Cayenne pepper is typically considered useful as a spicy accoutrement to foods, but cayenne has been in use as a medicinal herb for thousands of years. Cayenne pepper contains an active ingredient, called capsaicin, which has analgesic properties and various other uses medicinally. As a healing agent, cayenne is used as a raw or cooked food and as a dried pepper powder mixed in with beverages. The capsaicin can also be formulated for use as a supplement, topical ointment or intranasal spray.
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Cayenne and Pain Perception
According to NYU Langone Medical Center, the capsaicin in cayenne peppers initiates the release of a chemical called substance P when it is applied topically. Essentially, substance P communicates pain from the point of injury to the brain. Substance P naturally sends the pain sensation to your brain, which signals the feeling of pain. Cayenne induces an artificial release of substance P, and this tricks your nervous system into signaling a pain sensation. With consistent use of cayenne, your body temporarily blocks the transmission of pain signals at the injury location, alleviating the pain sensation. Diminishing the perception of pain is the primary and most researched use of healing with cayenne pepper, but the effects are temporary and tolerance to topical forms of cayenne can occur with use over time.
Conditions Cayenne Pepper Helps
Capsaicin is thought to act as a vasodilator, or blood vessel expander, which is important for promoting circulation and decreasing plaque buildup in the arteries. Plaque contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease. Consuming raw or cooked cayenne peppers daily may offer this healing benefit, according to a 2010 study reported in Science Daily. The American Cancer Society says that use of cayenne and the active ingredient capsaicin is also promoted as a healing agent for stomach indigestion, cramps and diarrhea, but research is not conclusive on effectiveness for these uses. Topical applications of cayenne or capsaicin is most notably evidenced for skin conditions and pain relief.
Forms and Doses
Cayenne is consumed as a food or in dried powder form. Capsaicin is available as a capsule, topical cream or infusion added to water. No minimum or maximum dose of consuming raw cayenne pepper is set for use as a circulatory or digestive aid. Over-the-counter aids are taken at varying dosages including capsules containing 30 to 120mg of capsaicin, taken three times daily or topical creams with .025 to .075 percent of capsaicin applied up to four times a day, says the University of Maryland Medical Center. Before using cayenne as a healing agent, consult your physician about the condition requiring treatment and the best means for using cayenne.
Interactions and Considerations
Cayenne pepper may interact with medications, including blood thinners, stomach acid reducers and blood pressure regulators. Capsaicin creams may cause temporary burning, itching or stinging sensations when applied to your skin. Do not use capsaicin or cayenne pepper on open wounds. Eating cayenne peppers is considered relatively safe and without interaction, but excessive consumption of supplements with capsaicin may cause stomach irritation. Use of cayenne peppers or capsaicin supplements is not intended to cure medical conditions, and consultation with your physician before use as a healing agent is suggested.