Cayenne pepper is a type of chili pepper (Capsicum annuum) closely related to bell peppers and jalapeños.
One of the oldest domesticated plants, chilies originated in South America and have been cultivated and consumed for more than 8,000 years. Capsicum is now considered a global food, found in nearly every country and adopted as an essential ingredient in many different cultural cuisines. This superfood’s active ingredient, capsaicin (as well as related molecules known as capsaicinoids), is responsible for cayenne pepper’s hot and spicy flavour, as well as its medicinal properties.
- Painkiller: Capsaicin-containing ointments and creams have been used for decades. Topical applications of capsaicin can be effective in the management of chronic, neuropathic and musculoskeletal pain as well as certain skin disorders. Capsaicin has been shown to reduce the amount of substance P, a neuropeptide produced by the body, that travels to the brain, signifying pain. By reducing substance P, pain signals no longer reach the brain and feelings of pain decrease. It is believed that substance P also plays a role in psoriasis, so capsaicin creams may help improve psoriasis-related symptoms. The advantage of low-dose capsaicin lies in its lack of systemic adverse effects, offering an alternative treatment for those with intolerance or contraindications to conventional pain treatment.
- Fat Fighter: Obesity often serves as a precursor to other health issues, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer and osteoarthritis. A systematic review of capsaicin and weight management suggests that capsaicinoids may play a notable role in maintaining a healthy weight. Capsaicin has been shown to diminish appetite, reduce food intake and increase the body’s thermogenic response—an increase in heat production during digestion that boosts the metabolism, burning more calories and fat. A Purdue University study recommends consuming cayenne pepper in non-capsule form because the sensory experience of its taste maximizes digestive processes: the heat contributes to a rise in body temperature, energy expenditure and appetite control. Dietary changes that require minimal effort, like adding a dash of cayenne pepper to your meal, may be beneficial when paired with exercise and a healthy diet.
- Practical Panacea: Commonly used as a home remedy for coughs and colds, ingesting cayenne pepper is reputed to relieve associated symptoms like congestion, sneezing, stuffy nose and postnasal drip. Topical applications of capsaicin, such as nasal spray, may be effective in reducing nasal congestion in non-allergic rhinitis sufferers by acting to shrink dilated blood vessels in the nose and throat. Not only that, but cayenne pepper is also associated with antimicrobial activity demonstrated against group A Streptococci, the type of bacteria responsible for strep throat and other diseases. As well, it’s a potent natural inhibitor of food-borne pathogens. Even more, preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in 2020 found that people who eat chili peppers had a 25 percent relative reduction in all-cause mortality compared to those who never, or rarely, consumed chilies.
Try this superfood in our Moroccan Tomato Soup.