Capsaicin and Health: more is better?

cthunter01April 3, 2011

Hi! I'm new to the forums and pepper growing. Been eating hot peppers for a while, but never tried to grow them myself.

Okay, so I'm sure a lot of you know about the alleged health benefits of eating hot peppers; there's especially a lot of info out there about cayenne. But others too, like habaneros. I see a lot of these benefits attributed to capsaicin. But if it's the capsaicin that provides most or all of the health benefits of these peppers, wouldn't hotter be better? If cayenne is good and habanero better, then eating bhuts should make you superman, right?

Okay, facetiousness aside, what are your thoughts on whether superhots are really good for you or not? Is more capsaicin really better? Or is eating these guys really providing any extra benefit? Maybe past a certain point it's just all about the heat and endorphins?

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OK, it�s acknowledged by a number of medical researchers that capsaicin has positive medical effects.

So is more better? If you back up a bit and think about it, your question is not a yes or no. Two aspirins for a headache is good, 100 aspirins for a headache is bad; two liters of water a day to survive is good, 100 liters of water a day can kill you.

It all boils down to the right tool (amount) for the job.

FWIW, here�s a copy of info I found a while back on beneficial effects of chili�s (capsaicin).

Arthritis I
� A protein receptor binds with capsaicin to aid with chronic pain which allows the influx of calcium and sodium ions to react to nerve cells.
� Attempts are still being made to develop drugs which would null the pain signals through the receptors without affecting other cells. This is still in development.
Arthritis II
� Capsaicin cream can help ease the pain of arthritis when applied topically on stiff joints (Not recommended for Rheumatoid Arthritis, an auto-immune disorder.)
Arthritis III
� Topical capsaicin creams (Zostrix or Dr. K's) lessens pain by blocking the production of a neuro-transmitter in the joint.
� These creams can also calm joint inflammation.
� Topical Capsaicin creams can be a more effective treatment to Ibuprofen and other non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs which over prolonged use have been linked to a higher chance of ulcers in the stomach and intestines.
High Blood Pressure
� The consumption of peppers can increase circulation while lowering blood pressure.
� Peppers are high in Vitamins A and C, and bioflavinoids, which are necessary nutrients for cell development, and help strengthens blood vessel walls.
� Active ingredients in peppers can also boost the body�s metabolism and attack free radicals.
Cluster Headaches and Migraines
� Zostrix, a topical capsaicin cream, has been found to relieve the pain of cluster headaches when applied inside the nostrils 2x/day
� Chile Peppers promote endorphin production
� Endorphins are a natural substance which when released into the bloodstream can heighten good feelings. Endorphins are natural opiates.
Flu or Respiratory Problems
� Hot peppers can treat symptoms of the flu (by promoting sweating) and opening clogged breathing passages, which functions as an effective expectorant.
Herpes Simplex
� Topical application of capsaicin cream such as Zostrix, helps to reduce Herpes flare-ups.
� A fresh, cut-up pepper if applied to the area in question, can usually be gone within 24 hours (as compared to 12 - 14 days if left untreated).
� This treatment may also work on shingles (Herpes Zoster).
Muscle Pain
� The topical cream, Heet, has been used to reduce muscle pain.
� A topical application of a fresh, cut-up pepper to the source of the pain can also be an effective treatment for muscle pain.
Overactive Bladder/Incontinence
� Capsaicin if fed into the bladder with a catheter desensitizes hyperirritable, aberrant neurons in the bladder for extended periods of time. This activity blocks the premature bladder contractions which cause an unpredictable loss of urine.
Pain & Discomfort
� Chile peppers can tame itchiness from dialysis, aid in numbing pains from shingles (Herpes Zoster), and diabetes mellitus.
� Capsaicin candy has also been known to be prescribed to cancer patients, to ease mouth pain.
� Topical capsaicin cream can relieve the pain associated with burns.
Poison Ivy/Poison Oak
� A mixture of dried peppers and a small amount of water applied directly to a rash will null the itch and expedite the drying process.
Post-Operative Pain
� The topical capsaicin cream, Zostrix, has been prescribed for pain relief, for mastectomy patients and amputees.
� Capsaicin creams have been prescribed to dry up psoriasis patches.
Sinusitis, Tension, and Sinus Headaches
� Ground chili peppers when snorted up the nose have been said to relieve headaches brought on by tension or sinus problems.
� Eating hot peppers have also been found to help one cure headaches.
Sore Throat
� A spray made of 80 proof spirits, water and hot pepper powder can help reduce or eliminate sore throat pain for up to 3 hours.
� In addition, it can also clear nasal passages.
Spinal-Cord Injury
� A protein ion receptor binds with capsaicin to manage chronic pain.
� Hot peppers inhibit the growth of H. Pylori, the bacteria that causes specific types of ulcers.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 11:10PM
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Hi ottowapepper,

Thanks for the info. :)

But that was sort of what I was asking. I know that if some is good that doesn't mean more is better. So what I was wondering was if cayenne (which lets say is like the two liters of water/day) is good for you, then what about, say, a bhut jolokia? Is that too much (like 100 aspirins) or is it still okay (like 3 aspirins)?

I can't seem to find any health info on the superhots; it's all about cayenne or maybe habanero. Does anyone out there in the forum have any personal experience with eating superhots? Like, did it cause any problems? Or did it help you in any way that maybe just a habanero doesn't?

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 3:33PM
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Hi cthunter01,

I'm no molecular biologist but after a few beers I�ll think I am ;-))

From my layman�s understanding, the medical testing and uses deal with the compound Capsaicin itself in its pure form. That is, it�s extracted and used in prescribed doses via a delivery method that uses pure Capsaicin in its composition.

Given the above (without any regard to accuracy), let�s say that you need a dose of 10 ml Capsaicin per 50 ml of cream to treat that nasty Herpes Simplex you picked up last weekend. You would need to use 100 Jalapeno peppers to get 10 ml pure Capsaicin versus 20 Bhut Jolokias for the same amount.

So to answer your original question, as I understand it, you will need to find medical evidence that x concentration of Capsaicin is effective at treating y health issue. From there, as someone without access to a full lab, you�ll need to determine the average Capsaicin concentration per pepper variety and extrapolate the number you must consume to address the medical issue in question.

Like I said, I�m no scientist so I�m just explaining how "I" understand the science. I�ll be able to give you a more scientifically definitive response in an hour or so after I have a few pints.

Seriously, Biotech firms spend a fortune researching and testing medical compounds. I doubt you�ll find any definitive scientifically proven recipes for Capsaicin based medicines readily accessibly to the general public.



p.s. "Does anyone out there in the forum have any personal experience with eating superhots? Like, did it cause any problems?" I can tell you from personal experience that eating super hots can cause some extreme physical discomfort. I remember reading about one case where a chef died from a heart attack after eating a Bhut, but it is suspected pre-existing medical issues meant that if the Bhut didn�t kill him the three egg omelette the next morning would have. Probably just an urban legend.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 9:24PM
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To funny, I just checked in on another pepper fourm I peruse now and then and someone asked "is it dangerous to eat bhut jolokia??"

a member, pauly7 replied:

From the capsaicin MSDS's I have here, a 90kg/200lb person would need to ingest between 4 & 12 grams of pure capsaicin to hit the LD50* point.**

A quick non-caffeinated calculation makes that about a 40-120gram ButchT Scorpion, or a 60-200gram Naga Jolokia (based on record high SCU of those chillies). Milder versions of those chillies would require more to get the same effect.

The roughness comes down to differing LD50 data. One says 47.2 mg/kg, the another 150 mg/kg.

*LD50 = Lethal Dose to 50% of test subject, usually rat. Some die at less, some die at more, averages are taken.
** Numbers may not be accurate, happy to be corrected, your mileage may vary, don't try at home, batteries sold separately.

Here is a link that might be useful: is it dangerous to eat bhut jolokia??

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 10:46PM
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