Ok, so have you ever eaten some REALLY spicy food and then felt that rush of euphoria? Well, that’s because you’ve just ingested capsaicin, the chemical in hot chiles that release adrenaline and endorphins.
As a matter of fact, research is showing that capsaicin is good for a host of problems including pain, arthritic pain, inflammation and itching. Capsaicin can help cardiovasular health, clear congestion and even boost immunity. Even more encouraging is recent research showing that capsaicin may actually help kill off prostate cancer cells – not cure the cancer, but maybe prevent the cancer.
So just what is this miracle substance and how does it work? Capsaicin is the substance in chiles that gives the chiles their pungent flavor and aroma. It produces mild to intense heat in spicy chiles – depending on the ‘Scoville’ scale heat units (heat level) for the chile. To put that in perspective, let’s look at Gringo Jack’s for a start.
Our guajillo chile sauce is our hard working sauce. Made with guajillo chiles, we say that it is the milder of our red chile sauces. Guajillo chiles sit around 2,000-5,000 on the Scovile scale. Our chipotle sauce is our spicier sauce made with chipotle chiles (dried jalapenos). The chipotle chile sits on the Scoville scale at around 5,000-8,000.
Ok – so now, lets look at the cayenne pepper – 30,000-50,000 on the Scoville scale! Imagine the difference in heat between the cayenne pepper and a chipotle chile. But is gets better folks. The hot chocolate habanero? 400,000 on the Scoville scale. Really. 400,000. And if you want to get ridiculous, there is always the Chocolate Bhutlah which ranks at over 1.5 MILLION on the Scoville scale. Even that chile can’t beat the Carolina Reaper sometimes hitting the 2 million mark. Ghost peppers? Often referred to as the hottest pepper in the world and the butt of joke and funny videos – just over 1 million Scovilles.
There are thousands of cultivars of chiles. The hotter the chile, the more capsaicin. That could explain the ever increasing obsession by some to grow the next hottest chile.
So what is the point? Besides the funny videos of people eating chiles that make them cry, there are terrific reasons to get to know some of the spicy chiles. I don’t think we all need to go out and learn to cook with the Carolina Reaper. But, the higher the capsaicin level, the more the health benefits. Pure capsaicin measures 16,000,000 on the Scoville scale, so that isn’t happening!
So, how does capsaicin help and what are the health benefits? First of all, the bad rap that chiles get involves ulcers. Not only do chiles NOT cause or aggravate stomach ulcers, they can actually help by killing bacteria and also buffering the stomach lining. Now, what else can it do?
Relieves Pain & Inflammation
When it is topically applied, capsaicin lowers the amount of something called Substance P, the chemical that helps send pain signals to the brain – also associated with the inflammation process. From osteoarthritis to diabetic neuropathy, capsaicin is the natural way to alleviate pain. Applied topically, capsaicin can also alleviate itching from psoriasis.
Chiles are high in antioxidants which helps kill the free radicals in your body – free radicals being a precursor to atherosclerosis.
Studies are showing that capsaicin can also reduce blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and platelet aggregation, while increasing the body’s ability to dissolve fibrin, a substance integral to the formation of blood clots.
Congestion Relief and Immunity Booster
The heat from the capsaicin also stimulates secretions that help clear nose and lung congestion. And those beta-carotene vitamin As? Well, chiles are loaded with them and Vitamin A is the first defense against infectious pathogens.
Reduce or regulate blood sugar?
In the July 2006 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Australian researchers studied the effect of capsaicin on insulin and blood sugar. It appears that a meal consumed with chiles reduces the body’s insulin requirements. If chiles are regularly consumed, the amount of insulin needed goes even lower.
“Plus, chili’s beneficial effects on insulin needs get even better as body mass index (BMI, a measure of obesity) increases. In overweight people, not only do chili-containing meals significantly lower the amount of insulin required to lower blood sugar levels after a meal, but chili-containing meals also result in a lower ratio of C-peptide/ insulin, an indication that the rate at which the liver is clearing insulin has increased.
The amount of C-peptide in the blood also shows how much insulin is being produced by the pancreas. The pancreas produces proinsulin, which splits into insulin and C-peptide when secreted into the bloodstream. Each molecule of proinsulin breaks into one molecule of C-peptide and one molecule of insulin, so less C-peptide means less insulin has been secreted into the bloodstream.” – WHFoods
How cool is this? Capsaicin may help the spread of prostate cancer!
While this is still being studied, it looks as if capsaicin may actually help kill off prostate cancer cells. In the March 15, 2006 issue of Cancer Research, study shows that capsaicin triggers suicide in both primary types of prostate cancer cell lines, those whose growth is stimulated by male hormones and those not affected by them. In addition, capsaicin lessens the expression of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), inhibits the ability of the most potent form of testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, to activate PSA, and directly inhibits PSA transcription, causing PSA levels to plummet.
Our own garden grown chiles! Dig-It Gardenworks – you’re the best!
So, by now you are probably ready to dive into the amazing world of chiles! In our next blog posts, Gringo Jack’s will be offering some wonderful and easy recipes all using these amazing wonders.