Many of us are looking for that extra kick of taste in our dishes. And cayenne pepper typically saves the day! This red, hot little spice gives off that powerful heat of flavor that takes meals to a whole new level.
Many cuisines around the world are in fact using cayenne peppers to enhance the heat of various recipes. It’s also a key ingredient in many of our favorite hot sauces.
But, that’s not all. This popular spice was apparently used to help treat various health conditions in the past. What’s more, its medicinal properties still work today, helping to alleviate and prevent many health issues from occurring!
There’s definitely more to this special spice, and we’ll tell you more about it! Find out more about cayenne pepper benefits, and the best ways you can use them in spicing up your dishes.
What is a Cayenne Pepper?
Cayenne pepper is a popular type of chili pepper that belongs to the Capsicum family. Originally cultivated in South and Central America, cayenne peppers were introduced to Europe by Christopher Columbus during the Age of Exploration.
Aside from being a staple spice in various styles of cooking, cayenne peppers have also been used for medicinal purposes for centuries.
Its active ingredient called capsaicin is what gives cayenne pepper its medicinal powers. This compound is also what makes these peppers hot.
Cayenne peppers come in three forms: fresh, dried or powdered. And since it’s so convenient and easy to use, they became a favorite spice in many kitchens.
But beyond the heat and flavor that it adds to various recipes, cayenne pepper also boasts a rich nutritional profile. It contains nutrients and antioxidant properties that are good for your health.
Cayenne Pepper: Fun Facts
You can buy cayenne peppers anytime you want as they’re available all year round.
Cayenne peppers have been known to contain medicinal properties that help treat several health conditions even during the ancient times!
Cayenne pepper contains significant amounts of capsaicin, the same active ingredient used in pepper sprays.
What are the Health Benefits of Cayenne Pepper?
Cayenne pepper promotes weight loss
Spicy dishes fans, rejoice! Cayenne peppers won’t only let you enjoy a hot meal, but may even help you shed pounds, too!
Several studies have been conducted to determine the effectiveness of capsaicin in cayenne in weight management.
Such studies concluded that capsaicin suppresses appetite, and increases energy use, providing ample support for weight loss efforts.
A more recent study discovered that cayenne consumption can reduce body fat. The effects, however, may not manifest immediately. This suggests that while cayenne can help, it’s not the be-all and end-all of your fitness goals.
You can allow cayenne to be that extra catalyst, but don’t forget to have a proper diet and regular exercise.
Cayenne pepper helps normalize blood sugar
Many people are struggling to maintain normal blood sugar levels. In fact, statistics show that 422 million people around the world are suffering from diabetes as of 2014.
This comes as no surprise as many of the foods we eat today contain carbohydrates and processed sugars.
But, another recent study suggests that spicing things up with cayenne peppers may help!
Researchers found that individuals who consumed capsaicin, cayenne’s active ingredient, reduced their blood sugar levels, and maintained healthy insulin levels.
The results even suggest that capsaicin intake may help manage type 2 diabetes.
Cayenne pepper promotes healthy digestion
One of the most important cayenne pepper health benefits is its ability to promote good digestion. Cayenne pepper improves saliva production, which helps prevent bad breath and support your digestive system.
Saliva plays an important role in breaking down starches and other digestive processes.
Cayenne pepper promotes eye health
One of the most essential nutrients contained in cayenne peppers is Vitamin A. This important vitamin helps promote skin and eye health and improve neurological function.
It is also an antioxidant that combats free radicals, preventing the risk of inflammation. Studies revealed that antioxidants such as vitamin A play a major role in fostering cell growth, improving immunity, and enhancing vision.
Great news for all of us, cayenne pepper is packed with vitamin A. In fact, a teaspoon of cayenne pepper already provides you with 44 percent of this essential nutrient.
Cayenne pepper supports colon health
The chili peppers’ capsaicin compound has also been linked to the interruption of cancer cell growth. Researchers discovered that capsaicin also played a role in disrupting the formation and growth of colorectal cancer.
While the study doesn’t outright conclude peppers can cure cancer, the results of the research are still encouraging.
Cayenne pepper relieves pain
It’s almost impossible to believe how a small pepper can relieve pain, but it can!
A case report revealed how a 39-year-old woman with trigeminal neuralgia found relief from the daily consumption of hot peppers – something that wasn’t achieved by therapy and even surgery!
Capsaicin ointment was also found to reduce pain in patients suffering from chronic soft tissue discomfort.
Meantime, a separate study discovered the effectiveness of capsaicin plasters in reducing pain experienced by children recovering from surgery.
Cayenne pepper relieves nasal congestion
Rhinitis occurs when the mucous membrane inside your nose is irritated or inflamed. This is commonly associated with symptoms such as a runny nose, stuffy nose, post-nasal drip, and sneezing.
A study evaluated the effectiveness of capsaicin nasal spray in improving non-allergic rhinitis. It was discovered that patients who used the capsaicin spray improved their sinus discomfort and congestion.
Cayenne pepper improves symptoms of IBS
Hot pepper intake may sound counterintuitive for bowel discomfort, but it appears to be useful.
A placebo-controlled study discovered that Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) sufferers who consumed cayenne pepper significantly improved their symptoms.
The findings concluded that red peppers were more effective in reducing the intensity of abdominal pain and bloating than placebo.
Cayenne pepper may promote cardiovascular health
Don’t get too giddy as too much cayenne consumption may raise your blood pressure, too. But, with the right amounts, it could improve your cardiovascular health.
At least that’s what a study discovered when men were supplemented with chili. The four-week trial revealed that regular chili consumption decreased resting heart rate.
While no direct cardiovascular benefits were found, there were no reported adverse effects, too.
How to Add Cayenne Pepper to Your Diet?
These red, hot chili peppers are available throughout the year, and you can purchase them fresh, dried or powdered.
Some people believe it is best to buy the fresh ones as powdered variants are sometimes combined with poorer quality herbs. Its benefits are still awesome though, regardless of the form it takes.
So, dried and powdered variants are still great choices! This cayenne pepper powder, for example, is made from high-quality spices, gluten-free, and friendly to Paleo and vegan diets!
Whatever form they take, you can easily access cayenne pepper in the market, so adding this popular spice to your dishes can be a breeze!
But first, you need to make sure you’re picking only the best ones with a healthy stem and a vibrant red color if you're looking for fresh peppers.
Also, look for spots and spoiled tips, and if you notice some, pick another. Put your peppers in a plastic bag and store them in your fridge so they can stay fresh up to a week.
Once you’re sure you have only the quality peppers in your hands, it’s time to get them into your dish! Below are some excellent ways on how to use cayenne peppers!
Spice up your drinks
Fresh cayenne peppers can be mixed with water, lemon juice, and maple syrup for a fiery drink! This drink is part of what is called “Master Cleanse” that aims to detoxify your body.
You can also add a pinch of cayenne to your hot chocolate drink! This spicy hot chocolate fix is enjoyed by many Latin American countries. You can try it for yourself, too!
Heat up your dishes by adding dried or powdered cayenne peppers
Add that spice and healthy kick to your recipes! Dried or powdered, cayenne peppers can be incorporated into any of your meals, be it meat, veggie or a pasta dish.
It’s safe to start with half a teaspoon first before you work your way up.
Dash your meals with some powdered cayenne or chili flakes
Put your chili flakes or powdered cayenne in a shaker and keep it at your dinner table. You can dash your stews and soups with it or use it as a salt substitute in your dishes.
Take it as a supplement
Cayenne pepper supplements are also a thing today. You can buy a bottle of cayenne supplements, and follow the instructions on the label for the recommended dosage per day.
What are the Potential Risks of Cayenne Pepper Consumption?
As in all things, too much cayenne can be harmful, too. Taking cayenne in high amounts may lead to heartburn.
While its capsaicin content brings many health benefits, it can also irritate the esophagus lining and stomach. When this happens, the stomach acid produced increases, causing a burning sensation in the upper abdomen.
Capsaicin may also interact with certain medications such as aspirin and blood thinners. Should you consider taking cayenne supplements, make sure to check with your doctor first.
Getting your doctor’s approval is important, especially if you’re pregnant, nursing or under certain medications.
There are many ways you can enjoy cayenne pepper and its benefits to your health. You can take your dishes up a notch by adding that extra kick with this popular spice.
To enjoy its potential, make sure that you’re taking it in appropriate amounts. And, don’t forget to consult with your doctor, especially if you have health concerns.