Chili peppers are bursting with free-radical scouring antioxidants, and studies show that capsaicin exhibits antiviral and antibacterial properties as well [source: Plant Cultures]. Proven topical applications of chili peppers include creams, gels, lotions and patches to relieve joint and nerve pain often associated with osteoarthritis and diabetic neuropathy. In the future, capsaicin injections may replace cortisone injections [Carter, Lazar and Burch].
While capsaicin irritates, it may also have homeopathic qualities. In fact, scientists believe that capsaicin may be able deplete substance P, the neurotransmitter that alerts the central nervous system to pain [source: Block and Beale].
Capsaicin has several other medical uses, including:
Ongoing studies show promise in the prevention and control of an array of conditions, including:
Two common commercial uses of chili pepper derivatives are pepper spray and food and cosmetic dyes developed from oleoresin [source: The Chile Pepper Institute]. But Chinese police also serve them to sleepy motorists to keep them awake at the wheel, and at one time, chili peppers were used to stop advancing soldiers [source: Reuters].
Cayenne powder also has several different uses. Gardeners use it to deter mammals and insects, and homeowners use it to repel ants, squirrels and other wildlife. Some people even add a dash of cayenne powder to their socks to keep their feet warm [source: The World Bank].
To learn more about chili peppers and their variety of uses, see the links on the following page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
More Great Links
- Block, John and Beale, John M. "Wilson & Gisvold's Textbook of Organic Medicinal and Pharmaceutical Chemistry." Lippincott Williams & Wilkin. December 1, 2003.
- Bosland, Paul W. and Baral, Jit B. " 'Bhut Jolokia' -- The World's Hottest Known Chile Pepper is a Putative Naturally Occurring Interspecific Hybrid." HortScience Vol. 42, no. 2. Page 222. April 2007.
- Carter, Richard B.; Lazar, Jeff; Burch, Ronald M. "Patent application title: Injectable capsaicin with vasocontrictor adjunctive agent." May 2009 (October 10, 2009) http://www.faqs.org/patents/app/20090117167
- Davis, Christopher. "For peppers, 'hot' quite literally the spice of life, UF research shows." University of Florida News. July 25, 2001. (October 10, 2009) http://news.ufl.edu/2001/07/25/peppers/
- Domini, Aaron. "Chiles: the Medicinal Properties of Capsicums, and the New Mexico Chile Culture." (October 10, 2009) http://www.fortlewis.edu/anthro/ethnobotany/special_events/PPT_files/Chile.ppt
- Extension.org. "What kind of peppers are available and how do I grow them?" (October 10, 2009) http://www.extension.org/faq/1212
- Graedon, Joe and Graedon, Teresa. "The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies." St. Martin's Griffin. January 6, 2110.
- Guinness World Records. "GWR Statement regarding Indian chili-eating event." April 14, 2009. (October 10, 2009) http://community.guinnessworldrecords.com/_GWR-Statement-regarding-Indian-chilli-eating-event/BLOG/242062/7691.html
- Huntrods, Diane. "Bell and Chili Peppers Profile." November 2008. (October 10, 2009) http://www.agmrc.org/commodities__products/vegetables/bell_and_chili_peppers_profile.cfm
- Mateljan, George. "The World's Healthiest Foods" World's Healthiest Foods. July 18, 2006.
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. "Capsaicin." March 16, 2009. (October 26, 2009)
- Mikulak, Ron. "Some like 'em hot." Courier-journal.com. September 30, 2009. (October 10, 2009) http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20090930/FEATURES02/909300368/Hot-peppers-ready-for-picking
- Netha, Yona and Reddy, Vamsi. "Phytochemicals in Pepper." (October 10, 2009)http://agonline.tamu.edu/phytochemicals/powerpoints/pepper_2nov_230PM.pdf
- New Mexico State University, The Chile Pepper Institute. "Chile Pepper Facts." 2007. (October 10, 2009) http://aces.nmsu.edu/chilepepperinstitute/documents/chile-facts.pdf
- New Mexico State University, The Chile Pepper Institute. "Growing Tips." 2006. (October 10, 2009) http://www.chilepepperinstitute.org/documents/growing-tips.pdf
- Reuters. "Police hot-wire sleepy drivers with chili." May 2009 (October 10, 2009) http://www.reuters.com/article/oddlyEnoughNews/idUSTRE52A45O20090311
- ScienceDaily. "Common Pain Cream Could Protect Heart During Attack, Study Shows." September 15, 2009. (October 10, 2009) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090914173010.htm
- The Sierra Club. "Bear Pepper Spray: It Works!" (October 10, 2009)http://www.sierraclub.org/grizzly/pdfs/pepper_spray.PDF
- Stankus, Seth John ; Dlugopolski, Michael and Packer, Deborah. "Management of Herpes Zoster (Shingles) and Postherpetic Neuralgia." American Family Physician. April 15, 2000. (October 10, 2009) http://www.aafp.org/afp/20000415/2437.html
- Stephens, James M. University of Florida, IFAS Extension. "Pepper, Chili - Capsicum annuum L. and Capsicum frutescens L." March 2009. (October 10, 2009) http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/MV112
- Texas A&M University, AgriLifeExtension. "Pepper." (October 10, 2009) http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/plantanswers/vegetables/pepper.html
- Tso, Yvonne; Love, Bridgette; Ibañez, Rocio Cisneros; and Ross, Jamie. "Capsicum, spp." Medicinal Plants of the Southwest. February 13, 2008 (October 10, 2009) http://medplant.nmsu.edu/capsicum.shtm
- University of Illinois Extension. "Peppers." (October 10, 2009) http://urbanext.illinois.edu/veggies/peppers1.html
- University of Kentucky, Analytical Spectroscopy Research Group. "History of HPLC." (October 10, 2009) http://kerouac.pharm.uky.edu/asrg/hplc/history.html
- University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "Spice It Up Or Just Veg Out, Either Way You May Be Helping To Defend Against Cancer." April 19, 2005. (October 10, 2009) http://www.upmc.com/MediaRelations/NewsReleases/2005/Pages/CancerAndDietStudy.aspx
- University of Toronto, Department of Chemistry. "Hot Chili Peppers: Isolation, Cleanup, and Measurement Of Capsaicin." Fall, 1998. (October 10, 2009) http://www.chem.utoronto.ca/facilities/analest/IES1410F/lab3/index.html
- WebMD. "Capsicum." (October 10, 2009) http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-945-CAPSICUM.aspx?activeIngredientId=945&activeIngredientName=CAPSICUM&source=2
- WomensLaw.org. "Pepper Spray/Mace. (October 10, 2009) http://www.womenslaw.org/laws_state_type.php?id=13357&state_code=PG
- The World Bank. "World Bank project uses chili peppers to deter elephants." (October 10, 2009) http://go.worldbank.org/XBC25UVP60