Chilies: The pain, the pleasure and the health benefits


When you think of vitamin C, do you think of oranges or chilies? The surprising fact of the matter is that chilies have more vitamin C and beta carotene than oranges. Surprising fact number two: Red hot chili peppers are actually fruit from plants that are members of the nightshade family. This quirky product of nature has healing properties you wouldn’t normally associate with a hot bite that causes a distinct pain and burning sensation in your mouth, or for that matter, with something as ordinary as a chili. Exotic though it may be in some parts of the world, chilies have now become commonplace as a medicine. Fact is they are packed with nutritional and medicinal properties and it is said that including chili regularly in your diet can effectively control many an illness.

Let’s start at the very beginning. Chili is loaded with Vitamin A and C with a good measure of bioflavinoids. These nutrients enable blood vessels to cope with variations in blood pressure by increasing their elasticity. According to studies chilies have pain relieving abilities and their consumption could potentially relieve migraine and sinus headaches. It has been recorded that chilies can control the transmission of pain to the brain by virtue of a chemical substance in it called capsaicin. This chemical substance helps combat upper respiratory congestion and helps clear mucus from the throat. Chili is endowed with anti-bacterial properties and can prove itself in the treatment of sinus infections. The heat of chili is meant to prevent the spreading of cancer cells, more specifically to do with prostrate cancer.

According to current scientific thinking, capsaicin could be useful in the treatment of painful bone and joint conditions such as arthritis due to its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. And what with its ability to prevent or manage nervous debility, it may be a blessing for those suffering from diabetic neuropathy and has even been suggested for the treatment of herpes. Skin conditions such as psoriasis are also meant to be relieved by chili.

Chili for better digestion, increased metabolism and weight control

According to a study conducted by Duke University in North Carolina, USA, the chili pepper could be handy in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. It acts against H. Pylori bacteria and could be the best preventive therefore for stomach ulcers. There is also evidence to show the effectiveness of chili in weight control. Capsaicin can increase the body’s metabolism and the heat it generates can burn fat (this process is called thermogenisis), while the vitamin C and the beta carotene make it essential for maintaining the health of the mucus membrane in the nasal passages, lungs, intestinal tracts and urinary tracts. They are unique in their ability to build the body’s defenses against pathogens. New research has identified that chilies in your meal can reduce the amount of insulin your body needs to convert sugar to energy.

Of course, as always, it is good to exercise caution in the consumption of chilies. You don’t want to eat too much of it. And chili therapy may or may not be a good enough substitute for proper medical advice. That said, chilies are great for cooking with, adding a touch of flavor, healthfulness and even color to your meal. And an unexpected gift of the chili is that is stimulates the release of endorphins, the pleasure hormone.


Nanditha Ram
Nanditha Ram is a Reiki master and yoga and wellness coach, holistic therapist, and writer, living and working in New Zealand.