don’t accidentally make your food overly spicy. You can also mix cayenne into drinks. It’s often simply combined with water, lemon, and maple syrup as a cayenne detox drink (we like to add a bit of apple cider vinegar too!).
Cayenne Pepper for Weight Loss
Cayenne pepper promotes metabolic health, which could have some implications for weight management.1 Studies have shown that cayenne pepper increased diet-induced thermogenesis and lipid oxidation when added to food.2 The capsaicin in cayenne pepper has been a focus of many studies for its potential role in energy intake, and it may assist with weight loss.3
Cayenne Pepper for Aches and Itching
Cayenne pepper or capsaicin is sometimes added to topical skin creams and applied to areas that ache or itch. Used in this way, cayenne may provide warming effects and increased blood flow to the areas where applied, plus it might help block some signal transmissions to your brain.
Cayenne Pepper for Skin
Cayenne pepper contains antioxidant vitamin C and vitamin A, making it an excellent choice for supporting skin health. Also, when applied topically, cayenne may stimulate blood flow and help get your skin glowing, but don’t just apply cayenne pepper straight onto your skin. Look for ointments containing cayenne or recipes for cayenne skin creams you can make at home. And be sure to do a small skin test first to see how your skin responds. Also, keep cayenne away from your eyes!
Get the Health Benefits of Cayenne Pepper Supplements
If the idea of adding cayenne to your foods on a regular basis doesn’t sound appealing, you can get the health benefits of cayenne and capsaicin health benefits from supplements. Swanson Health’s premium cayenne supplement delivers 450 mg of cayenne and 40,000 heating units of capsaicin, which helps promote healthy circulation, digestive system function and cardiovascular health. Cayenne is also available in liquid cayenne extracts.
About Lindsey Toth, MS, RD
Registered Dietitian, Swanson Health Products
Lindsey is a nationally-recognized registered dietitian and nutritionist with a soft spot for pie. She empowers people to take charge of their health by finding the balance between the pleasure and nourishment in food.
Her philosophy is that you should take care of your body because it’s the only permanent home you have. It’s what inspired her to pursue a career in nutrition and, ultimately, led her to Swanson Health Products.
1 Capsaicin may have important potential for promoting vascular and metabolic health. National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4477151/(01/09/2018)
2 Effects of red pepper added to high-fat and high-carbohydrate meals on energy metabolism and substrate utilization in Japanese women. PubMed. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10211048 (01/17/2018)
3 Could capsaicinoids help to support weight management? A systematic review and meta-analysis of energy intake data. ScienceDirect. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666313004492?via%3Dihub (01/17/2018)