This Powerful Spice Stimulates Blood Flow, Relieves Pain & So Much More
Ray Bass is the associate movement and wellness editor at mindbodygreen and a NASM-Certified Personal Trainer. She holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Pennsylvania, with honors in nonfiction.
Whenever I see "cayenne pepper" on the Internet, it's usually in a list of ingredients for a wellness shot that I'm supposed to mix together and throw back (or eat more slowly, in a chili). That's not a dig at wellness shots; it's more an acknowledgment that we often see a whole dish or recipe as anti-inflammatory or gut-healing and ignore the benefits of each individual ingredient we've added. Cayenne pepper is a common spice with a multitude of benefits, which we've labored to outline here. So if you've got cayenne questions, here's what you need to know.
The health benefits of cayenne pepper.
Beyond being a tasty addition to any wannabe spicy dish, cayenne pepper can do a body a whole lot of good if used the right way. Cayenne pepper itself contains necessary vitamins, including potassium and magnesium, as well as vitamins A, E, C, B6, and K. According to Richard Schulze, N.D., cayenne pepper "cleans the blood, allowing hormonal signals to make their way unimpeded through your system, [resulting in] an enhanced immune response."
Cayenne pepper also contains valuable phytonutrients, making it a powerful spice for preventing and treating a number of conditions and ailments. It's antimicrobial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and a stimulant (in more ways than one; see below). Not to mention, consuming cayenne pepper can strengthen the heart as well as the overall vascular system.
According to the American Nutrition Association, cayenne pepper is an "instant blood flow stimulant," meaning it promotes blood circulation and delivers other nutrients to cells more efficiently. Cayenne also stimulates our digestion (promoting waste elimination) and our liver, which makes nutrients available to our bodies and processes toxins.
Many people also report success when using cayenne pepper to treat aches and pains, whether it be by ingesting it via powder or supplement or applying it topically. We recommend consulting a doctor before trying topical cayenne pepper salves or oils and making sure you avoid touching your eyes—any trace of cayenne on your fingers will irritate them.
So to be clear: Cayenne pepper has a lot of (positive) health potential and is fundamentally good for you.
Can cayenne pepper help with weight loss?
Cayenne pepper is not a weight loss cure-all, but studies have shown that it can have a positive effect on your metabolism—namely, it can stoke your metabolism, resulting in a higher caloric burn1. This is because, like other spicy peppers, cayenne pepper contains the phytochemical capsaicin, which has been shown to increase energy expenditure2. Other studies have found that capsaicin can increase satiety (the feeling of fullness) and decrease one's appetite1, resulting, for some, in weight loss.
That said, there is no guarantee that every person consuming cayenne pepper will experience weight loss—and most of the studies available were performed on obese participants. So if you're looking to lose weight, taking cayenne pepper isn't going to hurt your efforts, but it probably shouldn't be the only change you make to your diet and lifestyle. No supplement can negate an unhealthy diet.
What's the best way to consume cayenne pepper?
The best way to use cayenne pepper depends on what you're using it for—in other words, what purpose you want it to serve. If you're hoping to use cayenne for pain relief, a topical or oral capsule may be your best bet. If you want to reap the health benefits but aren't a fan of spicy food, capsules are an easy alternative. Otherwise, most experts recommend buying organic cayenne pepper powder, mixing it into water or another beverage, and drinking it.
How much cayenne pepper should you consume a day?
In terms of dosage, the ANA recommends starting with a quarter or half teaspoon of cayenne pepper to get yourself used to the sensation and working your way up to a full teaspoonful three times daily. But seriously, start slow. Herbalist Rosalee De La Foret gives the following dosage suggestions, based on the form of cayenne you plan to take.
- Cayenne tea: 1 teaspoon of cayenne powder per cup of water
- Cayenne tincture: 5 to 15 drops
- Cayenne pepper capsules: 2 to 4 grams a day
- Topical cayenne liniment: 1:8 dilution
Potential side effects of consuming cayenne pepper.
Cayenne pepper is, well, a spicy spice. Adding too much of it to your food can irritate your mouth (that feels-like-it's-never-ending spicy, inflamed feeling) and may also upset your stomach. If you're at risk for heartburn, it's imperative that you see a doctor before taking cayenne pepper, as it can potentially irritate the lining of your stomach and intestines.
Worth mentioning again is the importance of cleaning your hands after handling any form of cayenne pepper—honestly, you're better off wearing gloves. Cayenne pepper can remain infused in your hands for hours, even if you wash them multiple times, so it's best to avoid your eyes at all costs. That may sound dramatic, but is it really worth the risk?
Brands of cayenne pepper and ways to use it.
Everyone's tastes and temperaments are different, and you should choose whichever form of cayenne pepper aligns with your preferences (and tolerance). For powder paramours, Simply Organic makes a high-quality, reasonably priced Organic Cayenne Pepper. More of a supplement sweetheart? Try these capsules from Pure Mountain Botanicals or these from NOW.
If you're ready to embark on your cayenne quest, try mixing it with orange and cinnamon, or—what the hell—take a wellness shot.
Ray Bass is the associate movement and wellness editor at mindbodygreen and a NASM-Certified Personal Trainer. She holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Pennsylvania, with honors in nonfiction. A runner, yogi, boxer, and cycling devotee, Bass searches for the hardest workouts in New York (and the best ways to recover from them). She's debunked myths about protein, posture, and the plant-based diet, and has covered everything from the best yoga poses for chronic pain to the future of fitness, recovery, and America's obsession with the Whole30 diet.