Millions of people from many cultures around the world enjoy the flavor and fire of hot foods. After all, chilies are the second most common spices in the world, following salt.
Millions of people from many cultures around the world enjoy the flavor and fire of hot foods. After all, chilies are the second most common spices in the world, following salt. Few people, however, realize the many health benefits that chili peppers offer.
A substance called capsaicin causes the heat of chilies and peppers. Capsaicin has been associated with many cures that include lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol and warding off strokes and heart attacks, speeding up metabolism, treating colds and fevers, preventing cancer and pain control.
Capsaicin is a flavorless, odorless chemical concentrated in the veins of chilies and peppers. The seeds grow next to the veins and absorb the chemical. Contrary to popular belief, the seeds are not the hottest part of a chili. Rather, the greatest heat is found in the capsaicin oil, which is in the membranes and near the stems of chili plants. Removing the seeds (and especially the veins) can reduce the heat by up to 50 percent. Otherwise, capsaicin is virtually indestructible. It can withstand freezing, cooking and time.
Experts believe that capsaicin acts on and desensitizes nerve fibres that carry pain signals throughout the nervous system. Repeated and high doses of capsaicin prevent sensory nerves from replenishing their chemical stores and they basically run out of neurotransmitters (the chemical agents that transmit the message of pain to a nerve or muscle). When taken internally, capsaicin stimulates circulation sequentially, from the internal organs to the skin surface and subsequently throughout the entire body. When applied externally and once it penetrates the skin, capsaicin increases circulation to the site where it has been applied.
Capsaicin has been proven to be highly successful in relieving symptoms of arthritis, sports injuries, other kinds of chronic joint and muscle pain and certain kinds of itching. Cream made from cayenne was originally used to treat the intense pain of herpes zoster (shingles), which is a nerve infection caused by chicken pox and usually afflicts adults.
Medical studies have shown that capsaicin significantly lowers cholesterol and is a factor in warding off strokes and heart attacks. It has also been medicinally proven to aid in the human body’s process of digestion and protect against stomach ulcers and the ravages of alcohol. Contrary to popular belief that ulcer sufferers should avoid spicy foods, a report published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences concluded that capsaicin increased blood flow in the stomach’s mucous lining, which may help in healing of the stomach tissue. [Herbal] Chili eaters develop fewer peptic ulcers than those who eat plain foods. Chili peppers also protect against the side effects of aspirin. Also, rates of stomach cancer are unusually low in countries where hot peppers are part of a regular diet, as capsaicin appears to neutralize some carcinogens.
Research has proven that adding chili peppers to your foods can help your body burn calories faster (up to 45 calories more per meal than if you eat bland dishes) and speed up your metabolism. Chili peppers are an incredible replacement for the fat and salt in your diet, as the flavors of the foods are enhanced sufficiently with the ingredients themselves.
When people eat hotter peppers, they experience pain in their mouths and throats. The nervous system reacts to the pain by releasing morphine-like endorphins. Endorphins create a sense of euphoria similar to the "runner’s high" that some people get from exercise.
Fresh chilies offer the highest source of vitamin C available from any vegetable. Surprisingly, fresh, uncooked green chilies provide at least twice and up to eight times the amount that is available from citrus fruits. They are also a good source of vitamin A. As chilies turn from green to red and when dried, they lose much of their vitamin C but gain vitamin A through increased amounts of carotene. Vitamin A content increases 100 times in dried peppers.