Cayenne is most commonly known as a food spice but it may have a number of health benefits, particularly for inflammation. Cayenne pepper has been shown to have more antioxidant activity than many vegetables. Also known as capsaicin, the active chemical in cayenne has been used to treat gastrointestinal disorders, arthritis and pain and may be of use in certain types of cancer. It may be used as a cream or a taken as supplement. It may interfere with the metabolism of some medications and cause side effects. Consult a health care practitioner before using a supplement containing cayenne.
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Arthritis is generally thought to be an inflammatory disorder resulting in destruction of the tissues lining the joints. Cayenne pepper has been used topically to increase blood supply and provide a warming sensation to affected joints. Taken internally as a supplement, cayenne may also help to reduce joint inflammation through its antioxidant activity. Topical use may result in rash or burning, while oral use may result in indigestion and may not be well tolerated by some.
Psoriasis is a skin condition caused by inflammatory activity within the body. Applied topically, a cream made from cayenne pepper or capsaicin may reduce inflammation associated with psoriasis and can also result in decreased itching.
A review of clinical trials conducted by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) has shown that cayenne may be helpful in treating lower back pain. It has also been used as a topical agent to treat other pain conditions such as shingles, fibromyalgia and other types of pain that may be caused by inflammation of nerve cells. Patients with sores resulting from chemotherapy and radiation as well as postsurgical cancer patients have been helped by topical oral treatment with cayenne.
Cayenne has been used to treat heartburn and other conditions affecting the gastrointestinal tract. Some have found limited benefit in conditions such such as burning mouth syndrome when cayenne is used as a gargle for throat pain, but many find that it produces a burning sensation in the gut and is of limited use.
Cayenne pepper is high in antioxidant activity. Some studies reported by MSKCC have shown that cayenne may be beneficial in the treatment of some types of cancers, including oral cancers, leukemia and some types of lymphoma due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity which may help to protect cells.