11 Impressive Benefits of Capsicum
The health benefits of capsicum include relief from cancer, skin aging, peptic ulcer, menopausal problems, low risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It has anti-inflammatory, analgesic properties and may also provide relief in pain related to arthritis. It also provides relief from fibromyalgia, and psoriasis.
An ancestral spice, red chili peppers are a diverse and pungent edible fruit from any of the varieties within the Capsicum genus of plant.1 With known popular use of capsicum, multi culturally, and for generations around the globe,2 interest is developing in knowing about the medicinal benefits of this natural plant food and culinary spice.2 Many people are familiar with the use of chili peppers in the preparation of spicy meals. What is it that makes the chili pepper spicy? The answer is capsicum. An odorless, tasteless phyto chemical and producer of the chili pepper’s heat.3
With the many varieties of chili peppers available, it is important to know that the capsicum content of each type of chili pepper varies and it is possible to get less heat and still receive the health benefits of the chili peppers’ active ingredient capsicum.3 Capsicum is found in the fleshy membrane of both sweet and hot peppers and in higher concentration in the seeds. 4, 5 This natural fruit may be used fresh or dried as a culinary spice, added to teas, or taken in capsules to reap its many medicinal benefits. Adding chilies to your daily diet may show benefits in many ailments as well as provide which will now be discussed.
Nutritional value of Capsicum
These vitamins are best obtained from the fresh fruit.4 Capsicum chili’s harvested when red rather than orange and yellow have higher concentrations of these beneficial nutrients.4 Other beneficial bioactive components of the capsicum chili are the content of flavanoids.4 Other important bioactive compounds contained in it include alkaloids and tannins.4Though in lesser concentrations than vitamin C and vitamin A, these are showing potential in providing health benefits when consumed.4 Alkaloids work as an anti inflammatory, analgesic, and may also be antioxidant.4
Health Benefits of Capsicum
Anti-inflammatory properties: The phytochemical constituents of capsicum are shown to produce an anti inflammatory response that proves to alleviate peripheral neurogenic pain such as related to Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory disease of the bowel.5 Another example of peripheral neurogenic inflammation is cutaneous pain of the skin.5 Its creams and balms are often massaged topically onto the skin with care taken to avoid open areas and mucous membranes. The burning effect of capsicum is felt when applied to the skin. This is caused by an inflammatory response of the peripheral nerve endings, but regular application deadens the sensory nerve endings which relieve chronic diabetic neurogenic pain.5 Some suggest that the anti inflammatory effect of capsicum may also help to alleviate pain related to arthritis.4 Its cream may be utilized as an option for treating this malady and many others .
Mucilage: Capsicum contains tannins. Tannins are astringent and often considered for their benefits when treating gastrointestinal disorders that produce diarrhea such as dysentery and other microbial disorders.4 Gastric mucilage acts to protect the gastric lining.6 A causative effect of peptic ulcer development is the breakdown of gastric mucilage which is causative of the ulcerations made with increased gastric acid contact with stomach lining.6 It works as a mucilage when ingested by increasing the production of gastric mucus.6 Increased gastric mucus and the anti inflammatory properties of capsicum may result in beneficial effects in the treatment of peptic ulcer disease, as many studies show.6 Another example of the reliability of capsicum in producing mucus that is more readily observable is that of increase in nasal drainage when ingesting peppers with high concentrations of the heat producing phytochemical capsicum. Also for this reason, it is beneficial to avoid touching eyes and bodily mucus membranes during preparation of capsicum peppers and to wash hands thoroughly after preparation to avoid transferring volatile oils containing capsicum to these sensitive areas.
Chemopreventive properties: Another bioactive effect of tannin contained in capsicum molecule is in the prevention and treatment of cancer.4 Studies have shown that is has a inhibitory effect on many types of malignant cancer that is well documented.6 These anti tumor properties are most beneficial to treating pulmonary, hepatic, and gastric cancers.6 The anti oxidative effects of capsicum are showing a possibility of treatment for other types of cancer, such as certain hormone related prostate cancers.6
The anti-cancer effect of capsicum is determined by the bioactive ability of this phyto chemical to inhibit cancerous cell growth and also causes destruction of already damaged cellular structure in the human body.6
Cardiovascular: Studies of flavonoids have suggested that they are beneficial towards preventing coronary heart disease.4 Capsicum is both warming and vasodilative.4 A suggested effect of the vasodilative properties of capsicum is the improvement of hypotension and decreased heart rate.4 Vasodilatation allows for improved blood flow resulting in better oxygenation of organ tissues. This is most likely due to the tachynikins, a known bioactive ingredient in capsicum.4
Antioxidant properties: Many of the bioactive compounds of capsicum provide antioxidant effects.4 Improved vasodilatation allows for these antioxidant phyto chemicals to circulate through regions of the body that may already been effected as well as healthy tissue.4 This allows capsicum to have a beneficial effect in repairing tissue protein’s and possibly even DNA.4 As well, the healthy tissue receives protection from the antioxidant effect of the capsicum chili pepper.
Hypoglycemic: With the world wide prevalence of diabetes, the consideration of capsicum as hypoglycemic medicine has provoked research into this matter.2 Some studies have indicated, though not yet concluded that capsicum may stimulate insulin production which results in lower blood glucose.2 This would determine a possibility of capsicum beneficial in preventing onset of type II diabetes and its potential complications.2 The hypoglycemic benefits of capsicum are most concentrated when the capsicum chili is green.2
Immunology: Capsicum contains vitamin C, which is valued as an immune supportive bioactive phyto chemical.4 Vitamin C has many beneficial effects on the immune system. It helps in repairing damaged brain tissues, reduced risk of oxidative stress, pediatric asthma, cancer and improved bone health.
Psoriasis: Many clinical trias show the effectiveness of Capsicum for treating symptoms of fibromyalgia when applied topically.7 Those using capsicum topically stated beneficial effects in reducing tenderness and improvement of sleep.7
Diabetic neuropathy: A disease that often produces this type of neurogenic pain is diabetes.5 Capsicum is shown to have a beneficial effect on diabetic neuropathic pain when applied topically.5 Capsicum works to deaden cutaneous nerve endings and reducing the pain.5
Fibromyalgia: Many clinical trial shown the effectiveness of Capsicum for treating symptoms of fibromyalgia when applied topically.7
Skin and aging: Vitamins in the capsicum chili pepper are shown to have an antioxidant effect on cell tissue which may improve skin and aging.4
Menopausal symptoms: Menopausal symptoms may also be relieved by the consumption of flavonoid containing fruit such as the capsicum chili.4
As studies show, capsicum is beneficial as a daily health supplement. Capsicum is enjoyed by many as a daily food additive in many types of cooking. Culinary preparation of the capsicum peppers may provide enough protection when eaten daily to have beneficial effects on certain chronic and potentially degenerative health conditions. The bioactive components of capsicum work together improving blood flow, as a cancer preventive, an analgesic, protecting the gastric mucosa, and providing necessary nutrients beneficial to a healthy lifestyle.4
Capsicum comes in dried form as a spice as chili pepper and paprika.4 The dried spice is used in many sauces, or added to beverages such as tea.4 Dried capsicum may be found in whole dried peppers, as a single spice or in dried spice blends. As a more concentrated medicine, capsicum may be placed in capsule for oral ingestion as a nutraceutical or applied topically to the skin as an analgesic and anti inflammatory cream.4 With capsicum chili’s readily available for sale in many markets, it should be considered that though the dried spice is convenient and effective in its health benefits, eating the fresh capsicum chili provides for higher concentration of vitamin C and vitamin A.4 Since these vitamins are essential for a healthy body, eating the fresh chili may improve the health benefits gained from capsicum’s bioactive components and is highly recommended.4All capsicum chilis contain beneficial vitamins and bioactive components. However, another consideration to make, when purchasing capsicum chili is “what benefits are you are seeking?” Though, as noted above, all chili peppers contain both vitamins and other beneficial bioactive components. Yet, the color of the pepper is determinative of the stage of growth when harvested. It is also determinative of concentration of vitamins and other beneficial phyto chemicals.2 Overall, is can be said that whether used dried or fresh, capsicum chili is food as medicine and beneficial to use in everyday diet as both a natural preventive and treatment of many chronic conditions.
1 Tewksbury JJ, Manchego C, Haak DC, Levey DJ. Where did the Chili Get its Spice? Biogeography of Capsaicinoid Production in Ancestral Wild Chili Species. Journal of Chemical Ecology. 2006;32:547-564.
2 Loizzo MR, Tundis R, Menichini F, Statti GA, Menichini F. Influence of ripening stage on health benefits properties of Capsicum annuum var. acuminatum L.: in vitro studies. Journal of medicinal food. 2008; 11:184
3 Sheila Keating. Chillies: Final edition. The Times. 2007:61.
4 Clément Kouassi Kouassi, Zinzendorf Yéssé Nanga, Serge Joseph Lathro, Solange Aka, Rose Koffi-Nevry. Bioactive Compounds and Some Vitamins From Varieties of Pepper (Capsicum) Grown in Cote D’iviore. Pure and Applied Biology. 2012;1:40
5 Sancho R, Lucena C, Macho A, et al. Immunosuppressive activity of capsaicinoids: capsiate derived from sweet peppers inhibits NF-kappaB activation and is a potent antiinflammatory compound in vivo. European journal of immunology. 2002;32:1753
6 Oyagbemi AA, Saba AB, Azeez OI. Capsaicin: A novel chemopreventive molecule and its underlying molecular mechanisms of action. Indian Journal of Cancer. 2010;47:53-58.
7Ernst E. Herbal medicine in the treatment of rheumatic diseases. Rheumatic diseases clinics of North America. 2011;37:95-102.