Some medicinal uses for peppers are as follows:
- For over 2,000 years, they have been used as an anti-asthmatic.
- Peppers are natural expectorants and, since ancient times, have been prescribed as a remedy for the common cold. Today, one major over-the-counter expectorant is Robitussin which contains guaifenesin, derived from guaiacol. It has the same chemical structure as capsaicin, the chemical in pepper. Guaifenesin is used in many other cough medicines, tablets, and prescription syrups. However, peppers are an inexpensive, nutritious alternative. The purpose of using hot pepper, along with any number of other hot spices, is to dislodge mucus. When the body is healthy, mucus is moved through the sinus system by cilia so inconspicuoulsy and effortlessly that the body is barely aware of its presence. Cilia rhythmically propel mucus along at over 1,000 times per minute, clearing out all respiratory passageways and depositing the collection in the throat to the tune of about 100 ml per day. When a respiratory illness sets in, this flow diminishes. Hot peppers stimulate the receptor cells in the stomach, which then trigger relexive action that travels through the vagus nerve to the “mucokinetic center” in the back of the brain. That center then sends the vagal reflex to bronchial glands, which are commanded to secrete water into the mucus. Next to the mucokinetic center is the center that controls vomiting. The two centers are linked in a peculiar way. Any chemical that stimulates the mucokinetic center in a larger dose activates its neighbour. The same capsaicin that helps move mucus is also the basis for a modern drug that induces vomiting.
- Peppers act as an appetite stimulant, digestive aid, diuretic, as well as having a disinfectant effect on the mucus membranes.
- Peppers coat ulcers. One theory for how this works is that the peppers stimulate saliva production in the mouth, along with mucus production in the stomach, which coats the lining. Another is that peppers are antiparasitic and, therefore, will eliminate the cause of at least one ulcer cause; that from the H. pylori bacterium. Some are of the belief that peppers actually cause ulcers, but no connection has ever been found between the eating of peppers and the cause of ulcers. In fact, just the opposite takes place. Those who eat peppers are less likely to develop ulcers. However, hot peppers can irritate hemorrhoids and ulcers already present; but cayenne, especially, is known to heal these complaints rather than cause them.
- Cayenne has long been used to strengthen the heart, especially those suffering from CHF (congestive heart failure).
Around the world, peppers have countless medicinal uses as follows:
- In Brazil, healers who prescribe medicines from chiles are known as pimentologos.
- In the Malay peninsula, they are used to treat digestive problems; and healers prescribe them for jaundice, scarlet fever, choleral, malaria, and gonorrhea.
- In Indonesian villages, juice from the leaves of pepper plants is used to stimulate childbirth.
- In the Philippines, the leaves belonging of frutescens species are pounded and mixed with lime, and applied to reduce swellings. The leaves and spices are used as poultices for ulcers.
- According to the Indian Materia Medica, three species (annum, fastigiatum, and minimum) are made into a paste, combined with mustard, and used as a counterirritant. Pills made of equal parts of capsicum, rhubarb, and ginger are used as a carminative. Chiles and hot water make a gargle. The whole plant is steeped in milk and used to reduce swellings and hardened tumors. Capsicum with cinnamon and sugar is a valuable drink for those suffering from delirium tremens, and also satisfies the craving for alcohol.
- In Ayurvedic applications, pepper is sometimes used as a “fire” to open up the body’s system to accept other medicines.
- The Maya of northern Guatemala made a potion called “ic” to cure cramps and diarrhea, and which they rubbed on the gums to relieve a toothache.
- The Aztecs applied mashed hot peppers to aching bones and muscles, which worked in the same manner as today’s topical medicines, whose active ingredient is capsicum.
- West Indians today still prepare a stomachic called “mandram”, which is a preparation of cucumbers, shallots, lime juice, Madeira wine, and mashed pods of the highly pungent bird peppers.
- Since ancient times, Asians and Latin Americans have used peppers to relieve pain of chilblain and toothaches.
Studies are still proving the medicinal value of peppers (see p. 26 of the Comprehensive Index to my book Nature’s Pharmacy: Evidence-based Alternatives to Drugs). All study abstract titles and authors are included in the book and can be verified through GreenMedInfo, a large Natural Medicine database.
- Cayenne pepper has proven to be an excellent pain reliever, even for cancer pain, as well as being a general anti-microbial. It has long been known to strengthen the heart and is a key ingredient for the popular and very effective Strauss Heart Drops. It also has blood thinning properties and is much safer to use than the commonly prescribed rat poison, warfarin.
- Hot peppers contain capsaicin, which is the substance that has the most studies backing the effectiveness of hot peppers. An excellent pain reliever, anti-bacterial (especially against cholora). It is known to not only strengthen the heart but to regulate the beat, which improves overall function. This will ultimately improve the cardiovascular system including the improvement of blood pressure. Capsaicin reduces sinus polyps thereby improving the ability to breathe and it can regulate blood sugar levels. A study led by Zhang and associates, proved that capsaicin inhibited and reduced pancreatic cancer cells.