Today I am going to let you know about many hot pepper health benefits that you may not be aware of. Chili peppers have been used in a myriad of ways for many centuries, and should continue to be used for many health related reasons today.
Of course, I am a huge fan of hot peppers! But here in the United States, other than hot wings, hot sauce, and the occasional chili cook off, most american food does not typically feature a lot of hot chili peppers.
Depending on which region of the US you come from you may, of course, find spicy foods more prevalent. But generally speaking our food is pretty mild.
Also, although the desire to use holistic remedies and natural medicinal options may be on the rise, most of us rely on over the counter and prescription pharmaceuticals to aid us for most ailments. There are, however, some great natural treatments for common issues using hot peppers and the beneficial chemicals and compounds found within them.
A Brief History of The Chili
All chili peppers originated in South and Central America, but throughout the centuries they made their way to other countries around the world.
There is sufficient evidence to show that chili peppers were being used by indigenous people, in what we now call Mexico, as far back as 7500 BC.
There is some debate on how these fiery fruits made their way across the oceans. But for the most part, historians seem to agree that chili peppers made the voyage to Europe in the late 15th century, after the Spanish invaded the Caribbean and brought the spicy little plants back home with them.
While quickly becoming popular as ornamental plants, they also immediately began to be studied for their culinary and potential medicinal uses.
Soon after the arrival of chilies in Spain and Portugal, peppers began to make their way across the continent of Asia during spice trades and Portuguese occupations in India at the end of the 15th century and into the 16th century.
Chilies can be eaten in a variety of ways. This includes eating them raw, dried, cooked (in various ways), powdered, and pickled.
They are an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals. These include Vitamin C, Vitamin A, B Vitamins, Vitamin K, Calcium, Thiamine, Iron, Riboflavin, Niacin, Potassium, and Copper.
As with many fruits and vegetables you do need to eat healthy quantities of them to add up to a good daily dose of vitamins.
For instance, a cup of sliced jalapenos has twice as much Vitamin C as a typical orange.
So, although you probably wouldn’t eat a cup of jalapenos on a daily basis, adding them to your list of ingredients is a great idea. Even in small amounts the high amount of vitamins and minerals in hot peppers can contribute to a better immune system, better vision, better metabolism, healthier kidneys, stronger bones, healthier neurons, and much, much more.
Even if you aren’t someone who enjoys spicy foods, you can still reap the benefits of peppers by eating mild varieties, such as Poblanos or Anaheim chilies. Even jalapenos are generally not too spicy if you remove the insides of the pepper (the seeds and placenta-the white part that holds the seeds).
Many cultures use chilies in their everyday dishes. For instance such countries as India, Thailand, China, Mexico, most of Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean to name a few. In parts of some countries they even make entire meals out of seasoned chilies.
All of these countries are regularly reaping the health benefits of these readily available, easy to grow, inexpensive fruits. We should take a lesson from them, and incorporate them into a lot more of our standard meals.
Besides vitamins and minerals, chili peppers also contain high levels of several antioxidants. These plant compounds can help with everything from improved eye health to lowering your risk of certain cancers and heart disease.
Capsaicin, the chemical compound in chili peppers that causes the spiciness (burning sensation), has been also been identified as possibly helping with weight loss and relief of heartburn over time.
As a regular hot pepper and hot sauce connoisseur myself, I have noticed that eating these spicy foods has digestive benefits. It honestly makes me fell healthier, and makes my stomach feel stronger.
It is probably due to the fact that peppers help increase metabolism and digestion, and have been shown to have properties that may fight against viruses and bacteria.
Some people would beg to differ with that though. Many people complain of stomach aches and exiting issues. So, for those people, you may want to stick to the milder varieties of peppers and still get the benefits of all the great vitamins, minerals, free-radical fighting antioxidants, and the fresh flavors chili peppers have to offer.
Many of you may, or may not know, that the readily available spice called paprika is actually powdered, dried peppers. Typically it is made out of red bell or sweet peppers, but can also be made out of a variety of peppers.
Paprika is a spice I love to use. I mostly use it for the wonderful color it adds to certain foods, especially meat and potatoes, but it also has a lot of the health benefits of the whole peppers. So it’s a win win- Great color, mild flavor, and super healthy!
To add a little spice and color, cayenne powder is a great option too. To get an even bigger kick you can try a hotter pepper with habanero or ghost pepper dust.
If you just want to get some of the benefits without cooking or using hot sauce, there are also pill forms of capsaicin, cayenne powder, and others available. I will be doing a full article on these in the near future.
Hot Sauce is an easy and great way to get chili pepper health benefits. With so many flavors and varieties it is a wonderful and simple way to add flavor and health to every meal.
Personally I take Tabasco with me everywhere I go. Lucky for me it is readily available at most restaurants, but I keep a bottle in my car just in case. At home I use all kinds of hot sauces, but sadly, it is not possible to bring those with me everywhere I go, so I just stick with the old faithful Tabasco for emergency situations.
Using ointments, creams, and lotions with capsaicin increases blood flow to the area it is applied to. In addition to this it can also reduce inflammation and produce a numbing affect to reduce pain. The numbing affect probably has more to do with the eugenol found in the peppers though (the same numbing agent found in cloves).
Adding a little chili powder to tooth paste is even said to improve dental hygiene.
Applying chili pepper cream to frostbite victims is often used along with taking capsaicin capsules. The cream helps increase blood flow to the damaged area, while the capsules help regulate even blood flow throughout the body.
Although you want to make sure you don’t get chili powder anywhere near your eyes or nose, it is actually very helpful for treatment of bodily wounds.
The compounds in chili peppers aid in external blood clotting and numbing pain receptors in the wounded area. Also, as mentioned earlier, peppers have antibacterial properties to help keep the wound clean.
Chili pepper creams and capsules are recommended for a very wide array of illnesses, conditions, and injuries. It can aide in healing and relief for almost anything relating to skin, internal and external blood flow, circulation, digestive issues, and immunity.
Hot peppers, namely the capsaicin in them, can be a great protector for your garden. Most animals do not like the spiciness of capsaicin.
You can make sprays or other substances containing capsaicin to use as a deterrent around your garden in you have a problem with deer or other mammals eating you crop. I have even read stories about hot peppers being used to stop elephants from eating crops where they live near villages.
One thing to keep in mind though is that birds are immune to the effects of capsaicin. So if you are having any bird issues, this will not work for them.
Another popular use of hot peppers in today’s society is in Pepper Spray. A typical pepper spray, here in the United States, ranges from 2,000,000 to 5,000,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU).
Just to give you some reference here, pure capsaicin is 16,000,000 SHU, a jalapeno is usually around 2,500-5,000 SHU, and a habanero is around 500,000 SHU.
You definitely do not want to get that stuff in your eyes. That is why it is also a good reason to use gloves when handling some of the hotter peppers. I can tell you, I have accidentally gotten Tabasco sauce in my eye a ton of times. It is not a good feeling, and that is only 2,000 SHU!
The reasons to make sure chili peppers are regularly included in your arsenal of meal ingredients and home remedies are insurmountable. There are so many health benefits to these little firecrackers, you just can’t ignore it.
There is even a study from the British Medical Journal that was done on 500,000 Chinese people, claiming that hot pepper health benefits may include increasing human life expectancy up to 14%…
Are you convinced yet? Next time you are getting ready to plant your garden, or heading to the grocery store for a shopping trip, make sure to pick up some chili peppers. They are really inexpensive, so try a few varieties. Keep checking back here for upcoming recipes and tasty ways to use chilies in everyday dishes too.
I am also going to start growing some peppers at home, as I have before, but this time I will do a step-by-step tutorial of how to grow them indoors. I have had success in my seasonal outdoor garden, but I really want to have them year round. So this will be a first for me, can’t wait to share it with all of you!
That about wraps it up for me here. As always, if you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or stories to share please make sure to leave a comment in the “Leave a Comment” section below.