Some of the impressive benefits of chili oil include protecting the skin, boosting cognition, relieving pain, soothing inflammation, preventing chronic disease, strengthen the immune system, increase heart health, aid vision health, help with weight loss and relieve sinus congestion. There are some notable side effects of chili oil that should also be considered, such as stomach upset, skin irritation and nerve-tingling. When used responsibly, and when prepared properly, chili oil is considered harmless for most people, albeit powerful for their overall health!
What is Chili Oil?
Chili oil is a popular preparation of a vegetable oil that has been infused with chili peppers. Chili peppers are the (typically dried) fruit from plants in the Capsicum genus, and while these peppers originated in Mexico, this oil is now available globally, and various cultivars of chili peppers are grown in countries all around the world. Although most commonly used in culinary applications, often in Asian countries and cuisine, chili oil can also be used for a vast array of medical conditions, due to its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Chili peppers are rich in the active ingredient capsaicin, which can have a profound impact on the body. Furthermore, this oil has trace levels of vitamin C and vitamin A, as well as certain key antioxidants and beneficial fatty acids.
Benefits & Uses of Chili Oil
Many people use chili oil, both topically and internally, if they are suffering from arthritis, sinus congestion, gastrointestinal issues, oxidative stress, a weak immune system, macular degeneration, obesity, high cholesterol, chronic pain, Alzheimer’s, dementia, psoriasis and eczema, as well as those at high risk of cancer.
Prevents Chronic Diseases
The antioxidant capacity of chili oil is rather incredible, due to the high concentration of capsaicin, an antioxidant compound that provides the majority of health benefits in chili peppers. This antioxidant, along with various other related compounds, can seek out and neutralize free radicals anywhere in the body, which can lower oxidative stress and lower your risk of developing chronic disease.
Stimulates Immune System
Capsaicin is also able to stimulate the immune system, and chili oil is known to have moderate levels of vitamin C. This can help to boost production of white blood cells, while also working as an antioxidant to relieve strain on the immune system. If you have a cough, cold or congestion, a small dose of chili oil can help speed recovery.
Relieves Stomach Issues
Anti-inflammatory compounds found in this oil help it soothe upset stomachs and eliminate inflamed tissues in the gut. While many people think of spicy food as being bad for digestion, the capsaicin and other compounds in this oil can actually improve those conditions, stimulating digestion and balancing the bacterial environment of the gut.
Clears Sinus Congestion
When you are stuffed up as a result of allergies or a cold, unblocking your sinuses is absolutely critical. Sometimes inhaling the aroma of chili oil is enough to clear your sinuses, or you can simply consume a small amount, or even rub some on the skin beneath your nose. Even the aromatic compounds of this oil have expectorant and decongestant properties!
Prevents Macular Degeneration
Although not found in huge amounts, chili oil does offer some vitamin A, which can provide a major boost to vision health. Vitamin A acts like an antioxidant and can prevent macular degeneration and dry eyes, as well as slow the development of cataracts as you age.
As a topical pain reliever, few things are better than chili oil, and in fact, capsaicin is popularly used in pharmaceutical analgesics. The powerful anti-inflammatory properties can quickly eliminate swelling and pain, whether the discomfort is chronic or acute in nature.
Improves Cognitive Levels
Numerous studies have linked capsaicin to improved cognitive levels, due to its antioxidant activity. Found in high levels within chili oil, capsaicin can reduce the amount of beta-amyloid plaque deposition, which can help to slow down or even reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Some early research on the effect of chili oil on cancer has shown impressive results. The anti-carcinogenic effects of capsaicin have been well documented, meaning that it can slow the spread and proliferation of cancerous cells in the body, particularly in the prostate.
Reduces Skin Inflammation
While putting spicy chili oil on the skin may not sound like the best idea for irritation or itching, the anti-inflammatory effects of this oil are undeniable. If you are suffering from everything from eczema and bug bites to psoriasis, allergic reactions or hives, applying a small amount of chili oil can quickly relieve the discomfort.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Recent studies have shown that capsaicin can stimulate circulation and also increase levels of HDL cholesterol, which the body needs to function properly. This can help to lower blood pressure and prevent strain on the cardiovascular system.
How Do You Make Chili Oil?
Chili oil is one of the easiest oils to make at home, as it requires nothing but a vegetable oil of some kind (olive oil is popular) and your chili peppers (dried or fresh) of choice. In different parts of the world, chili oil may be prepared with a more complex recipe, or involve multiple oils and other spices, but a traditional chili oil is extremely simple. An even more potent oil preparation can be made by extracting the oil from the seeds of chili peppers. The “heat value” of the oil will depend on the type of chili pepper you choose.
- 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (almond oil and peanut oil are also popular options)
- 4-6 chili peppers (dried or fresh)
Step 1 – Slice the chili peppers length-wise (remove the seeds to eliminate some of the “heat value”)
Step 2 – Add the oil and sliced peppers to a frying pan.
Step 3 – Fry the chili peppers in the oil for at least 10 minutes on medium heat.
Step 4 – Strain the oil into a glass jar and allow to cool.
Step 5 – Store the oil in a dry, dark and cool place.
Nutrition in Chili Oil
The nutritional value of chili oil consists primarily of its active ingredient, capsaicin, although the oil also contains other related compounds, known as capsaicinoids, which have similar antioxidant effects on the body. Depending on the preparation method, some chili oil also contains small to moderate amounts of vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin A and folic acid. The oil that you infuse with chili peppers will also give particular health attributes to the oil, such as varying levels of polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fats. Chili oil also has a low level of calories, provided you don’t use a vegetable oil that is high in calories, such as soybean oil. Olive oil, for example, only has about 40 calories per tablespoon.