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Capsaicinoids – antioxidants

Capsaicinoids are the main active compound with health benefits in hot peppers. They stimulate blood flow, can relive pain, and have strong antioxidant powers. They can strengthen the circulatory and nervous systems and appear to help your HDL to LDL cholesterol levels by improving liver enzyme function to metabolize fats and stimulate circulation. Capcaicin, the most widely known capsaicinoid, slows oxidation process of cooking oils and other liquids. Adding a pepper to your oil bottle after opening extends its useful life and reduces risk of potentially carcinogenic toxicity from rancid oil. Capsaicin is also useful for toning the digestive system.  It is effective when treating debilities caused by poor peripheral circulation, resulting in cold hands and feet.  Capsaicinoids also help to break up mucous in the sinuses and lungs, making cayenne powder, useful when treating colds.

Externally, cayenne is used in a cream to relieve pain and itching.  Capsaicin, one of cayenne’s famous capsaicinoids, blocks the substance in the nerves which transmits signals of pain and itching to the spinal cord.  Studies have shown that capsaicin cream is useful when treating psoriasis, shingles, diabetic neuropathy, and postmastectomy pain. The hotter the taste of a pepper, the more capsaicin within its flesh. Most prescription pain relievers have concentrated capsaicin in them.

It is common for people to experience pleasurable and even euphoriant effects from eating capsaicin-flavored foods. Folklore among self-described “chiliheads” attributes this to pain-stimulated release of endorphins, a different mechanism from the local receptor overload that makes capsaicin effective as a topical analgesic. In support of this theory, there is some evidence that the effect can be blocked by naloxone and other compounds that compete for receptor sites with endorphins and opiates.

Capsaicin is currently used in topical ointments for the temporary relief of minor aches and pains of muscles and joints associated with arthritis, simple backache, strains and sprains, often in compounds with other rubefacients. The capsaicin remains on the skin until the patient starts to feel the “heat”, at which point it is promptly removed. Capsaicin is also available in large bandages that can be applied to the back. Capsaicin creams are used to treat psoriasis as an effective way to reduce itching and inflammation.

According to animal and human studies, the oral intake of capsaicin may increase the production of heat by the body for a short time. Due to the effect on the carbohydrates breakdown after a meal, cayenne may also be used to regulate blood sugar levels. Further research is required to see if capsaicin would be useful to treat obesity.

Capsaicin is being explored as a possible prophylaxis for Type 1 diabetes by researchers in Toronto, Canada.

The American Association for Cancer Research reports studies suggesting capsaicin is able to kill prostate cancer cells by causing them to undergo apoptosis. The studies were performed on tumors formed by human prostate cancer cell cultures grown in mouse models, and showed tumors treated with capsaicin were about one-fifth the size of the untreated tumors. There have been several clinical studies conducted in Japan and China that showed natural capsaicin directly inhibits the growth of leukemic cells.

Another study carried out at the University of Nottingham suggests capsaicin is able to trigger apoptosis in human lung cancer cells as well.

Capsaicin may help treat ear infections such as otitis. There is some evidence that capsaicin may help treat heartburn and circulatory problems such as heart disease from atherosclerosis or plaq.

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