Are you a chilihead? Do you relish hot peppers, in salsa, Pico de Gallo, or hot sauce? If you are, you get the benefits of an endorphin high when you eat foods containing capsaicin.
Capsaicin is the compound giving chili peppers their kick. The compound is thought to be the result of natural selection; birds scatter pepper seeds, promoting the spread of the species. Mammals eat the peppers, and while seeds pass through mammals the way it does through birds, the seed loses viability when a mammal consumes it because of the grinding action of a mammal’s molars. So, a compound evolved to defend the pepper against mammals, but one not affecting birds. Result – birds consume chili peppers and spread the seeds, perpetuating the species of chili plant.
Capsaicin burns the tissues of the mouth and esophagus of mammals when consumed. In some, the burning results in an endorphin release, giving the mammal a pleasurable response to the stimuli. Others avoid consuming capsaicin at all costs, because the pain is not worth the gain to them.
Capsaicin is used in the alternative medical world and the allopathic world as well. Topically applied, capsaicin overwhelms the pain receptors at the site of application, giving the user temporary relief from sore, aching muscles and joints. Capsaicin is used in allopathic topical creams, such as Aspercreme, and natural creams such as Rub-A535.
The natural medical world uses capsaicin for a variety of ailments, and one of them is nerve pain, or neuropathy. In conjunction with neuropathy from diseases such as diabetes, or from vitamin deficiencies, medications (such as chemotherapy), or traumatic injuries, capsaicin is also used to treat fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is an under-researched disease, but the latest thinking on the subject suggests fibromyalgia results from hyperactive nerves. The natural world uses capsaicin as a treatment for fibromyalgia, and its success is most likely due to the interruption of the pain receptors at the site of application.
Capsaicin is used as a topical treatment for arthritis, and its benefits derive from the temporary interruption of pain receptors. Users with arthritis report increased range of motion and a decrease in pain in areas treated with capsaicin.
Victims of a traumatic injury also report benefits from using capsaicin at the injury site. Minor traumatic injuries, such as sprains or muscle tears, are rendered less painful by the application of a capsaicin-containing cream.
Capsaicin is also available in pill form, for those who can’t take the heat of the spice in food. Oral capsaicin aids in digestion just like the foods containing chili peppers do; it increases gastric acid production and stimulates peristaltic activity. This results in more efficient digestion, more even blood sugar levels, and a higher metabolic rate.
Capsaicin, whether taken by pill form or eaten as a spice, clears your nasal and sinus passages. Hot, spicy food has been a go-to for allergy sufferers from the first, and capsaicin can also clear up sinusitis infections.
Hot spicy foods give your diet a boost of flavor, and also give your health a zing. Tex-Mex dishes or Chinese hot dishes are a welcome change from the normal American dishes. Cajun cooking in New Orleans style will also warm your palate as well as your sinuses. The capsaicin in the peppers is good for your body and your soul, as good food is one of the greatest pleasures in life. Be healthy, and put the pep(per) in your life!