The health benefits of capsicum include relief from stomach issues, back pain, muscle spasms, headaches, cancer, skin aging, peptic ulcer, menopausal problems, lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes. It has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, and may also provide relief from pain related to arthritis. Capsicum also helps against fibromyalgia and psoriasis.
Table of Contents
What is Capsicum?
An ancestral spice, Capsicum (peppers) is a diverse and pungent edible fruit from any of the varieties within the Capsicum genus.1 With the 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 capsaicin. An odorless, tasteless phytochemical and producer of the chili pepper’s heat.3
With the varieties of chili peppers available, it is important to know that the capsaicin 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 capsaicin.3 Capsaicin 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 medicinal benefits.
Capsicum Nutrition Facts
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 flavonoids.4 Alkaloids and tannins are some of the other important bioactive compounds contained in it.4 Alkaloids work as anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antioxidant agents.4
Health Benefits of Capsicum
Adding capsicum to your daily diet may provide great health benefits against many ailments. Let us look at the benefits in detail.
The phytochemical constituents of capsicum are shown to produce an anti-inflammatory response that proves to alleviate peripheral neurogenic pain related to Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory disease of the bowel.5 Another example of peripheral neurogenic inflammation is a cutaneous pain of the skin.5 Capsicum 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, which is caused by an inflammatory response of the peripheral nerve endings. But regular application deadens the sensory nerve endings and relieves 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.
Capsicum contains tannins. Tannins are astringent and often considered for their benefits when treating gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhea, dysentery, and other microbial disorders.4 Gastric mucilage acts to protect the gastric lining and prevent peptic ulcer development.6 Studies suggest that capsicum acts as a mucilage by increasing the production of gastric mucus and help treat peptic ulcer disease. Intake of capsicum may increase the nasal drainage due to the presence of phytochemical capsaicin.
Also, for this reason, it is beneficial to avoid touching eyes and bodily mucus membranes during the preparation of capsicum peppers and to wash hands thoroughly after preparation to avoid transferring volatile oils containing capsicum to these sensitive areas.
Another bioactive effect of tannin contained in capsicum is in the prevention and treatment of cancer.4 Studies have shown that it has an inhibitory effect on many types of malignant cancers.6 These anti tumor properties are most beneficial to treat pulmonary, hepatic, and gastric cancers.6 The antioxidative effects of capsicum are showing a possibility of treatment for other types of cancer, such as hormone related prostate cancer.6
The anti-cancer effect of capsicum is determined by the bioactive ability of phytochemical capsaicin to inhibit cancer cell growth. Capsaicin also causes destruction of already damaged cellular structure in the human body.6
Improves Heart Health
Studies on 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 tachykinins, a known bioactive ingredient in capsicum.4
Many of the bioactive compounds of capsicum provide antioxidant effects.4 Improved vasodilatation allows for these antioxidant phytochemicals to circulate throughout the body that may have been affected.4 This allows capsicum chili pepper to protect and repair tissues and DNA damage.4
With the worldwide 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 the 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
Capsicum contains vitamin C, which is valued as an immune supportive bioactive phytochemical.4 It helps in strengthening the immune system, repairing damaged brain tissues, and lowering the risk of oxidative stress, pediatric asthma, cancer, and improving bone health.
Many clinical trials show the effectiveness of capsicum for treating symptoms of fibromyalgia when applied topically.7 Those using capsicum topically stated beneficial effects in the improvement of sleep.7
Treats Diabetic Neuropathy
A disease that often produces neurogenic pain is diabetes.5 Capsicum is shown to have a beneficial effect on diabetic neuropathic pain when applied topically.5 It works to deaden cutaneous nerve endings and reduces the pain.5
Vitamins in the capsicum chili pepper are shown to have an antioxidant effect on cell tissues, which may improve skin and prevent aging.4
Relieves Menopausal Symptoms
Menopausal symptoms may also be relieved by the consumption of flavonoid containing fruit such as the capsicum chili.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 a capsule for oral ingestion as a nutraceutical or applied topically to the skin as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory cream.
With capsicum chili’s ready availability 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 many benefits.
As studies show, capsicum is beneficial as a daily health supplement. Capsicum is enjoyed by many as a daily food additive in 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 to improve blood flow, act as a cancer preventive and an analgesic, protect the gastric mucosa, and provide nutrients for a healthy lifestyle.4
Though, 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 the concentration of vitamins and other beneficial phytochemicals.2 Overall, it can be said that whether used dried or fresh, capsicum chili is a medicine and beneficial to use in an everyday diet as both, a natural preventive and a treatment for 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.