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Capsaicin is a flavonoid present in chili peppers and is responsible for their spiciness. Many cultures around the world use chili peppers in their everyday cooking and reap its many health benefits.
Capsaicin is found in varying amounts in all types of peppers including capsicum. (1) It is widely used and studied for its pain-relieving property, and studies have found it has more than one benefit.
Health Benefits of Capsaicin
Including sources of capsaicin in the diet can offer these health benefits.
1. Improves metabolism and weight loss
An improved metabolism can be valuable in boosting energy and reducing weight. Make sure you flavor your food with paprika and use capsicum as both of these are safe sources of capsaicin.
In another study on people with obesity, 6 mg capsaicin consumption each day for 12 weeks reduced belly fat and some overall fat loss. It is also able to sustain weight loss by aiding the body in using fat as an energy source. (3)
2. Promotes heart health
Heart diseases have become increasingly common in today’s world. Untreated or unmanaged heart diseases can lead to further complications and may even result in death.
Fortunately, dietary modifications such as including capsaicin-rich foods in the diet can help.
In one study, subjects who consumed 4 mg capsaicin each day twice daily for 3 months had reduced levels of total triglyceride (a type of fat involved in atherosclerosis and increasing belly fat). The study suggested capsaicin was effective in reducing the risk of heart disease. (4)
Capsaicin is also involved in reducing hypertension by influencing substances in the body that relax blood vessels to ease the flow of blood. Animal studies have also found capsaicin to increase the amount of sodium excreted via urine and help in the reduction of blood pressure in a high-salt diet. (5)
3. Relieves pain
Many topical painkiller ointments contain capsaicin due to its potent pain-killing activity. Experts have identified capsaicin to first increase the sensation of pain upon application before numbing it. Repeated application makes the pain-sensitive nerves lose their ability to detect pain, thus reducing discomfort. (1)
Capsaicin-based creams are especially useful in people suffering from osteoarthritis (a common joint pain) and muscle strain. (6)
4. Reduces migraine
Capsaicin’s natural painkiller activity also brings relief from migraine and cluster headaches. People who suffer from migraine experience debilitating pain that can hinder their work and daily life.
Topical application of capsaicin reduces migraine by causing relaxation of nerves and blood vessels, thereby easing the pain. (7)
5. Controls diabetes
In addition to its role in improving heart health and weight loss, capsaicin also has antidiabetic effects.
Animal studies report the use of 6 mg capsaicin each day for 28 days reduced intestinal absorption of sugar and increased the amount of insulin. Both these functions work together to bring down blood sugar levels effectively. (8)
6. Manages psoriasis
Psoriasis is a skin condition where red, itchy, and swollen patches appear on the skin. It causes discomfort, dryness, and even bleeding. Most cases of psoriasis are managed by the use of topical medicated creams.
Recently, capsaicin creams have found their spot in the management of the inflammation, itchiness, and pain caused by psoriasis. (10)
7. Can help relieve sore throat
8. May prevent cancer
Capsaicin has been known to have a protective role against cancer.
In lab and animal studies, capsaicin was able to reduce the spread of cancerous cells in various types of cancers. It also acts as an antioxidant that reduces the activity of free radicals that can damage healthy cells and turn them cancerous. (12)
However, note that capsaicin alone cannot be helpful in curing cancer. A multitude of therapies are required, and you must consult a doctor for the appropriate treatment.
Precautions to Consider
While capsaicin has many health benefits, care must be taken in its consumption and overuse must be avoided.
Some of its associated risks include: (11)
- Sinus and upper respiratory tract infections
- Gastric ulcers
- Throat infection
Most-Asked Questions About Capsaicin
Do capsaicin supplements work?
Capsaicin supplements are readily available and are generally safe to consume. However, do consult a doctor to identify a safe dose for you.
Who should avoid taking capsaicin?
People with allergies and those that experience adverse side effects such as the ones listed above need to stop taking capsaicin immediately.
Capsaicin obtained naturally from capsicum and other chili peppers is an underrated compound that has many health benefits. It can reduce various types of pain, boost metabolism to aid weight loss, improve heart health, and protect against diabetes.
Generally safe to consume, capsaicin may have some side effects when overconsumed or in people with allergies.