Cayenne pepper is a hot chilli pepper often used to spice up dishes, but it also has a long history of being used for medicinal purposes. The active ingredient in cayenne pepper is called capsaicin, which gives the pepper its spiciness. Capsaicin has been the subject of numerous studies and is believed to have several health benefits, including some that pertain to blood health.
One of cayenne pepper’s most commonly cited benefits for blood health is its ability to improve circulation. Capsaicin may help expand blood vessels, allowing better blood flow throughout the body. Better circulation can help distribute nutrients and oxygen more effectively, benefiting overall health.
Studies have suggested that by relaxing blood vessels, cayenne pepper may help lower blood pressure. While the exact mechanism isn’t fully understood, capsaicin stimulates nitric oxide production, which in turn helps relax blood vessel walls.
Some research has indicated that cayenne pepper might help regulate blood sugar levels. Capsaicin may improve insulin sensitivity, benefiting people with type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance.
Capsaicin has also been studied for its potential effects on blood clotting. Some studies suggest it might help reduce the formation of blood clots, although the evidence is inconclusive. Because of its potential to affect blood clotting, anyone taking blood-thinning medications or who has a bleeding disorder should be cautious with cayenne pepper and consult a knowledgeable healthcare provider.
Inflammation is a significant factor in many health conditions, including cardiovascular diseases. Cayenne pepper’s anti-inflammatory properties might help reduce inflammation in blood vessels, potentially lowering the risk of heart issues.
Which other plants have capsaicin?
Capsaicin is primarily found in plants belonging to the Capsicum genus, including various chilli peppers. While cayenne pepper is one of the more famous sources of capsaicin, this compound is also found in multiple other peppers. Here are some other plants where capsaicin is present:
These are milder than cayenne peppers but still contain a good amount of capsaicin. They are often used in Mexican cuisine and are great for adding a bit of heat to dishes.
These are much hotter than both cayenne and jalapeño peppers and are often used in Caribbean cuisine. Habaneros are rich in capsaicin.
Serrano peppers are commonly used in pico de gallo and salsas. They are hotter than jalapeños but not as hot as habaneros.
Thai Peppers (Bird’s Eye Chili)
Common in Southeast Asian cuisine, Thai peppers are small but pack much heat. They are rich in capsaicin.
Named after the Mexican state of Tabasco, these peppers are most commonly known for being used to make Tabasco sauce. They contain a moderate amount of capsaicin.
Ghost Peppers (Bhut Jolokia)
One of the hottest peppers in the world, ghost peppers are native to India and contain a very high level of capsaicin.
This pepper holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s hottest pepper. It is a hybrid of the Pakistani Naga pepper and the Red Habanero and contains an extremely high level of capsaicin.
Similar in heat to the habanero, the Scotch Bonnet is commonly used in Caribbean dishes and is another good source of capsaicin.
Piri Piri (African Bird’s Eye)
Native to Africa, these peppers are commonly used in African and Portuguese cuisine. They are rich in capsaicin but less hot than habaneros or Scotch Bonnets.
Poblano / Ancho
Fresh is called a poblano; when dried, it is called an ancho chilli. These milder peppers are often used in Mexican cuisine but still contain capsaicin.
In essence, capsaicin is found in varying levels across different types of chilli peppers. The heat level, often measured on the Scoville scale, can give you an idea of the capsaicin content; the hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin it typically contains.
What about black peppers and green peppers?
Black pepper and green bell peppers are commonly used in cooking but differ from chilli peppers like cayenne in several ways, including their capsaicin content.
Black pepper comes from the berries of the Piper nigrum plant, not the Capsicum genus, where chilli peppers like cayenne, jalapeño, and habanero are found. The spiciness in black pepper comes from a compound called piperine, not capsaicin. Piperine has its own health benefits and is often used to enhance the bioavailability of other nutrients, but it doesn’t have the same effects as capsaicin. So, black pepper does not contain capsaicin.
Green Bell Peppers
Green bell peppers are part of the Capsicum genus but are essentially a “zero-heat” family member. They contain negligible amounts of capsaicin, so they are not spicy. Bell peppers are usually rated at 0 on the Scoville heat scale, which measures the spiciness of peppers. While green bell peppers lack capsaicin, they are rich in other nutrients like vitamins C A, and various antioxidants.
Black peppers do not contain capsaicin; they contain piperine as their active spicy compound. Green bell peppers, while part of the Capsicum family, contain little to no capsaicin, which is why they aren’t spicy. Both, however, have their own unique set of nutrients and health benefits separate from those provided by capsaicin.
Cayenne pepper, rich in the active compound capsaicin, is believed to offer several benefits for blood health. It has been studied for its potential to improve blood circulation, lower blood pressure, regulate blood sugar levels, and reduce blood clot formation.