Cayenne pepper has been used by native Americans for gastronomic and medicinal purposes for several millennia, the University of Maryland Medical Center says. Cayenne is also utilized as a remedy for digestive and circulatory problems in other traditions such as Indian Ayurvedic, as well as Japanese and Chinese traditional medicine. Capsaicin is what gives cayenne pepper its spicy taste as well as purported medicinal properties. Capsaicin does potentially cause damage to the liver when taken in excess; however, it is generally considered beneficial to your liver.
Dose and Side Effects
Despite being considered generally safe, cayenne is not recommended for children under the age of 2. The adult dose for capsaicin capsules is between 30 mg to 120 mg taken three times daily, says the University of Maryland Medical Center. Capsaicin capsules are usually taken to alleviate digestive problems. Exceeding the recommended dose causes side effects such as stomach irritation, ulcers, as well as kidney damage. Cayenne consumption generally, however, has a positive effect on liver function tests, according to Drugs.com.
Capsaicin Improves Liver Function
In a 2008 issue, "The American Journal of Gastroenterology" published a study that discovered the beneficial effects of capsaicin on overall liver pathology and function in mice a day after receiving capsaicin treatment. Liver injury was induced by administering about 200 mg/kg of thioacetamide. A day after being injected with thioacetamide, the mice were injected with capsaicin. Liver biochemistry and histopathology were performed two days after thioacetamide was injected. The tests found that capsaicin generally had a beneficial effect on the liver function of the mice test subjects. Studies involving human test subjects will help ascertain whether capsaicin has the same effect on human liver function.
Capsaicin and Liver Fibrosis
A study featured in a 1990 issue of the "Journal of Hepatology" found that capsaicin reduced the rate of increase of liver collagen in rats with liver fibrosis by half. The study involved the use of rat test subjects that had bile duct-induced liver fibrosis. Liver fibrosis is a vital stage in the development of liver disease to cirrhosis. The rate of progression of the bile duct-induced liver fibrosis in rats treated with capsaicin was only about three-and-a-half-fold compared to the seven-fold increase in the rats not treated with capsaicin. This suggests the potential use of capsaicin in treating liver fibrosis.
Capsaicin and Liver Lipids
"The Indian Journal of Medical Research" featured a study in a 1992 issue that found that capsaicin caused a 0.3-mg percent reduction in liver triglyceride levels in rat test subjects. The study used growing female rats that were fed a normal diet. The study also found that capsaicin did not affect the cholesterol and phospholipid levels in the liver. Further research involving human subjects is likely to demonstrate the potential application of capsaicin in treating high triglyceride levels.
- Drugs.com; Capsicum Peppers; August 2011
- "Journal of Hepatology"; Effect of Sensory Denervation with Capsaicin on Liver Fibrosis Induced by Common Bile Duct Ligation in Rat; A. Casini, et al.; November 1990
- "The American Journal of Gastroenterology"; Cannabinoids and Capsaicin Improve Liver Function Following Thioacetamide-Induced Acute Injury in Mice; Y. Avraham, et al.; December 2008
- "The Indian Journal of Medical Research"; Comparative Influence of Vanillin & Capsaicin on Liver & Blood Lipids in the Rat; M. R. Srinivasan, et al.; April 1992
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Cayenne; Steven D. Ehrlich; November 2008