The Hot Stuff
Capsaicin is an animal repellent that has also been registered for use as an insecticide, miticide, rodenticide, and feeding depressant. Capsaicin is obtained from peppers which are the fruit from plants in the genus Capsicum. Capsaicin was first registered for use in the United States in 1962. It is classified as a biochemical pesticide due to its mode of action and the fact that it is a naturally occurring substance.
The peppers are ground into a fine powder. This may be further reined to the oleoresin, which is a reddish-brown liquid with little odor. When extracted from plants, the capsicum oleoresin may contain many volatile compounds in addition to capsaicin.
In addition to its use as a pesticide, capsaicin is used in law enforcement and as an ingredient in cosmetics. Medical researchers have studied capsaicin and its interaction with the TRVP1 receptor for use in pain management. Capsaicin also has been evaluated for treatment of some cancers.
Capsaicin for Pain Relief
Chili Powder: Though it seems odd that capsaicin, the substance that gives chili peppers and chili powder their fiery heat, would act as a pain reliever, it has indeed been used for years as a topical cream to help people with arthritis, shingles, and psoriasis. Experts suspect capsaicin works by first stimulating pain receptors via the skin and then shutting them down.
Cayenne Contains Capsaicin
Few people seem to know that cayenne has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Cayenne was originally cultivated in South and Central America. Christopher Columbus took it to Europe in the 15th century, and from there it spread around the rest of the world.
The main health properties in cayenne come from the chemical called capsaicin. Capsaicin acts to stimulate digestion and enhance blood flow. Cayenne also contains vitamins C and E and carotenoids.
Peppers rank surprisingly high on the list of healing foods. For instance, hot chile peppers contain capsaicin, a compound that acts as an anticoagulant and may help prevent heart attacks and strokes caused by blood clots. A half-cup of chopped red bell peppers provides 141mg of vitamin C and 4,250 IU of vitamin A -- more than an adult's daily needs for both. And whether they're mellow and sweet or fiery hot, all peppers are all good sources of potentially cancer-fighting antioxidants, especially vitamin C.
Diabetic Neuropathy is pain from the nerves near the surface of your skin. The condition causes tingling and pain in the feet and toes. Capsaicin will help relieve the pain of diabetic neuropathy, but it will not cure diabetic neuropathy or diabetes.
Capsaicin may also be used for neuralgias or itching of the skin caused by other conditions as determined by your doctor.
Now, scientists think this principle can help inside the body, too. By combining the local anesthesia lidocaine (Xylocaine) with capsaicin, Harvard scientists were able to block pain receptors, yet leave touch and motor sensors intact, causing controlled numbness. Though tested only on rats so far, researchers are confident the finding could eventually transform the way surgery is performed. In laboratory studies, capsaicin has also been shown to kill prostate cancer cells.
Capsaicin for Gastrointestinal Cancers and Circulatory System
Taken internally, capsaicin is thought to help proper digestion by stimulating the secretion of gastric juices. It is also thought to promote a healthy circulatory system. Recent research indicates the substance can inhibit the growth of cancers by causing cancer cells to self-destruct. Epidemiological studies suggest capsaicin may prevent gastrointestinal cancers such as colorectal and stomach cancer.
Capsaicin may help protect against liver cancer, according to a study in which capsaicin helped kill cancerous liver cells. Use hot salsa made with chili peppers to flavor your favorite foods, such as omelets, mixed vegetable dishes, and burritos.
Side Effects and Cautions
Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to this medicine or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.
Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if you have a warm, stinging or burning sensation at the place of treatment.
Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other side effects, check with your physician.
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