Cayenne pepper is a hot chili in the Capsicum family. People frequently use it to enhance the flavor of savory dishes, and nutrients in the pepper may provide health benefits.
Cayenne peppers are closely related to jalapeño and bell peppers. They are a staple in Southwestern American, Mexican, Cajun, and Creole cuisine. Dried and ground, they make a powdered spice for seasoning and also feature whole in Korean, Sichuan, and other Asian cuisines.
Meanwhile, practitioners of traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines use cayenne pepper in several ways, including to help treat circulatory problems.
The spiciness comes from the pepper’s active ingredient, capsaicin, which is present in many topical preparations for aches and pains in muscles and joints.
In this article, we describe the nutritional contents of cayenne pepper. We also explore possible health benefits, how to incorporate more into the diet, and associated risks.
Which other popular foods provide health benefits? Find out here.
Cayenne pepper may have a range of health benefits, and people may experience these by using preparations that contain capsaicin or by eating the peppers.
Capsaicin, an ingredient in cayenne pepper,
- relieving pain
- managing weight
- easing itching
- reducing inflammation
- treating colds and congestion
- protecting the nervous system
Scientific evidence does not support all of the uses above. However, some researchers have found that compounds in cayenne pepper may help in the following ways.
Boosting antioxidant activity
The antioxidants in cayenne pepper include:
- vitamin C, which also supports the immune system
- vitamin E
- beta carotene
- cryptoxanthin, a source of vitamin A
Cryptoxanthin is also a type of pigment called a carotenoid, and it gives the pepper its red color.
Antioxidants offer a wide range of health benefits by
Removing free radicals may help prevent a range of health problems, including cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.
The body produces some antioxidants, while others come from the diet.
Which foods are good sources of antioxidants? Find out here.
Easing cold symptoms
Some people use cayenne pepper in home remedies for coughs, congestion, and to fight off colds.
Authors of a 2016
Capsaicin may have these effects by shrinking dilated blood vessels in the nose and throat.
Researchers behind a 2019 study involving 46 participants found that capsaicin nasal spray provided “significant rapid and sustainable relief” from the above symptoms — when allergies were not the cause. The improvement started as soon as 10 minutes after using the spray.
Meanwhile, a 2015
To make a home remedy that includes cayenne pepper, a person could try the following:
- Combine 1/4 teaspoon (tsp) of cayenne pepper, 1/4 tsp of ground ginger, 1 tablespoon (tbsp) of honey, 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar, and 2 tbsp of water, then taking the mixture by the teaspoon.
- Mix cayenne pepper and apple cider vinegar into hot water, making a tea, to clear the sinuses.
However, there is a lack of scientific evidence to suggest that these home remedies are effective.
What are some other natural cold remedies? Find out here.
Capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne peppers, may have pain-relieving properties.
One review published in 2016 looked at the potential for capsaicin in a cream to reduce pain. The authors concluded that there may be benefits to long-term use.
Capsaicin may help alleviate pain by reducing the amount of substance P — a chemical that carries pain messages to the brain.
Creams or ointments containing
However, some people who try this treatment experience an unpleasant burning sensation as a side effect.
Other research has suggested that taking oral capsaicin supplements may help relieve pain and discomfort in athletes. However, scientists are still investigating how this might work and what dosage might be effective.
There are also concerns that it may cause gastrointestinal distress in some people.
It is important to note that the findings above refer to medicinal rather than dietary uses of capsaicin.
How can the diet impact osteoarthritis knee pain? Find out here.
Easing skin issues
Capsaicin appears to have
Authors of a 2016
Here, learn about foods that can boost skin health.
Many products that contain cayenne pepper claim to boost metabolism and promote weight loss, but not all the evidence has been conclusive.
In 2018, scientists gave healthy volunteers a placebo, a 2-milligram (mg) dosage, or a 4-mg dosage of capsaicin for 12 weeks. Those who took the higher dosage experienced a reduction of
If further research indicates that cayenne or capsaicin helps the body burn calories, the pepper could become a healthful part of a weight management plan.
The table below shows the amount of each nutrient in
It also shows how much of each nutrient an adult needs per day, according to the
|Nutrients||Amount in 1 tsp of pepper||Daily adult requirement|
|Carbohydrates (g)||1.0 g, including 0.2 g of sugar||130|
|Vitamin C (mg)||1.4||65–90|
|Folate (micrograms [mcg], DFE)||1.9||400|
|Vitamin A, RAE (mcg)||37.5||700–900|
|Beta carotene (mcg)||393||No data|
|Lutein & zeaxanthin (mcg)||237||No data|
|Cryptoxanthin beta (mcg)||113||No data|
|Vitamin E (mg)||0.5||15|
Cayenne is a versatile spice that goes well with savory dishes. Some people add it to egg or fish dishes, casseroles, tacos, or pasta.
A person might try:
- adding cayenne pepper to a spice mixture when making a curry, barbecue rub, or marinade
- adding cayenne pepper to olive oil, vinegar, and other ingredients when making a salad dressing
Below are some healthful recipes that include cayenne pepper.
Fish tacos with peach jalapeño slaw
Fresh Texas salsa with green hatch chilies
Some people drink a mixture that includes cayenne pepper and lemon juice as part of a detox diet. However, there is little evidence that any detox diet has specific health benefits.
Capsaicin can irritate the digestive system.
Spicy foods may be particularly unsuitable for people with:
Many foods can trigger an allergic reaction in some people, but
Still, anyone who experiences hives, swelling, or difficulty breathing after eating cayenne pepper should receive immediate medical attention. An allergic reaction may become anaphylaxis, a severe reaction that can be life threatening.
Anyone considering using capsaicin for medical purposes should check with a doctor first.
Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, a compound that gives it its hot taste. Capsaicin may benefit the body in various ways.
However, the evidence for this has come from studies that tested the compound in creams and supplements — adding cayenne pepper to the diet may not have the same positive effects.
Still, many people enjoy the kick that cayenne pepper adds to savory foods, and the antioxidants in the pepper may help protect the body from a range of diseases.
Is cayenne pepper safe for children to eat?
When it’s appropriate to begin offering a variety of foods to children, it’s important to give the child what the family normally consumes.
If cayenne pepper is a typical ingredient for your family, start by adding only small amounts to a child’s diet, since a child’s pain receptors are more sensitive.
Cayenne pepper can be perfectly safe and healthful for children to consume if it is introduced slowly, but watch carefully for any aversions, sensitivities, intolerances, and other reactions.