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Does Cayenne Pepper Help a Stuffy Nose?

by
author image Derek Buckner
Derek Buckner has been writing professionally since 2005, specializing in diet, nutrition and general health. He has been published in "Today's Dietitian," "Food Essentials" and "Eating Well Magazine," among others. Buckner is a registered dietitian and holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition and food science from Drexel University.
Does Cayenne Pepper Help a Stuffy Nose?
A bowl of ground cayenne pepper on a wooden table. Photo Credit vikif/iStock/Getty Images

Cayenne pepper has been used for flavoring and medicinally for over 9,000 years, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The hot and spicy taste and smell of the pepper is due to the primary substance found in cayenne peppers, known as capsaicin. Cayenne can be used orally and topically for a variety of purposes. While cayenne pepper can relieve a stuffy nose, seek physician approval, and start with a small amount.

Causes

A stuffy nose can result from infection, allergies or structural abnormalities. Sometimes allergens, such as pollen, mold, dust and pet dander, can cause you to have a stuffy nose because they cause inflammation of the nasal passages. Infection can cause the mucus membranes of your nose to become inflamed and fill with pus and other fluids, which makes it difficult to breathe. A structural abnormality, such as a deviated septum, can make it easy for your nose to become stuffy.

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper has the ability to unclog a stuffy nose because of the spice from the pepper, capsaicin. It doesn’t take much; you can sprinkle it on your food or take a slight whiff of the finely granulated pepper while it’s still in the jar. It works by reducing the mucus in your nasal passages, making it easier to breathe.

Warnings

Too much cayenne pepper may make it difficult for you to breathe because it is a very hot spice. Cayenne pepper can also irritate your skin, and it does not dissolve easily in water. The best way to remove it from your skin is with vinegar, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Cayenne pepper may burn your skin and cause skin irritation that may itch. Capsaicin cream may provide some relief, but it may take a while to see improvement. Cayenne pepper may also cause stomach irritation; if you have a stomach ulcer, esophagitis or other sensitive conditions, do not ingest cayenne pepper. Do not use cayenne pepper if you have a known allergy. Should an allergic reaction occur, seek immediate medical help.

Alternatives

If you have or develop allergies to cayenne pepper, your physician may recommend an alternative treatment, such as an over-the-counter medication, or a home remedy such as a hot, steamy shower or bath to clear your nose. Other foods can also help clear your nose, such as horseradish sauce, garlic and various types of peppers, such as jalapenos.

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