Hot peppers hang out at the Chile Frijoles Festival in Pueblo, CO. Dried, peppers maintain some of their medicinal powers.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

I just got back from the Chile & Frijoles Festival in Pueblo, CO, where everyone was eating the hot fruit in every conceivable way. Not that anyone needed another reason to enjoy, but it reminded me of all the health and medicinal benefits packed in those little pods of flavor.

You can ingest them, inhale them or rub them on in a salve. You can eat them raw, freeze them, dry them and chop them up, or hang them on the wall. Dried, they’ll still keep many of their medicinal powers.

In fact, maybe that old axiom needs to be changed to “a pepper a day keeps the doctor away.” Here are my top-10 medical uses for hot peppers.

If you eat them, they fight:

1. Inflammation. And that’s a good thing. We’ve known for quite a while that inflammation causes pain, but only in the last few years have we implicated it in leading to heart attacks.

2. Colds. Peppers’ many vitamins and antioxidants help boost the immune system.

3. Scurvy from vitamin C deficiency, which causes anemia, bleeding under the skin and horrible gum problems, to name a few things. No one gets this disease much anymore, but if you live in an area with no citrus fruit and it suddenly stopped being shipped, one fresh pepper a day could give you more than your minimal daily requirement of vitamin C. Unfortunately the dried pepper doesn’t retain much.

4. Vitamin A deficiency, which is common in economically developing countries. It causes trouble seeing at night and weakens your ability to fight off infections. Pepper has a lot of vitamin A, and unlike vitamin C, it sticks around in the dried form.

These hot peppers are roasting—literally—at the Chile & Frijoles Festival. The nutrients in peppers include Vitamins A and C.

5. Cancer. Peppers have many antioxidants. Some studies have shown that the capsaicin in peppers—an antioxidant and also the chemical that makes them hot—inhibits cancer cell growth in the colon and prostate, and a study in rats found it actually can kill pancreas-cancer cells. Another antioxidant in peppers, lycopene, is thought to aid the fight against bladder and cervical cancer as well.

6. Obesity. Eating hot peppers has been shown to increase the body’s metabolism for about 20 minutes after eating.

More About Peppers for Pain

Learn more about using the capsaicin from hot peppers to fight pain here.

Learn more about improvisational medicine for when you can’t get medical help in the new The Survival Doctor e-books.

Sniff the very diluted capsaicin in nasal-spray form, and it fights:

7. Runny or stopped up noses. It can help the nasal congestion or drip from a cold or allergies.

8. Headaches. One sniff of the spray up the nostril on the same side as a migraine has been known to stop the pain in its tracks.

Rub on the very diluted form to fight:

9. Nerve pain such as the type from postherpetic neuralgia that continues in some people well after a shingles attack, or diabetic neuropathy’s tingling or pain in the feet. You’ll have to use if for a few days since it works by depleting the nerves’ pain-causing chemicals, and that takes time.

10. Psoriasis. Just don’t use it on cracked skin.

As with anything, don’t overdo it. The spray burns and must be very diluted, or you can buy it commercially*.

The cream must be diluted also, and be sure to not rub it on raw or cracked skin. Some people are more sensitive to it than others.

What about you? Have you tried hot peppers for any of these things? Do you have any recipes for making the cream or the spray or just plain good eating?


*Full disclosure: This is an affiliate link, meaning if you click on it, someone associated with this site will make a commission anything you buy. I don’t vouch for any particular product, however. The linked-to product is only meant as an example.

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