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The capsicum family includes red peppers, bell peppers, pimento, and paprika, but the most famous medicinal member of this family is the common cayenne pepper.
Cayenne and related peppers have a long history of use as digestive aids in many parts of the world, but the herb's recent popularity has, surprisingly, come through conventional medicine.
Many people think that hot peppers cause inflammation to tissues, and that this is the source of the classic hot pepper sensation. However, hot peppers don’t actually have any damaging effect; they merely simulate the sensations produced by damage. (Herbs like garlic , ginger , horseradish, and mustard actually can cause tissue damage.)
Here’s how it works: All hot peppers contain a substance called capsaicin. When applied to tissues, capsaicin causes release of a chemical called substance P. Substance P is ordinarily released when tissues are damaged; it is part of the system the body uses to detect injury. When hot peppers artificially release substance P, they trick the nervous system into thinking that an injury has occurred. The result: a sensation of burning...
Capsaicin creams commonly cause an unpleasant burning sensation when they are first applied; this sensation disappears over subsequent days as treatment is continued.
As a commonly used food, cayenne is generally recognized as safe. Contrary to some reports, cayenne does not appear to aggravate stomach ulcers . 1
Interactions You Should Know About
If you are taking:
- The asthma drug theophylline : Cayenne might increase the amount you absorb, possibly leading to toxic levels. 2
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs : Cayenne might protect your stomach from damage.