Capsaicin – what it is, benefits, foods and side effects

Capsaicin is the active ingredient in pepper (plants of the genus Capsicum). Present in the fruits (berries) and seeds of these plants, Capsaicin  is known and appreciated for its rubefacient action. This term indicates the ability of a substance to stimulate blood flow to the area with which it comes in contact.

The violent and spicy flavor of pepper , capable of increasing a large number of dishes, is mainly linked to the abundant presence of capsaicin . Thus, the same substance is contained in smaller amounts in sweet peppers, that is, in close relatives of peppers.

But, infinite amounts of this ingredient are enough to cause a strong burning sensation. However, this burning triggers a rapid release of adrenaline, giving the body a burst of energy. So, here’s more about Capsaicin: What it is, Benefits, Foods and Side Effects:

What is capsaicin?

Capsaicin is an  alkaloid present in plants of the genus Capsicum, the well-known pepper. Thus, alkaloids are molecules with an amino group capable of giving a basic reaction. They are toxic substances and used by plants for defense purposes.

Examples of important alkaloids in the plant kingdom are nicotine, caffeine, strychnine, thammonium. In herbal medicine, alkaloids in general and capsaicin  have undeniably important roles. Pepper extract  is used as an anti-inflammatory in joint disorders.

What is capsaicin used for:

Despite the molecular activity not fully characterized, this substance is used today in various clinical and preventive fields. So more precisely, according to recent evidence, she can:

  • Promote immunomodulatory action;
  • Contain anticancer action.
  • Be effective as an anti-inflammatory agent, especially if used topically;
  • Improve physical endurance capabilities;
  • Assist in the treatment of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis ;
  • Exercise an analgesic action;
  • Support weight loss.

Capsaicin Benefits:

1. Fights inflammatory diseases:

The anti-inflammatory activity of this substance has an inhibitory action mediated against the expression of inflammatory cytokines, in fact, it appears to be effective in various pathological conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, joint pathologies, trauma, psoriasis and atherosclerosis.

2. Reduces blood glucose:

Studies suggest that taking hot peppers or taking a supplement of this ingredient can help stabilize blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity in people with diabetes . Incidentally, if you want to try the supplement, ask your doctor about the dosage.

3. Assists in weight loss:

As part of a weight loss diet, capsaicin  can help you lose weight by speeding up your metabolism and reducing hunger. Thus, it can help relieve post-exercise muscle soreness.

4. Treat psoriasis:

Topical use of capsaicin  can also help reduce symptoms of psoriasis , a condition in which red, dry, itchy patches appear on the skin.

However, regular application of a cream containing this substance during an exacerbation of psoriasis may cause the symptoms to decrease more rapidly. But remember: do not apply topical remedies containing capsaicin  to damaged skin.

5. Benefits the cardiovascular system:

Another effect of this substance is to lower the blood pressure level and, at the same time, partially eliminate the “bad” cholesterol that we have in the blood. Combined with its anti-inflammatory properties, this double effect of Capsaicin  makes it a great ally to prevent hardening of the arteries, and generally in the fight against cardiovascular diseases.

6. Treats obesity:

Capsaicin  ‘s anti-obesity action was also observed during clinical trials. This activity would be correlated both with the activation of proteins known as UCP, responsible for the dissipation of energy in the form of heat, and with the activation of the sympathetic nervous system.

Both properties would induce an activity for metabolism, increasing thermogenesis and the consequent basal metabolism.

7. Help in the practice of sport:

The improvement of capsaicin  activity for athletic performance is due to the presence of some studies, mostly carried out in small rodents. After all, the latter, supplemented with this substance, would have sustained forced activities, such as swimming, for longer, thanks to an appreciable improvement in energy flow and intermediate metabolism.

To better understand the real ergogenic potentialities of this substance, it would be correct to wait for statistically relevant results from clinical studies.

8. Reduces the risk of cancer:

Capsaicin  has been shown to kill prostate cancer cells and inhibit their growth. Other types of cancer that capsaicin  can certainly help treat include breast cancer and stomach cancer . As beneficial as it is, it should only be a complementary treatment for the disease, not a substitute for conventional cancer treatments.

9. Works as an analgesic:

Capsaicin  ‘s analgesic action involves activating receptors which are then deactivated and desensitized. In some countries, mainly in the East, Dragon’s Breath, or Devil’s breath, is used in operating rooms instead of ordinary anesthesia, in case of allergies.

10. Relieves Headache:

It can also help make a headache go away more quickly. To use the substance to relieve headaches , apply a small amount of capsaicin  cream inside the nostrils.


Food containing this substance becomes a compound that binds to nerve fiber receptors that transmit pain and heat; this explains its effect on the tissues lining the mouth. It is present in peppers and peppers of the species Capsicum frutescens. This includes varieties called cayenne pepper ,  green pepper, or red pepper . Incidentally, the Tabasco derived from these varieties also contains high amounts of Capsaicin . These pepper varieties contain around 198,000 parts per million of capsaicin.

Other Sources:

Also other types of chili peppers, often called sweet chilies because they do not give a hot and spicy sensation, also contain Capsaicin . Its chemical content is lower than in pepper . However, they remain a good source of this substance if consumed regularly.

Sweet peppers are produced from a pepper plant  (Capsicum annum) that is different from the one that produces peppers. These peppers are often called bell, cherry, cone, green pepper or paprika, depending on the specific cultivar from which they are produced. Each of these peppers contains 4000 parts per million of Capsaicin ; about 25% of those present in the “hottest” and spicy types. Ginger root also contains capsaicin , even if in small traces.

How to use capsaicin:

Although it is not possible today to identify a standard dose, in several studies it has been suggested to take 1-3 mg of Capsiate, a precursor to Capsaicin , preferably in the early morning.

Does capsaicin cause hemorrhoids?

When it comes to hemorrhoids , it is the norm, mainly to blame food and, in particular, the purchase of spicy foods, on its ability to cause hemorrhoids, it is worth noting that a good part of capsaicinoids are not digested by the human body and for this reason For this reason, the effect on the anus is almost identical to that on the mouth, with pain stimulation and receptor burning.

Precautions for use:

Its use should be avoided or at least supervised by a doctor in cases of chronic cough and hemorrhoids .

Given the low amount of work related to the safety profile of this substance if taken during pregnancy and the subsequent period of breastfeeding, it would be preferable to avoid taking this active ingredient in the above stages.

Capsaicin side effects:

Its use mostly proved to be safe and well tolerated. Currently, there are no known and clinically relevant adverse reactions related to the use of this active substance. It would, however, be useful to recall the potential irritant activity on mucous membranes of capsaicin , taken in high doses.


If taken orally, chili peppers  can cause side effects at the gastrointestinal level, such as abdominal pain and nausea . On a topical level, it can cause burning and irritation and can be dangerous if it comes in contact with the eyes.

Pepper can interact  with many other drugs such as theophylline, ACE inhibitors, sedatives, antidepressants and acetaminophen. When using creams with this substance, occlusive bandages should be avoided; in addition to hot baths and showers before and after application, because they increase the burning sensation.

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