Capsaicin is far from bad for you. In fact, the compound is very beneficial to your health and offers benefits from weight loss to a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
Capsaicin is the active ingredient in chili peppers responsible for both the burning, spicy flavor and array of health benefits. Capsaicin mostly lives in the seeds and ribs of the peppers and its spiciness is measured in Scoville units. Your tolerance to capsaicin builds over time, so if you begin with less spicy peppers, you can work your way up.
Consuming too much capsaicin can cause diarrhea and some other minor effects from the spiciness such as tearing eyes and runny nose, a burning sensation in the mouth, sweating, and flushing of the skin. These are such minor effects and are totally worth the burn for many!
Capsaicin does have a number of beneficial health effects, though, that far outweigh the temporary burn of spice. It can reduce and fight inflammation, reduce swelling and pain, boost the immune system, improve cardiovascular health, and fights cancer cells.
Its use as an anti-inflammatory is one of capsaicin’s best known. Inflammation is reduced because capsaicin inhibits substance P (SP). SP is a neuropeptide that causes irritation and inflammation in epithelial cells and in the immune system, and leads to inflammatory diseases of the respiratory, digestive, and musculoskeletal systems. Capsaicin also reduces pain and swelling. It can often be found in topical products to relieve these symptoms, like those used for arthritis and diabetic neuropathy.
Capsaicin can have benefits in cardiovascular health as well. Not only does it decrease cholesterol levels, but it can also reduce platelet aggregation and dissolve fibrin which together form plaque in the arteries that can break free and cause embolisms. This also leads to less atherosclerosis formation.
One particular interesting effect of capsaicin is its ability to stop the spread of cancer cells - specifically prostate cancer cells. The form of testosterone that activates Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) is also inhibited causing the levels of PSA to drop.
Lastly, the same spiciness that causes your eyes to weep and nose and mouth to burn also clears congestion and causes a thermogenic reaction in your body. This thermogenic agent means increased metabolism or, in other words, everyone’s favorite mechanism – fat burning. Many supplements that claim to burn fat contain capsaicin, but eating a few flavorful, spicy peppers sounds way better!
Possible short-term side effects
- burning mouth
- runny eyes and nose
- flushed skin
- boosts immune system
- decreases pain and swelling
- reduces prostate cancer risk
- promotes weight loss
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Written by Kristin Brown, DC, MS | 07-19-2016
Written by Kristin Brown, DC, MS
Suggest improvement or correction