Chilli peppers: the therapeutic spiciness

peperoncino terapeutico
Therapeutic chilli has so many interesting properties that it has been the subject of attention by the pharmaceutical industry.

Capsaicin, the active ingredient of chilli, seems to block the transmission of pain by reducing the availability of substance P in the affected area, substance P is one of the chief messengers of the pain present in the body.
With the reduction of substance P, the pain decreases gradually and steadily over a few days. Capsaicin-containing ointments (Zostrix) exert a profound and lasting anaesthetic effect on various painful conditions.

In arthritis, in addition to alleviating pain, capsaicin also increases the production of synovial fluid, which is essential for lubricating joints and for preventing cartilage destruction.

In the neuropathic pain of varying origin, capsaicin has a remarkable and constant effect.
In the post-herpetic neuralgia (Sant’Antonio’s fire) characterised by deep and debilitating pain that manifests itself after an episode of Herpes Zoster and which can last for months, concentrated capsaicin-based ointments significantly alleviate the pain. The FDA (American Agency for Medicines) approved a cutaneous (Qutenza) patch of pure synthetic capsaicin.

In diabetic neuropathy, a frequent complication of diabetes that causes nerve damage most often to the legs and feet, the use of a capsaicin-based ointment showed a reduction of symptoms in 70% of patients.
Similarly, for patients with “cluster migraine”, in a study published in the journal “Pain”, capsaicin applied to the nose of the homolateral nose to the sore side painfully reduced the pain symptoms in 70% of the patients.



Eating chilli peppers can favour weight loss, as numerous studies indicate that the rate at which calories burn up may increase, the effect may last from 20 minutes to 6 hours after the meal.
In a study in the British Journal of Nutrition, subjects who consumed chilli at breakfast did not eat appetite at lunch the same for those who took it during the evening appetiser as they ate fewer calories and fat during dinner.
In a study on animals, chilli consumption decreased the number of adipocytes and contributed to preventing the formation of new ones even in subjects fed with hyper lipidic diet. Always in animals, it has been found that capsaicin can reduce insulin resistance and prevent fat liver infection (hepatic steatosis).



Numerous studies indicate that capsaicin acts as an anticoagulant drug to help dissolve fibrin, a substance that contributes to the formation of clots that favour the formation of infarcts or stroke.
According to a study from the British Journal of Nutrition, adults consuming 30 gr. Chilli peppers daily safeguard the thickening of their arteries as they develop resistance to deposition on the walls of oxidised and toxic lipid vessels. According to another study, always 30 gr. Of chilli per day for at least a month, creates a slowing down of the heart rhythm (a healthier heart sign) than those who follow a regular diet.
In animal studies, capsaicin can reduce ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation due to two irregularities in the heart rhythm and it appears that the substance exerts a similar action to calcium antagonists, the traditional drugs used by the conventional medicine in these pathologies.
Always on animals, researchers have seen that capsaicin reduces the damage to heart cells following a stroke. In the prestigious “Circulation” magazine, researchers hypothesise that heart protection occurs by stimulating the heart muscle nerves to ensure survival.



False statements show that chilli causes stomach ulcers and favours haemorrhoids.
In the stomach, chilli helps to prevent the ulcers! On “Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition”, capsaicin does not stimulate but inhibits acid secretion, which contributes to preventing and healing ulcers.
Malaysian researchers have shown that individuals without ulcer eat 2.6 times more chilli than those who develop an ulcer, and a Korean research team has shown that capsaicin is capable of killing Helicobacter pylori, the leading cause bacterium Of gastric ulcers.
Furthermore, in animal studies, it has been found that capsaicin protects the gastric walls from damage associated with the consumption of alcohol and aspirin.



Numerous studies have shown that capsaicin-based ointment helps reduce redness and itching of psoriasis, dermatitis characterised by continuous desquamation.
In psoriasis patients, the use of capsaicin-based ointment at 0.025% in six weeks’ clearance had reduced desquamation, redness and oedema compared with 44% treated with placebo. A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Dr Claudio Sandri

Translated by Ms Jeanne Marie Arcaini

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