Health Benefits of Cayenne pepper

health-benefits-of-cayenne-pepper

We have placed nightshade vegetables (such as cayenne pepper) on our “10 Most Controversial WHFoods List.” This list was created to let you know that even though some foods (like cayenne pepper) can make an outstanding contribution to your meal plan, they are definitely not for everyone. Nightshade vegetables can be difficult to find in high-quality form; can be more commonly associated with adverse reactions than other foods; and can present more challenges to our food supply in terms of sustainability. More details about our 10 Most Controversial WHFoods can be found here.

About Cayenne Pepper

Hot and spicy, cayenne pepper is available year round adding zest to flavorful dishes around the world and health to those brave enough to risk its fiery heat.

The cayenne pepper is a member of the Capsicum family of vegetables, which are more commonly known as chili peppers. It is known botanically as Capsicum annuum. The common name “cayenne” was actually given to this pepper because of its cultivation in a town that bears the same name in French Guiana on the northeast coast of South America.

Nutrients in
Cayenne Pepper
2.00 tsp (3.60 grams)
Nutrient%Daily Value


 vitamin A29.9%


 vitamin E5.3%


 vitamin C4.5%


 vitamin B64.5%


 fiber3.9%


 vitamin K3.6%


 manganese3.5%


Calories (11)0%


This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Cayenne pepper provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Cayenne pepper can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Cayenne pepper, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.

  • Health Benefits
  • Description
  • History
  • How to Select and Store
  • How to Enjoy
  • Individual Concerns
  • Nutritional Profile
  • References

Health Benefits

Hot and spicy, cayenne pepper adds zest to flavorful dishes around the world and health to those brave enough to risk its fiery heat. The hotness produced by cayenne is caused by its high concentration of a substance called capsaicin. Technically referred to as 8-methyul-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide, capsaicin has been widely studied for its pain-reducing effects, its cardiovascular benefits, and its ability to help prevent ulcers. Capsaicin also effectively opens and drains congested nasal passages.

In addition to their high capsaicin content, cayenne peppers are also an excellent source of vitamin A, through its concentration of pro-vitamin A carotenoids including beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is not only a potent antioxidant in its own right, but can be converted in the body to vitamin A, a nutrient essential for the health of all epithelial tissues (the tissues that line all body cavities including the respiratory, gastrointestinal and reproductive tracts). Beta-carotene may therefore be helpful in reducing the symptoms of asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, its antioxidant activity make it useful in preventing the free radical damage that can lead to atherosclerosis, colon cancer, and diabetic complications, like nerve damage and heart disease.

Fight 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. Jalapenos are next in their heat and capsaicin content, followed by the milder varieties, including Spanish pimentos, and Anaheim and Hungarian cherry peppers.

Capsaicin is being studied as an effective treatment for sensory nerve fiber disorders, including pain associated with arthritis, psoriasis, and diabetic neuropathy. When animals injected with a substance that causes inflammatory arthritis were fed a diet that contained capsaicin, they had delayed onset of arthritis, and also significantly reduced paw inflammation.

Natural Pain Relief

Topical capsaicin has been shown in studies to be an effective treatment for cluster headaches and osteoarthritis pain. Several review studies of pain management for diabetic neuropathy have listed the benefits of topical capsaicin to alleviate disabling pain associated with this condition.

In a double-blind placebo controlled trial, nearly 200 patients with psoriasis were given topical preparations containing either capsaicin or placebo. Patients who were given capsaicin reported significant improvement based on a severity score which traced symptoms associated with psoriasis. The side effect reported with topical capsaicin cream is a burning sensation at the area of application.

Cardiovascular Benefits

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.

Clear 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.

Boost Immunity

Cayenne peppers’ bright red color signals its high content of beta-carotene or pro-vitamin A. Just two teaspoons of cayenne pepper provide 47% of the daily value for 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.

Prevent 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.

Lose Weight

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.

Description

The cayenne pepper is a member of the Capsicum family of vegetables, which are more commonly known as chili peppers. It is known botanically as Capsicum annuum. The common name “cayenne” was actually given to this pepper because of its cultivation in a town that bears the same name in French Guiana on the northeast coast of South America.

History

It is not surprising that cayenne peppers as well as other chili peppers can trace their seven thousand year history to Central and South America, regions whose cuisines are renowned for their hot and spicy flavors. They have been cultivated in these regions for more than seven thousand years, first as a decorative item and later as a foodstuff and medicine.

It was not until the 15th and 16th centuries that cayenne and other chili peppers were introduced to the rest of the world. Christopher Columbus encountered them on his explorations of the Caribbean Islands and brought them back to Europe where they were used as a substitute for black pepper, which was very expensive at that time since it had to be imported from Asia. Ferdinand Magellan is credited with introducing them into Africa and Asia, continents that since have incorporated them not only into their cuisines but their pharmacopeias. While cayenne and chili peppers are now grown on all continents, today China, Turkey, Nigeria, Spain and Mexico are among the largest commercial producers.

How to Select and Store

Even though dried herbs and spices are widely available in supermarkets, explore the local spice stores or ethnic markets in your area. Oftentimes, these stores feature an expansive selection of dried herbs and spices that are of superior quality and freshness than those offered in regular markets. Just like with other dried spices, try to select organically grown dried cayenne pepper since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated.

Cayenne pepper should be kept in a tightly sealed glass jar, away from direct sunlight.

How to Enjoy

A Few Quick Serving Ideas
  • Cayenne is sure to heat up any vegetable healthy sauté.
  • Keep a container of cayenne on the table right next to the pepper mill, so you and your family can add a pinch of extra spice to any of your meals.
  • Give your hot cocoa a traditional Mexican flair by adding a tiny bit of cayenne pepper.
  • Canned beans take on a whole new dimension when cayenne is added to them.
  • Cayenne and lemon juice make great complements to cooked bitter greens such as collards, kale and mustard greens.

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

Individual Concerns

Cayenne Pepper Belongs to the Nightshade Family

Cayenne pepper comes from chili peppers, one of the vegetables in the nightshade (Solanaceae) family, which also includes eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers and white potatoes. Anecdotal case histories link improvement in arthritis symptoms with removal of these foods; however, there are no scientific studies to date that confirm this information.

Nutritional Profile

Cayenne pepper is an excellent source of vitamin A. It is also a very good source of vitamin E as well as a good source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin C, fiber, vitamin K, and manganese and dietary fiber.

For an in-depth nutritional profile click here: Cayenne pepper.

In-Depth Nutritional Profile

In addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, an in-depth nutritional profile for Cayenne pepper is also available. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good, or good source (below the chart you will find a table that explains these qualifications). If a nutrient is not listed in the chart, it does not necessarily mean that the food doesn’t contain it. It simply means that the nutrient is not provided in a sufficient amount or concentration to meet our rating criteria. (To view this food’s in-depth nutritional profile that includes values for dozens of nutrients – not just the ones rated as excellent, very good, or good – please use the link below the chart.) To read this chart accurately, you’ll need to glance up in the top left corner where you will find the name of the food and the serving size we used to calculate the food’s nutrient composition. This serving size will tell you how much of the food you need to eat to obtain the amount of nutrients found in the chart. Now, returning to the chart itself, you can look next to the nutrient name in order to find the nutrient amount it offers, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling.” Read more background information and details of our rating system.

Cayenne Pepper
2.00 tsp
3.60 grams
11.45 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World’s Healthiest
Foods Rating
vitamin A 1497.96 IU 30.0 47.1 excellent
vitamin E 1.07 mg (ATE) 5.3 8.4 very good
vitamin C 2.75 mg 4.6 7.2 good
vitamin B6 0.09 mg 4.5 7.1 good
fiber 0.98 g 3.9 6.2 good
vitamin K 2.89 mcg 3.6 5.7 good
manganese 0.07 mg 3.5 5.5 good
World’s Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DV>=75% OR
Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR
Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR
Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%
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