If you enjoy spicy peppers, you've had capsaicin. You can find this compound in every part of the pepper, except the seed. The health benefits of capsaicin include aiding weight loss and easing chronic pain. As a pain remedy, capsaicin works by binding to the TRPV1 receptor that is signaled when there is heat in the body, be it from capsaicin or from the burning that results from physical injury. The TRPV1 receptor sends the brain a signal that a burning event has happened, and the brain's mild inflammatory reaction repairs cells it thinks are damaged.
Capsaicin is believed to be effective in the fight against different types of cancer, including prostate and breast. In studies, taking capsaicin by mouth stopped prostate cancer cells from spreading and, in some cases, killed the cells completely. The compound has also been found to kill breast cancer stem cells, which typically remain after other cancer cells have died and are behind the high recurrence rates of breast cancer. Other cancer-related illnesses that capsaicin can fight include H. pylori-induced gastritis that leads to gastric cancer, primary effusion lymphoma or PEL, which is associated with HIV, and lung tumors. Capsaicin creams can help cancer patients deal with mouth sores from chemotherapy and radiation.
People who deal with dry, itchy skin from conditions such as psoriasis can use capsaicin cream to control breakouts. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflamed skin known as plaques or scale. The skin becomes red, flaky, and itchy. There is no real cure for psoriasis, so treatment focuses on minimizing symptoms. Some people experience minor stinging and itching when they begin to use capsaicin cream, but these reactions generally disappear after a few applications.
People with diabetes benefit from capsaicin in two ways. First, it helps regulate blood sugar or glucose, and insulin sensitivities. This is also true for expectant mothers who experience gestational diabetes. Glucose is important to your body as a source of energy for the cells that make up your tissues and muscles. It is also the main source of energy for the brain. When your body has too much or too little glucose, it can cause excessive thirst or hunger, fatigue, blurred vision, slow-healing sores, or unexplained weight loss. Capsaicin regulates your blood sugar, reducing these symptoms. The compound also helps with a painful condition known as diabetic neuropathy. Capsaicin creams can minimize the pain.
One significant goal for anyone striving to attain weight loss is increasing metabolism -- essentially, all the chemical processes that help keep you alive. Your body is continually turning food and nutrients into energy. Capsaicin-rich foods help burn fat and suppress appetite. Over time, capsaicin can make it easier to maintain a healthy weight.
Although they are linked to migraines and tension headaches, cluster headaches are slightly different, often proving more debilitating and lasting up to 12 weeks. Cluster headaches happen in cyclical patterns. For many people, they begin in the middle of the night, interrupting sleep. The affected individual feels pain around one eye on one side of the head. Though incredibly painful, most people who get cluster headaches experience remission periods when no headaches occur for months or years. Capsaicin cream inside the nostril on the side where a headache occurs can help ease the severity.
Capsaicin’s ability to relieve pain is well-documented. Scientists and researchers believe this ability is due to a neurotransmitter called substance P, which transmits pain and other nerve impulses. People with rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis use capsaicin cream to relieve joint pain. In addition, they eat foods rich in the compound. Current investigations into pain relief involve injecting capsaicin directly into cartilage and tendons. Initial research shows this treatment did not make patients heal faster but can minimize the response to pain.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, almost 7 out of 10 first-time heart attacks happen in conjunction with high blood pressure. The same is true for every 8 out of 10 people who have a stroke. This means high blood pressure can ultimately have a costly effect on the heart. Capsaicin helps promote long-term heart health. Signaling the TRPV1 receptor after eating capsaicin has been shown to lower blood pressure.
Capsaicin has an overall beneficial effect on the digestive system. In one study, researchers found the compound heals gastric ulcers by limiting gastric acid released into the stomach. In addition, capsaicin stimulated mucus production and blood flow, which act as protective measures against foreign agents and abnormal cells. Capsaicin also helps prevent damage caused in the digestive system by alcohol.
In addition to treating pain from existing conditions, doctors also use capsaicin to treat pain following a surgical procedure. Health practitioners may drip the substance directly into open wounds. This is not a remedy people can try at home. Doctors use an ultra-purified version of capsaicin in their treatments. Patients in these cases are also under anesthesia, so they do not feel the initial burn. The goal is to drip enough capsaicin into surgically exposed nerves so the numbness that results will last for weeks. This approach also reduces the need for prescription painkillers. Researchers at Harvard University are also developing an epidural that mixes capsaicin with another anesthetic. If successful, epidural injections made this way would remove the need for women to be confined to bed during childbirth.
The nervous system may be in distress when you are experiencing pain in the head and neck. In cases of trigeminal neuralgia, the pain affects the trigeminal nerve that carries sensation from the face to the brain. Trigeminal neuralgia patients feel excruciating pain even when they brush their teeth or put on makeup. Capsaicin cream, medications, and surgery have helped reduce the pain from this and other nervous system conditions. In studies, as many as 31.6 percent of patients experienced complete remission with topical capsaicin. Another 31.6 percent achieved partial remission.
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