Chili Peppers Offer a Wide Range of Medicinal Properties
hili peppers: Latin name Capsicum annuum, common names are chilli pepper, bell pepper, paprika, cayenne, jalapenos, chitlepin, and Christmas pepper. It is a native plant of Central and South America. They belongs to the nightshade family, Solanaceae.
Chili peppers has many variations. Red peppers are part of a group of 20 plant species belonging to the genus Capsicum of the botanical family Solanaceae. For a comprehensive list of all types of chili peppers visit this website.
Brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus and used as a substitute for black pepper which was an expensive import from Asia. Chili peppers have spread around the world in the 15th and 16th century.
Capsaicin (methyl vanillyl nonenamide) is the active component in capsicum. Capsicum has been cultivated for thousands of years and used both as a decorative item and as food and medicine.
How does it work
The main mechanism is the transient receptor vanilloid (TRPV1). This receptor is associated with neurophatic and inflammatory pain, anxiety, and also play an important part in processing fats. This receptor is also an important insulin regulator. This discovery has led to the production of extracts aiming at diabetes treatment.
Another recent use in capsaicin’s properties is to treat gastrointestinal disorders. There is however some controversy. Because chili peppers can be a powerful irritant it seems counter intuitive to use it as a gastrointestinal remedy. But the compounds found in capsaicin have great potential in this area.
Strong evidence points to chili peppers as being effective to treat weight loss, weight management, lowering blood sugar and improving insulin resistance. Many studies exist substantiating these findings.
- Pain relief
- Digestive tract
- Capsaicin sensitive neurons are associated with several gastrointestinal functions. Even though the action is known to be real, the effective of capsaicin in treating gastrointestinal conditions is not well understood. Controversy exist due to the know aggressive effects chili peppers have on the stomach lining causing severe irritation dyspepsia and peptic ulcers.
- Obesity and diabetes
- Spicy food and its ability to enhance energy expenditure have been known since the 1980’s. A meal containing 3 grams of chili sauce can increase metabolic rate by 25%. The impact of red pepper on oxidation of carbohydrate, fat, and protein is not supported by all studies. Fat oxidation appears to be higher when capsaicin is consumed. In diabetes studies, capsaicin also has been reported to affect glucose and insulin homeostasis. There is good evidence that TRPV1 is involved in serum glucose regulation.
- Capsaicin and cancer
- The effects of cancer are inconclusive and inconsistent. Epidemiological literature suggest that high consumption of chili peppers can increase the risk of stomach, liver, bladder and pancreatic cancer. Results of studies are not consistent. In some studies cancer preventive effects have been noted. Capsaicin and its analogs have been noted as potential cancer chemopreventive or chemotherapeutic agents like prevention of prostate cancer.
Anti diabetic properties
Chili pepper component TRPV1 is involved in glucose regulation. It is an important regulator because it is detected in the pancreas and beta islet cells. TRPV1 has an important relationship to insulin release. Studies using high doses of capsaicin given to mice have shown that it inhibits TRPV1 activity slowing age induced insulin resistance and fighting glucose intolerance.
In a small human study, 10 woman consuming 5 g of fresh C frutenscens significantly prevented glucose elevation levels 30 minutes after an oral dose of glucose.
In another study of 36 individuals consuming 30 g of chili peppers (about 33 mg of capsaicin per day) needed less insulin to control postprandial increase in glucose.
This effect was more pronounced in subjects with BMI 26.3 Kg/m2 and when used regularly. In another study 12 healthy volunteers performed the oral glucose tolerance test supplemented with 5 g C frutenscens resulting in a significant plasma glucose lowering concentrations and elevation of plasma insulin levels when compared to control group.
Capsaicin fights diabetes in a variety of ways:
- modulating enzymes
- regulating glucose metabolism and insulin
- affecting hormone, neuropeptide and cytokine levels
- impact insulin binding to its receptor
- Fresh peppers (see complete list)
- Cayenne, 500mg, 250 Capsules
- Topic analgesic cream
- Liquid Capsicum Extract
- Variety of capsicum, capsaicin formulas
How to use it
As with any herbal treatment, experimentation is the key. Follow directions from reputable products. Since chili peppers are used as a spices and food, it can be added to your regular diet. However if you cannot tolerate hot peppers or simply don’t like the taste, consider using the capsules or supplements. The advantage of capsules is that it give you a better measure and dosage in milligrams.
- The first precaution is to watch your blood sugar levels. Capsaicin lowers your blood sugar so if you are already taking glipizide, metformin or insulin be aware that you might have to make some adjustments.
- Capsaicin may interfere with some medications involving some of the liver’ enzyme system. Some medications such as steroids, statins may be affected. If you take angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors, agents for heart disorders, agents for stomach and intestine disorders, aspirin, and theophylline, you should avoid capsaicin.
- The power of capsaicin can be evidenced in many ways. If you ever took a bite of a chili pepper without trying a small piece first and your mouth was on fire, you know what I am talking about. Capsaicin is so powerful it is used as a nonlethal weapon for personal defense or police use; most known as pepper spray. Peppers can also be used in agriculture to produce insecticides.
- Chili pepper products are considered safe for most people. However it may cause acid reflux, asthma, changes in urine, blurred vision, constipation, diarrhea, difficult breathing or speaking, dizziness, eye irritation, heart burn, nose irritation, stomach pain, sweating, and aggravate ulcers. Cayenne may increase the risk of bleeding.
- Breastfeeding moms or pregnant woman should not use chili peppers. Capsaicin can pass into breast milk and cause irritation in babies.
- Don’t apply capsaicin ointments of gel in children or someone with sensitive skin
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Chili peppers have been well researched and many serious studies are available for free. The studies I found have just about all you need to know about chili peppers as a medicine for diabetes. More studies can be found at the end of each study if you need more. See reference list below.
In a study about energy metabolism , humans and animals have shown that consumption of chili peppers increases energy expenditure and fat oxidation and reduce obesity. In another study pancreas protection by the consumption of chili peppers is evaluated . Another study probes into the specific ways herbal remedies such as chili peppers can help treating diabetes . Study number  has a excellent overview of the beneficial properties of capsicum. Study number  is a short discussion and analisis of the amounts of antioxidant contained in chili peppers, bell peppers, and chili padi. Study number  is about the differences between the Serrano and the Fresno variety and how effective they are in lowering blood sugar and reducing cholesterol in diabetic obese mice. Study number  brings a different point of view an a word of warning when using chili peppers for health purposes. A list of conditions it claims to treat and its scientific evidence is presented. In study number  five varieties of Thai hot chili samples were investigated for the inhibitory oxidative stress activity of different kinds of capsaicinoid extracts. In number  Antioxidant Activity of the Main Phenolic Compounds Isolated from Hot Pepper Fruit (Capsicum annuum L.) is evaluated. Number  examines the relationship between chili peppers and its benefits for combating obesity.
- Effects of chili consumption on postprandial glucose, insulin, and energy metabolism1–3
- Oral ingestion of Capsaicin, the pungent component of chili pepper, enhances a discreet population of macrophages and confers protection from autoimmune diabetes
- Herbal Therapies for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Chemistry, Biology, and Potential Application of Selected Plants and Compounds
- CHILLIES AS FOOD, SPICE AND MEDICINE: A PERSPECTIVE
- Red Pepper Overview of Potential Health Benefits
- Phytochemical Contents of Capsicum Frutescens (Chili Padi), Capsicum Annum (Chili Pepper) and Capsicum Annum (Bell Peper) Aqueous Extracts
- Hypoglycemic and Hypocholesterolemia Effects of Intragastric Administration of Dried Red Chili Pepper (Capsicum Annum)
- Cayenne (Capsicum spp.) An Evidence-Based Systematic Review by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration
- Determinationof Major and Minor Capsaicinoids by GC-MS and the Inhibition of Alpha-Amylase Activity of the Hot Chilli Extracts
- Antioxidant Activity of the Main Phenolic Compounds Isolated from Hot Pepper Fruit (Capsicum annuum L.)
- Genistein, EGCG, and capsaicin inhibit adipocyte differentiation process via activating AMP-activated protein kinase