Capsaicin: The Spice that Heals

Maylin Rodriguez Paez RN

Let's face it, some like it hot and some simply don’t.

Whatever your preference for spicy foods, one thing is for sure: The health benefits of hot peppers are really impressive.

Why? Because their active ingredient, capsaicin, has been found to help with a number of health issues.

Capsaicin Alleviates Pain

The heat found in many hot peppers is attributed to capsaicin. This odorless and flavorless compound has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. Much of the health benefits attributed to hot peppers can be traced back to this substance.

Studies show it alleviates different types of pain ranging from post-operative pain, cluster headaches, neuropathy, and even arthritis.1-4

One of its pain relieving mechanisms is actually rather unique. It works by depleting substance P, a neurotransmitter that signals pain.2

Capsaicin Prevents Cancer

Did you know that capsaicin may help ward off cancer? This is another great reason to consider warming up to hot peppers.

It induces a process called apoptosis (cancer cell death), in a variety of cancers including that of the colon, pancreas, liver, breast, and prostate.5

Capsaicin Lifts Your Mood

Feeling down? Add heat to your food!

Your brain perceives pain when you eat spicy foods. This causes it to release "feel good chemicals", called endorphins, which are your body’s natural antidepressants.

Capsaicin Protects Your Heart

Capsaicin supports heart-health in several ways too. Research shows it lowers cholesterol, decreases blood pressure, and enhances circulation.6-8

One study shows it may even prevent the cardiac damage induced by a heart attack.9 Capsaicin activates sensors in the nervous system that act to protect heart cells.9

Capsaicin Supports Weight Loss

Don’t you feel a little warmer after eating spicy foods? That’s because capsaicin increases your metabolism.10

Capsaicin may also reduce appetite and decrease a process called adipogenesis, which is the formation of new fat cells.11-13

If your goal is to lose weight, make sure to include hot peppers or cayenne powder (a source of capsaicin) in your meals.

The Bottom Line

Even if you’re not a fan of spicy foods, consider learning to become one - the health benefits may be well worth it.

Of course, supplementation is another option to keep in mind, especially if you want the health benefits without having to eat spicy foods. Capsaicin pills, sprays, and creams are all readily available online and in health food stores.


  1. Clin Drug Investig. 2011 Dec 1;31(12):877-82. 
  2. Cephalalgia. 1993 Apr;13(2):114-6. 
  3. Postgrad Med. 2013 Jul;125(4 Suppl 1):25-33. 
  4. Drug Deliv. 2014 Feb 10. 
  5. Prog Drug Res. 2014;68:181-208. 
  6. J Agric Food Chem. 2013 May 8;61(18):4287-93. 
  7. Cell Metab. 2010 Aug 4;12(2):130-41. 
  8. Thromb Res. 1985 Mar 15;37(6):669-79. 
  9. Available at: . Accessed August 13, 2014. 10. PLoS One. 2013 Jul 2;8(7):e67786. 
  10. Appetite. 2014 Jun;77:44-9. 
  11. Int J Obes (Lond). 2005 Jun;29(6):682-8. 
  12. Prog Drug Res. 2014;68:171-9.


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