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Is Cayenne Pepper Bad For You?



Short answer

Cayenne pepper is a red hot spicy pepper that not only has wonderful culinary uses but has been used for centuries for its oral and topical medicinal properties. Side effects are uncommon but there is the potential for adverse reactions at high doses. There may also be interaction with certain pharmaceuticals.



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Long answer

If you enjoy the addition of spice to your food then you probably have enjoyed the flavor of cayenne pepper.  Cayenne pepper originated in South and Central America, West Indies and Mexico.  Once dried, the pepper can be finely ground and added to a vast variety of cuisines.  The active ingredient in cayenne is capsaicin.  Capsaicin gives cayenne its spicy pungent intensity and is also a potent pain reliever that also has topical effectiveness in chronic arthritic conditions. Capsaicin opens up the blood flow in the body.

There are many beneficial nutrients in cayenne. It is a great source of Vitamin A, C, E, K, B6, riboflavin, niacin and minerals that include manganese, magnesium, potassium and iron.

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that also supports collagen production which helps retain healthy skin, blood vessels, bones and organs. Vitamin K supports healthy blood flow. Vitamin A supports a healthy immune system and healthy mucous membranes. Potassium is great for the cardiovascular system.

Cayenne peppers have a high content of carotenoids (pigments that give the pepper its color). This includes lycopene and astaxanthin-one of the most potent antioxidants known today.

The touted health benefits of cayenne are extensive.  For centuries health professionals have recommended cayenne (with its high content of capsaicin) for stimulation of blood flow. This potentiates the positive effects of additional healthy herbs and supports weight loss through thermogenisis.  This heart healthy pepper has been used to regulate blood pressure, help with circulatory problems such as congestive heart failure and varicose veins. Some benefit has also been witnessed in individuals suffering from irregular heartbeats and palpitations. When used consistently cayenne is found to reduce triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in obese individuals.

The Cancer Treatment Centers of America have listed cayenne as one of the top foods to have natural anti-cancer properties. A study done at the LA School of Medicine demonstrated that cayenne decreased the growth of prostate cancer cells and also had the ability to kill some of them. Early laboratory animal studies suggest that capsaicin has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties.

Cayenne taken orally as well as topically (utilizing the capsaicin as the active ingredient) has shown to be very effective for chronic inflammatory pain such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, traumatic arthritis and fibromyalgia. Topical preparations have also been recommended for migraines, diabetic neuropathy, shingles, post herpetic neuralgia and post operative pain. For pain relief your health care professional may suggest a capsaicin cream, lotion, ointment, gel, stick, film, or ointment.  You usually do not need a prescription.

Although rare you can see side effects with cayenne-especially at high doses.  If you are using cayenne in supplement form then start slow and work your way up to a higher dose.  The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends 30mg to 120mg once to three times a day-depending on your tolerance.  Higher doses of cayenne have been associated with upset stomach, inflammation of the intestinal tract and esophageal reflux. Other potential side effects include sweating, flushing, tearing and a runny nose. Excessive use could also cause kidney damage making it especially important to consult a health care professional about appropriate dosages.

Many individuals take pharmaceuticals that could possibly interact with larger amounts of cayenne.  Cayenne can increase the absorption of the asthma medication theophylline, which could result in toxic levels building up in the bloodstream. If you are on blood pressure medications such as ACE-inhibitors you can experience excessive coughing.  You should also consult with your health care professional if you are on blood thinners and MAO-inhibitors. Allergic reactions are rare but if you have an allergy to bananas, avocado, kiwi, latex or chestnuts you may be more prone to a reaction with cayenne.

It is not really clear if cayenne supplements are safe to take during pregnancy or breast feeding. Taking cayenne pepper supplements while pregnant could lead to problems with digestion and acid reflux. Cayenne can be passed to the baby during breast feeding. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center advises that breastfeeding and pregnant women avoid cayenne pepper supplements. Using small amounts of cayenne on foods appear to be completely safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

When purchasing cayenne products the best options are to look for certified organic and non-GMO. 

Possible short-term side effects

  • medication interactions
  • gi upset and inflammation at higher doses
  • sweating, flushing, tearing and runny nose
  • allergic reactions

Possible long-term side effects

  • kidney damage with excessive use

Commonly found in

  • mexican cuisine
  • indian cuisine
  • spanish cuisine
  • creole cuisine
  • szechuan cuisine
  • native american cuisine
  • cajun cuisine


  • natural anti-bacterial
  • natural anti-inflammatory
  • anti-cancer properties
  • pain reliever
  • excellent source of vitamins and minerals
  • powerful antioxidant
  • heart healthy
  • stimulates blood flow
  • helps cholesterol and triglycerides
  • supports healthy blood pressure
  • supports glucose levels
  • supports healthy immune system
  • vegan and lactose free

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Simply Organic Cayenne

  • 100% Organic Pepper
  • No GMOs
  • Kosher Certified
  • Pure Cayenne Spices
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Dr. Becky Maes
Published on: 11-14-2023
Last updated: 12-15-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Dr. Becky Maes
Published on: 11-14-2023
Last updated: 12-15-2023

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