I just saw the eighth volume of the herbal book series my writing partner, Sue Sierralupé, and I have been working on hit Amazon. Chili Pepper: Naturally Hot Herbal Medicine (The Practical Herbalist’s Herbal Folio Book 8) was a blast to write. I loved the research–trying out a few chilies was the best.
I was surprised to realize how many diseases and conditions this herb handles with aplomb. A few, like arthritis and muscle spasms, I knew. Chilies are often included in topical salves, lotions, and liniments to help ease sore and stiff muscles, arthritic conditions, and aching joints. I’ve even heard of using cayenne powder to stop bleeding and heal wounds–topically, of course. What I didn’t know about the topicals is that chili’s heat not only kills bacterial but also helps deaden pain by short-circuiting Substance-P, which sends the pain signal through your nervous system to the brain. That, I suppose, is exactly why I’ve seen cayenne in a few toothpastes and mouth rinses designed for healing wounds in the mouth as well as toothaches.
The part of using chilies as herbal medicine that truly surprised me was how good they are for you to take internally. One study found that taking spicy foods 6-7 times a week can lower your risk of death by 14 percent, adding up to somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 years to the average lifespan. That study included other spices, like Black Pepper, but they noted chilies as being the primary spice contributing to the heat part of the spicy foods study participants ate.
Beyond potentially extending life, chilies are known for helping improve circulation and most especially for aiding folks with heart conditions. I was surprised to learn that they’re also good for some types of ulcers as well as various digestive complaints. Chili’s ability to improve circulation and reduce inflammation is what’s most often cited as why they help conditions like Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s disease. Who would have thought that adding a dash of cayenne or jalapeño to your daily lunch or supper would reduce or even stave off digestive troubles?
After looking at all the current research alongside the documented historical medical uses for chilies, it’s no wonder so many ancient South American civilizations used chilies as coin for trade. They’re easily worth their weight in gold, medicinally speaking. If you’d like to learn more about Chili Peppers or want to support me, The Practical Herbalist, or the Real Herbalism Radio team, stop by Amazon and buy your copy of Chili Pepper: Naturally Hot Herbal Medicinetoday!