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Eating Chile Peppers

Chiles - Good for What Ails You

By Eric Vinje, Cosmic Chile

Forget apples. The old folk saying should probably read, "Eat a chile a day and keep the doctor away."

Chile peppers, and particularly the capsaicin they contain, are good for what ails you. Here's just a short list of some of the health benefits attributed to them:

Weight Loss. Feel the burn and lose the pounds is one theory posited by researchers at the Oxford Polytechnic Institute in England. In an experiment with 12 individuals, each participant ate identical 766-calorie meals. Chile powder and mustard were added to meals on alternate days. Participants burned an average of 45 extra calories on the days that their meals included chile powder. (Added calorie expenditure varied from four to 76 calories.) The theory is that eating hot peppers increases "thermogenesis," the body's caloric burn rate.

Keep your heart healthy. Chiles reduce platelet aggregation, which clogs blood vessels which in turn can cause heart disease.

Improve circulation. Because chiles are vasodilators and open up blood vessels, ingesting cayenne pepper improves blood circulation. People with circulation problems or who have suffered frost bite often take capsaicin powder before participating in cold weather sports.

Cancer killer. Capsaicin in chiles may fight cancer by preventing carcinogens from binding to DNA. The theory is that binding to the DNA short-circuits the triggers for lung and other cancers. This does not mean that chiles cure cancer, but eating them may help to reduce your risk of getting certain kinds of cancer.

Bacteria Killer, Part I. Get hurt on a picnic and don't have any Bactine on you? Head for the hot sauce, instead. Chiles and their capsaicin act as an antiseptic when applied directly to a wound. (No, it does not work against snake bites.)

Bacteria Killer, Part II. Chiles can prevent food borne bacterial disease such as salmonella. Chiles killed more than 75 percent of 30 germs in a study published in the March 1998 issue of the Quarterly Review of Biology. So slather on the hot sauce and know that you're not only improving the taste of what you're eating, you may be getting rid of some nasty microbes that could make you ill.

Pain Management. Capsaicin is believed to affect the pain signals in the skin, blocking pain without blocking other sensations. Find an ointment or cream containing capsaicin and smear it over the body part that's hurting. Initially the capsaicin may produce a burning sensation, but that should cancel out the pain that you're feeling.

Cure for the Common Cluster Headache. Just as it short-circuits pain elsewhere, chiles and their capsaicin can provide relief for some kind of headaches, especially cluster headaches.

Digestive Aid and Constipation Cure. Chiles stimulate gastric secretions. Eating chiles increases the circulation in the stomach and intestines so that food is processed and absorbed more efficiently. They get the digestive juices flowing, which improves digestion as well as gives a boost to sluggish bowels and inspires them to get a move on. Chiles can even bring relief to sufferers of stomach aches as strange as that may sound.

Cold Relief. Hot pepper acts as an expectorant. It can break up congestion and reduce mucous in the lungs and nasal passages. (Ingestion of hot peppers causes your mouth, throat, and lungs to release watery fluids as anyone that's chomped down on a jalapeno pepper or taken a bite of extra hot chili can attest.) These watery secretions help thin respiratory mucus, so it's easier to cough up and expel.) Try cayenne mixed with hot lemonade and ginger to soothe your next cold. Similarly capsaicin can help calm coughs by wetting the throat -- menthol lozenges actually dry out your throat and paralyze the cilia on the airways. Chilies can also mend sore throats, not only by giving symptomatic, relief but also because of hot peppers' antiseptic properties.

Keep in mind that individual results may vary and that you should always consult a doctor before trying a health remedy -- even an all-natural one. That said, next time you catch a cold, dribble some hot sauce on your favorite food to relieve your stuffy nose and make your sore throat feel better and call your doctor in the morning.

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