Anxiety is your body’s natural response to physical or emotional stress. The National Institute of Mental Health says anxiety can be used by your body as a coping mechanism, but if your anxiety levels become uncontrollable, or if they begin to affect your daily life, you might have an anxiety disorder. The five most common anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. While anxiety disorders must be treated by your physician, natural supplements might help curb the intensity of certain anxiety symptoms. Cayenne is commonly used as a topical ointment for skin conditions, but initial research suggests this herb might help relieve anxiety. Talk with your doctor regarding the use of cayenne as a potential treatment option for anxiety symptoms.
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Cayenne's Active Compounds
Scientists believe capsaicin is the primary active compound in cayenne pepper. This substance is responsible for the heat this herb is known for, as well as its medicinal health benefits. Capsaicin has been shown to diminish the production of substance P, the chemical responsible for delivering pain signals to the brain. By hindering the transmission of substance P, capsaicin might provide temporary relief from ailments such as diabetic neuropathy, headaches, rheumatoid arthritis and shingles. Capsaicin is also known to increase brain endorphin levels.
Cayenne and Anxiety
Capsaicin might indirectly help relieve anxiety symptoms through its ability to increase endorphins in your brain. Researchers at the Colgan Institute found that capsaicin stimulated the production of endorphins, which are hormones responsible for blocking pain signals, as well as causing a euphoric sensation. Thus, by increasing endorphins, you might experience a drop in anxiety levels. Due to cayenne’s ability to dull pain, if your anxiety is based on physical pain, you might experience anxiety reduction through pain relief. Further research is required to determine the full value of cayenne on anxiety.
To treat anxiety symptoms caused by external pain, use a topical ointment containing 0.025 to 0.075 percent capsaicin. Apply to the affected area up to four times per day. Cayenne might also be consumed internally for medicinal benefits. Consume 30 to 120 mg of capsaicin up to three times per day.
Do not begin a cayenne supplementation or application routine without first discussing safety and dosage levels with your physician. Some of the most common side effects associated with topical use include skin rash, burning sensations and skin irritation. Side effects for internal use typically include stomach irritation and heartburn. Do not take capsaicin if you are breastfeeding, as this compound can pass into breast milk.
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; "Capsaicin"; September 2010
- University of Maryland Medical Center; "Cayenne"; Steven Ehrlich; November 2011
- Colgan Institute; "Capsaicin Triggers Endorphins"; Dr. Michael Colgan; April 2011
- Herbalist.com: Capsaicin
- “Imagine Your Health" Magazine; "Endorphins: More Than a Natural High"; Randal Schoer