What is Capsaicin?Pure capsaicin is a white crystalline powder. Capsaicin is a capsaicinoid which belongs to the alkaloid family. It is very heat stable and keeps its activity despite cooking. Capsaicin is only slightly soluble in water, but very soluble in ethanol and vegetable oil. Other capsaicinoid are dihydrocapsaicin, nordihydrocapsaicin, homocapsaicin and homodihydrocapsaicin.
DistributionCapsaicin is the phytochemical in chilli peppers that causes the typical heat.
Health Benefits of CapsaicinCapsaicin is used in many topical ointments used to relieve the pain of peripheral neuropathy (treatment of pain in the nerve endings near the surface of the skin). Capsaicin is then applied on the skin and removed when the patient starts feeling the burning sensation. The nerves seem to become insensitive to pain. The burning sensations of capsaicin is caused by its interaction with the nerve cells. Capsaicin binds with special receptor cells (vanilloid receptor subtype 1) and produces the same effect as physical heat. Consumption of capsaicin can also create a euphoric sensation caused by the release endorphins.
Studies have shown that capsaicin can relieve arthritic symptoms and improve flexibility of the joints. Capsaicin seems to inhibit the activity of DSP (Decapeptide Substance P), which the painful feeling of arthritis.
Capsaicin might protect against gastric ulcers. Studies have shown that capsaicin protects the stomach membrane by increasing the blood flow.
Capsaicin seems to reduce the symptoms of psoriasis. A study by Ellis CN et al., "A double-blind evaluation of topical capsaicin in pruritic psoriasis" (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Sept 1993) showed that patients with psoriasis who took capsaicin cream had reduced itching, scaling and redness compared with patients who used a placebo.
Facts about CapsaicinWhy do plants contain capsaicin? By producing the burning capsaicin the pepper plant prevents animals from eating its fruits. Birds don?t feel the burning sensation of capsaicin so they eat the fruits and are responsible for the spreading of seeds. The chilli seeds survive the digestion process. Capsaicin is also a component of pepper spray, used as chemical riot control agent.
AbstractsCapsaicin and Health