We're all familiar with cayenne pepper—it's spicy, pungent, and super flavorful, but you know if you put a bit too much in. And while some people love the spice that cayenne pepper brings, others hate it.
But if you're looking to meet your weight loss goals and even help reduce pain from an injury, funny enough, you may want to add a bit more to the next dish you cook.
Cayenne pepper has been used for thousands of years as a traditional remedy for many diseases and ailments, but now, we've got ample scientific research to support why there's such a kick around—no pun intended.
If you're not familiar with the benefits of cayenne pepper in the nutrition world, we're about to let you in on the secret. Find out what cayenne pepper is, why it can help you, and how to use it to your advantage.
What is Cayenne Pepper?
Cayenne peppers are a classic in many cuisines. They're a type of chili pepper derived from the Capsicum annum plant, along with bell peppers, jalapenos, and pimientos.
While it's traditionally been viewed as a heat and flavor source for many South American and Mexican dishes, they also contain a whole list of medicinal properties.
And while peppers used for spices aren't traditionally thought of as a source of nutrients, cayenne peppers have it nailed in that department as well. They boast a pretty impressive list of nutrients, including:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin K
But what really gives cayenne peppers all their benefits?
It's a compound called capsaicin, and it's the same compound responsible for giving the peppers their heat and pungency.
The primary capsaicinoid in chili pepper is capsaicin, but they also contain dihydrocapsaicin, nordihydrocapsaicin, homodihydrocapsaicin, and homocapsaicin.
However, capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin account for approximately 90% of capsaicinoids found in chili peppers and are the two most potent ones 1.
When consumed, capsaicin binds with pain receptors in the mouth and throat, usually responsible for sensing heat 2.
Thus far, research has shown that capsaicinoids, specifically capsaicin, exhibit a wide range of biological and physiological activities such as antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, promotion of energy metabolism and suppression of fat accumulation, and anti-inflammatory actions 1.
Benefits of Cayenne Pepper
1. Reduces Pain and Inflammation
Aside from cooking, topical pain relief is one of the primary uses of cayenne pepper. Because traditional philosophy used the principle of "treat like with like"—meaning you use a pain-eliciting compound to treat pain—cayenne pepper acted as an excellent treatment to reduce pain and inflammation.
The mechanism by which cayenne reduces pain is by acting on sensory nerves that pain signals are transmitted along; capsaicin binds transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) 3.
This receptor is a non-selective, ligand-operated cationic channel found primarily in nociceptive neurons, but also distributed in tissues of the brain, bladder, kidneys, intestines, keratinocytes of epidermis, glial cells, liver, and various immune cells.
The TRPV1 receptor contains a heat-sensitive subunit responsible for the burning sensation caused by capsaicin, and when capsaicin bonds to TRPV1, it triggers the release of neuropeptides, including substance P 1.
Contact between capsaicin and the sensory neurons produces pain, inflammation, and a localized heat sensation, and when applied topically, capsaicin can promote an analgesic response by actually desensitizing sensory neurons 4; depletion of substance P means pain signals cannot be transmitted to the brain and therefore we don't feel pain.
2. Weight Loss and Fat Burn
Rather than turning to high stim formulas to help you rev hormones and burn fat, simple compounds like cayenne pepper can do the trick.
Have you ever noticed that your body naturally sweats and feels hot when you eat spicy foods? That's because these foods are thermogenic agents that help to boost core body temperature and increase energy expenditure.
Studies show that when added to meals, cayenne pepper can increase energy metabolism.
Comparing a high-fat meal or a high-carb meal, with and without the addition of cayenne pepper, results showed that the addition of red pepper significantly increased diet-induced thermogenesis and lipid oxidation, especially in those who consumed the high-fat meal.
Interestingly, carbohydrate oxidation decreased significantly with the addition of red pepper 5, which may indicate that cayenne helps to burn more fat than other substrates.
Another study found that the addition of a cultivar of red pepper caused a significant increase in core body temperature that lasted about 20 minutes after consumption 6.
There was also a significant difference found in oxygen consumption patterns, with rates being higher in those who consumed the pepper, suggesting that red pepper may increase thermogenesis and enhance energy consumption.
Taken together, studies suggest that adding a little cayenne to your meals may help with your weight loss after all.
By increasing diet-induced thermogenesis and lipid oxidation, it may boost fat oxidation and weight loss with long-term consumption.
3. Appetite Control
As it turns out, adding a bit of heat to your meals can help you eat less and curb your appetite.
Several studies show that the addition of red pepper to meals significantly helped reduce the desire to eat at lunch, along with hunger levels; differences in diet composition did not affect energy and macronutrient intakes at subsequent meals.
In another study, the addition of red pepper to an appetizer significantly reduced the cumulative ad libitum energy intake, along with carb intake, during the rest of the meal and a snack several hours later 7.
But what's interesting is the mechanism by which cayenne pepper does this. Power spectral analysis of heart rate showed that this effect of red pepper was associated with an increase in the ratio of sympathetic to parasympathetic nervous system activity, suggesting that consumption of red pepper decreases appetite and subsequent protein and fat intake due to an increase in sympathetic activity.
In simpler terms, when you go into fight-or-flight (stress) mode, whereby sympathetic activity is high, your body down-regulates any non-essential activities or systems, one of which is digestion.
Other evidence suggests that capsaicin may elicit a more indirect effect on energy balance via its analgesic effects, which may improve sleep quality and ultimately facilitate energy balance regulation 8 because really, we all know how important sleep is to weight management.
4. May Reduce Risk of Certain Cancers
While there's no concrete evidence for this one, some studies show promise towards cayenne pepper as an adjuvant treatment for cancer, which may be attributed to its ability to attack different pathways involved in the growth and proliferation of cancer cells 2, 9.
Some studies have even shown that capsaicin may help slow the growth of cancer cells and even cause apoptosis in certain types of cancer, including prostate, pancreatic, and skin cancer 10.
But like we said, while the effects seem promising, most current studies are based on lab and animal studies with minimal results shown in humans.
How to Use Cayenne Pepper
There are two routes you can go with cayenne: food (using the spice) or supplement with a cayenne pepper capsule.
And while the form is obviously delicious and super flavorful, adding the amount you need to actually benefit will probably leave your taste buds and tummy less than impressed.
So, while it may seem intuitive to add a few extra sprinkles to your next meal to reap the benefits of cayenne pepper, we have a better idea.
Rather than sacrificing your ability to enjoy food for the next week, opt for something a little easier on the digestive tract and slightly more palatable.
Meet Burn Lab Pro.
It's the world's cleanest, safest, and most effective fat burner that combines five powerful natural ingredients specifically formulated to maximize fat burn and weight loss, enhance physical performance and muscle gain, and accelerate recovery.
It's designed to enhance your metabolic performance through non-stimulatory pathways to help with your weight loss and fat loss goals.
- ForsLean Forskolin helps accelerate fat breakdown, fat burning, muscle preservation, and muscle gain
- HMB (B-hydroxy-B-methylbutyrate) supports muscle preservation, muscle growth, and muscle recovery to enhance weight loss and lean mass development
- Capsimax cayenne pepper extract provides stimulant-like fat loss benefits without the adverse side effects
- GTF-Chromium supports fat loss and weight loss via regulation of insulin activity and helps fight insulin resistance
- BioPerine black pepper extract stimulates thermogenesis to accelerate calorie burn and blocks the formation of new fat cells
How's that for a supplement that packs a punch?
It seems logical to suggest that taking a tablespoon of cayenne pepper isn't the smartest idea, but what are the side effects?
In general, cayenne pepper and capsaicin are recognized as safe to eat 11. However, if you overdo it with the spice, it could cause digestive upset, nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain or burning.
If you're currently taking medications for high blood pressure, such as ACE inhibitors, or blood thinners like Warfarin, speak with your medical professional before taking cayenne pepper, as it may interact with these medications and cause adverse effects.
And if you're applying capsaicin topically for pain relief, do not apply to open wounds or in areas where the skin is broken. Typical side effects of topical application can include:
- Redness or swelling
- Minor pain
Most of the side effects are short term and will clear up with continued use. However, some may worsen with exposure to heat (water or sun).
Cayenne pepper has been used for centuries, and there's no end in sight for its use in various health conditions. Whether you're looking for topical pain relief or a boost for fat loss, cayenne pepper can probably be of some use.
But as you've probably noticed, where it really shines is helping with weight management.
If you're tired of stubborn fat that you just can't get rid of, adding a supplement like Burn Lab Pro that contains capsaicin to the mix can give your body the little kick it needs to speed up calorie burn and fat loss.
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- AM Bode, Z Dong. The two faces of capsaicin. Cancer Res. 2011;71(8):2809-2814. 
- DN Cortright, A Szallasi. Biochemical pharmacology of the vanilloid receptor TRPV1. An update. Eur J Biochem. 2004;271(10):1814-1819.
- S Bevan, J Szolcsányi. Sensory neuron-specific actions of capsaicin: mechanisms and applications. Trends Pharmacol Sci. 1990;11(8):330-333.
- M Yoshioka, S St-Pierre, M Suzuki, A Tremblay. Effects of red pepper added to high-fat and high-carbohydrate meals on energy metabolism and substrate utilization in Japanese women.
- K Ohnuki, S Niwa, S Maeda, N Inoue, S Yazawa, T Fushik. CH-19 sweet, a non-pungent cultivar of red pepper, increased body temperature and oxygen consumption in humans. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2001;65(9):2033-2036.
- M Yoshioka, S St-Pierre, V Drapeau, et al. Effects of red pepper on appetite and energy intake. Br J Nutr. 1999;82(2):115-123.
- A Tremblay, H Arguin, S Panahi. Capsaicinoids: a spicy solution to the management of obesity? Int J Obes (Lond). 2016;40(8):1198-1204.
- YJ Surh. More than spice: capsaicin in hot chili peppers makes tumor cells commit suicide. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2002;94(17):1263-1265.
- R Clark, SH Lee. Anticancer Properties of Capsaicin Against Human Cancer. Anticancer Res. 2016;36(3):837-843.
- Final report on the safety assessment of capsicum annuum extract, capsicum annuum fruit extract, capsicum annuum resin, capsicum annuum fruit powder, capsicum frutescens fruit, capsicum frutescens fruit extract, capsicum frutescens resin, and capsaicin. Int J Toxicol. 2007;26 Suppl 1:3-106. doi:10.1080/10915810601163939