Cayenne is an herb with a long history of culinary and medicinal use. In addition to providing heat to your meal, cayenne has been credited with a number of other properties. According to Sharol Tilgner's book "Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth", it stimulates the appetite, helps reduce infections and improves blood circulation. You may have heard that taking cayenne can reduce high cholesterol -- but is it really effective?
The cholesterol in your blood has two sources: most of it comes from your diet, but the body also produces some. Cholesterol is necessary for your body's proper functioning. It forms the backbone of hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen, and it is part of the membranes that form the outside of every one of your cells. But too much cholesterol in the blood is associated with the formation of plaques, which can be very dangerous.
Plaques, Cholesterol and Heart Disease
Blood vessels can develop blockages due to plaques. Cholesterol is the main component of these plaques and is held in place by a network of fibrin, a substance formed by the body in response to injury and inflammation. Some people are more prone to form cholesterol deposits than others.
Plaques and Heart Disease
When a plaque becomes large enough to block the circulation of blood through a vessel, damage to the surrounding tissues results. The blood vessels of the heart are quite narrow. If they are blocked, even partially, the heart muscle is damaged permanently. This can lead to a heart attack or other cardiac diseases. If the blood vessels feeding the brain are blocked, a stroke can result.
Cayenne's Effect on Plaques
Cayenne has been shown to reduce plaques in the blood vessels. It does this by helping break up the fibrin networks that hold the plaques in place. It also reduces the formation of blood clots, which keeps blood flowing freely through the arteries and veins.
Cayenne and Cholesterol
There is little evidence that cayenne reduces blood cholesterol directly. However, it can help increase the circulation of blood through the vessels by reducing the formation of plaques and preventing the buildup of clots. This may help prevent heart disease and reduce the risk of cardiac events even if cholesterol levels are not changed.
Talk to your doctor if you are interested in using cayenne for heart health. Remember to have your blood cholesterol levels checked regularly if you are at risk for heart disease. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are key to lowering cholesterol and can be used along with any prescription drugs or herbs that your doctor recommends.
- "Herbal Medicine from the Heart of the Earth"; Sharol Tilgner; 1999
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: What Is Cholesterol?
- University of Toronto Mississauga: Plaque Formation