You may be wondering what cayenne pepper has to do with the aging process. Why this hot herb is considered by many herbalists to be the cornerstone of herbal health and wellness.
I believe that once you’ve read this article you will clearly see why this herb is so important to your health and how it can positively affect the aging process. To get us started I’m going to list a number of ailments that people experience as they age. How many people do you know, that as they age, experience any number of the following health challenges:
These are common ailments as people age. Some can be fatal. All pose serious health challenges especially in our ability to lead a vibrant life. Could there be an herb that addresses each one of these health challenges? Yes, you guessed the obvious answer. That herb is cayenne pepper.
“If you master only one herb in your life, master cayenne pepper. It is more powerful than any other.” – Dr. Schulze
“Cayenne pepper – prized for thousands of years for its healing power. Folklore from around the world recounts amazing results using cayenne pepper in simple healing and in baffling health problems. But cayenne pepper is not just a healer from ancient history. Recent clinical studies have been conducted on many of the old-time health applications for this miracle herb. Again and again, the therapeutic value of cayenne pepper has been medically validated.” – Dr. Patrick Quillin from The Healing Power of Cayenne Pepper
Before I begin the discussion about how important cayenne pepper is to the aging process, I wanted to list these two quotes. Dr. Patrick Quillin is the more recognizable name. Dr. Quillin served from 1990 to 2000 as the Vice President of Nutrition for Cancer Treatment Centers of America. He is an internationally respected author, lecturer, professor, and consultant in the field of nutrition. His 15 books have sold over 1 million copies and include the best sellers Healing Nutrients and Beating Cancer with Nutrition.
Cayenne pepper is a medicinal and nutritional herb. Its nutrients include beta carotene (precursor for vitamin A), capsaicin, lutein, amino acids, essential fatty acids, calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C, and E. This list of nutrients has a direct impact on aging. Before we look at each one, let’s address the five common ailments from above:
Most people don’t realize how important proper digestion is to the aging process. In normal circumstances, 100 percent of your nutrition comes from the food you eat and the beverages you drink. It is through the digestive system that nutrients are broken down and then absorbed to supply the nutritional needs of your brain, muscles, glands, organs and every part of your body. This all factors into your mental, emotional and physical health especially as we age!
As a person ages the hydrochloric acid of the stomach tends to decline. For many, poor digestion is related to a lack of this acid. Cayenne aids the body in creating hydrochloric acid which is critical for good digestion and assimilation of nutrients, especially from protein. It is believed that cayenne can help rebuild the tissues in the stomach as well as aid the peristaltic actions of the intestines. Cayenne pepper will improve elimination while aiding in the absorption of nutrients from your food.
If you have ever eaten chips and salsa made with hot peppers then you’ve most likely experienced sweating and a drippy nose. That’s because cayenne pepper stimulates circulation and blood flow, especially to the peripheral areas of the body. Because of its ability to stimulate both digestion and circulation, cayenne pepper is often added to other herbal remedies to improve their absorption and circulation throughout the body.
High Blood Pressure
Cayenne pepper prevents platelets from clumping together and accumulating in the blood stream. Because of this cayenne pepper has become a popular home remedy for mild hypertension and those concerned about their cholesterol levels. If you are already on heart medication or high blood pressure medication, then definitely work with a qualified physician and pharmacist before using this herb.
Cayenne pepper can also be mixed with other ingredients to form a pain-relieving muscle and joint rub. The heat source is the ingredient capsaicin which is a fiery phenolic resin found in this pepper. Upon contact with the skin, the capsaicin causes the nerve ending to release a chemical called substance P. Substance P is what transmits the pain signal from the body back to the brain. Because capsaicin causes this substance P to flood out of the nerve cells you experience a sensation that ranges from warmth to extreme heat. Once the nerve endings have exhausted all of their substance P, no pain signals can be transmitted to the brain until they are able to replenish substance P. These types of cayenne preparations have become popular for the treatment of arthritis and bursitis. They are not meant for acute inflammations but for long-standing chronic conditions.
Colds & Flu
Because cayenne pepper promotes fever and sweating it is considered to have a diaphoretic (sweat-inducing) action to help relieve the congestion of colds and flu and help to reduce fevers.
My friend Suzanne recently reminded me of the powerful effects cayenne pepper has on helping to relieve cold and flu symptoms. I not a big fan of spicy foods so I went to my local health food store to get cayenne pepper in capsule form! I chose Nature’s Way CapsiCool Controlled Heat formula which was stomach gentle. This formula uses Ginger and Glucomannan to help control the heat of Cayenne.
I followed the directions and took 2 capsules with food. My temperature was slightly over 102 when I took them at 3 pm. By 6 pm that night I had an appetite, I felt noticeably better and by the following morning my temperature was just slightly over normal. I now use this product every day. It made a significant difference in how quickly I recovered from my cold and how well I feel.
Dan Hammer - Editor
Even cayenne pepper’s nutrient profile is aimed at slowing down the aging process. This is not the complete nutrient profile but these nutrients play a significant role as it relates to aging.
Alpha-carotene and beta-carotene are carotenoids which are a class of compounds related to vitamin A. For example, beta-carotene is converted by the liver into vitamin A. Vitamin A prevents night blindness, enhances immunity, helps to heal gastrointestinal ulcers, and is needed for the maintenance and repair of epithelial tissue found in the skin and mucous membranes.
It is also important in the formation of bones and teeth, protects against colds, flu, and infections, and is a strong antioxidant in the body’s war against cancer. Vitamin A and its carotenoid precursors aid in new cell growth, guard against heart disease and stroke, and helps to lower cholesterol levels.
This is just a small sampling of all the wonderful benefits that vitamin A has in preventing cell aging and damage. Because vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin doctors will caution people about getting too much of this vitamin. However, the beauty of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene is that they are water soluble. This makes it very difficult for the body to overdose because excess amounts will be eliminated in the urine. The liver will convert these carotenoids into vitamin A as the body’s need for vitamin A increases. This establishes a wonderful synergy between nutrient and bodily needs to help slow down cell aging and cellular damage.
Capsaicin has already been discussed in regards to arthritis. There are several types of capsaicin creams that can be obtained from your drugstore or health food store. The nice thing about capsaicin is that it doesn’t seem to interact with any other drugs or medications. This makes it an attractive option for older adults who may be taking one or more drugs on a regular basis.
Lutein is a powerful nutrient that helps to prevent cataracts and macular degeneration. Both are common eye problems for people who are 60 and older. If you don’t want to use cayenne pepper to obtain your lutein, then collard greens, kale, mustard greens, and turnip greens are good sources.
Quercetin is a bioflavonoid that works synergistically with vitamin C to protect capillaries, promote circulation, stimulate bile production, lower cholesterol levels, treat and prevent cataracts, and have antibacterial effects in the body. It also seems to play a significant role in reducing allergies especially when combined with bromelain.
Zeaxanthin, like lutein, helps to prevent cataracts because it helps to protect the eyes from free radical damage.
Calcium is a vital ingredient for strong bones and teeth but more and more research is showing how important it is for heart and cardiovascular health. It helps to maintain a regular heartbeat, lowers cholesterol levels and helps to prevent cardiovascular disease. This is just a small sampling of all the powerful benefits of proper calcium intake.
Essential fatty acids are needed by every living cell in the body. Fatty acids are one of the basic building blocks our body. They are called essential because the body cannot make them. They must come into your system through diet. They are sometimes referred to as vitamin F or polyunsaturates. These essential fatty acids improve skin and hair, lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reduce blood pressure, and help to prevent arthritis. They are also found in high concentrations in the brain and are necessary for both the development of the brain and its function.
Folate or folic acid is needed for energy production and the formation of red blood cells. It is particularly important for those with sickle cell anemia. Folate is also considered a brain food to help prevent depression and anxiety. Folate is also important in the regulation of homocysteine levels in the blood stream. High homocysteine levels are usually associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. Adequate supplies of folate with B6 and B12 help to prevent a buildup of homocysteine levels in the blood.
Iron is critical for the production of hemoglobin and the body’s ability to carry oxygen in the red blood cells. This has a direct impact on energy levels. Iron is also needed for a healthy immune system. Iron can also be stored in the body which can have negative effects. Because of this it is important to get yearly blood tests to determine your iron levels. This will allow you to make the necessary adjustment to your diet to make sure your iron intake is always appropriate.
Magnesium is vital for energy production. It also aids in calcium and potassium uptake. Adequate supplies of magnesium in your diet can help to prevent depression, dizziness, muscle weakness, muscle twitching, and PMS. Magnesium is also extremely important is helping the body maintain a proper pH balance and body temperature.
Phosphorus is needed for the proper functioning of the heart muscle and its rhythm. It is also involved in blood clotting, cell growth, kidney function as well as bone and tooth formation. Your body works best when magnesium, calcium and phosphorus are in proper balance to each other.
Potassium helps to prevent stroke. It also aids in maintaining a healthy nervous system and a regular heart beat. Muscle contractions could not occur without potassium and it works with sodium to help control the body’s water balance. Potassium helps regulate the transfer of nutrients through your cell membrane. However, this function decreases with age and may explain why older people experience circulatory damage, lethargy and muscle weakness. Low potassium intake has a direct correlation to the development of high blood pressure.
Zinc is important for maintaining proper prostate function which is a significant factor for older men. Zinc also protects the liver from chemical damage. Zinc aids in insulin and helps to prevent free radical damage.
Vitamin B1 or thiamine aids in the production of hydrochloric acid which is needed for proper digestion. It also optimizes brain function and cognitive activity.
Vitamin B2 or riboflavin helps to reduce eye fatigue and is important for the prevention of cataracts.
Vitamin B3 or niacin aid in the production of hydrochloric acid for proper digestion and it aids in the secretion of bile to assist the liver in its functions. Niacin lowers cholesterol and improves circulation.
Vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid is also called the anti-stress vitamin since it is needed for the proper functioning of the adrenal glands. It is required by all the body’s cells and aids in energy production.
Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine is involved in more bodily functions than any other single nutrient outside of oxygen. A lack of this vitamin will affect both your physical and mental health. It plays a role in cancer immunity. It aids in preventing arteriosclerosis. And, as we learned earlier, it inhibits the formation of homocysteine which can cause heart damage.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that is involved in at least three hundred separate metabolic functions. It protects the body from cancer, environmental pollutants, infections, and atherosclerosis. It works synergistically with vitamin E and beta-carotene to help improve cognitive abilities especially as a person ages.
Vitamin E is really a family of eight antioxidant compounds that prevent free radical damage throughout the body.
That’s an impressive list of powerful health benefits. These ingredients are so important to your health that I could do a separate article on each. If you want to improve your health, while having a powerful effect on slowing down your aging process, then cayenne pepper needs to be a part of your daily wellness program.
Until next time, may we both age youthfully.
P.S. Below are links to other Herbal Health and Aging articles contained on this website:
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