I’ll admit that I’m not a very big fan of spicy foods. While I like it in small doses, in some cases my mouth gets too hot to the point where I can’t even taste the food I’m eating. And then once my tongue finally cools down, my stomach probably won’t be too pleased with me for the rest of the day. But even if you have a low tolerance for spiciness like I do, there are still many reasons to look into the numerous health benefits of cayenne pepper. Cayenne pepper is a truly miraculous herb that boosts circulation, is great for heart health and even helps other herbs properly do their job.
What is Cayenne?
Cayenne itself is a shrub, while cayenne pepper, obviously, is the red pepper that grows on that shrub. Used in various cultures throughout the world for millennia, the two most common species of cayenne pepper today are Capsicum frutescens and C. annuum.
Over the centuries, the herb made its way into many well-respected healing systems, such as Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine. It originates, however, in the Central and South American regions. In fact, the herb is named after the city of Cayenne, the capital of French Guiana.
Before we go into why and how cayenne pepper is so good for circulation, let’s briefly go over why having good circulation is so important in the first place.
The Importance of The Blood Circulatory System
Our circulatory system, also referred to as the cardiovascular system, is important because we need red blood cells to carry oxygen and vital nutrients to our organs. When this flow is disrupted, all sorts of problems might arise. With poor blood flow, even consuming beneficial foods and herbs may be a wasted effort, as the good stuff those herbs provide may not even make it to their intended destination.
The blood also carries waste matter away from our organs and tissues, meaning that the circulatory system is also vital for detoxification. And this whole system is being pumped by the heart, which is why heart health and blood circulation are interchangeable topics.
One of the biggest culprits when it comes poor blood flow is what’s known as a blood clot. This is caused by things called platelets, which form in blood vessels and slow down the flow of blood in certain areas.
It should be noted that blood clots are not all bad, as they are necessary to stop too much blood from escaping when you get a cut or injury. But unwanted blood clots can be potentially very dangerous, resulting in things like strokes, which is when clotting prevents adequate blood flow to the brain. Furthermore, heart attacks are often caused when blood clots prevent enough blood from flowing to parts of the heart. (1)
You may or may not already be aware that heart disease is the number one killer in the entire world. According to the World Health Organization, heart disease and strokes were responsible for over 15 million deaths worldwide in 2015! Clearly, heart health and blood circulation are not issues to be taken lightly. (2)
There a number of ways to improve blood circulation, such as regular exercise, staying hydrated, and of course, maintaining a nutritious diet. But consuming cayenne pepper is considered by many herbalists to be both one of the quickest and most effective methods.
Let’s take a closer look at how and why you should consider cayenne pepper for circulation, and even cayenne pepper for heart attack.
Why Take Cayenne Pepper for Circulation?
The main chemical compound in cayenne pepper which improves circulation is called capsaicin. Basically, capsaicin is what makes chili peppers spicy. But in addition to giving foods their spiciness factor, this compound also helps with blood circulation in a number of ways.
Capsaicin helps clear away lipid deposits in the arteries. Furthermore, the heat of the compound also helps dilate the arteries and blood vessels. The effect is almost instantaneous, improving blood flow and circulation in mere seconds.
According to Dr. Schulze, a respected herbalist who is also one of the prominent advocates of cayenne pepper, the herb’s high flavanoid and vitamin content are also a major reason why it’s so good for circulation. (3) Cayenne peppers are rich in vitamin A, vitamins B1 and B6, vitamin C, and minerals like iron, copper and potassium.
Cayenne pepper is also effective at preventing blood clots. Along with herbs like turmeric and ginger, cayenne peppers are considered excellent natural blood thinners. The peppers contain what are known as salicylates, which are also found in commonly known blood-thinning medications like aspirin. But why risk the side effects of chemical drugs when you can get salicylates naturally, along with plenty of other beneficial compounds?
Can Cayenne Help Stop a Heart Attack?
When cayenne pepper enters the system, its cardiovascular benefits usually take effect immediately – not gradually. That’s why it’s a rare herb that can even help in an emergency situation. Of course, if you’re feeling symptoms of an oncoming heart attack, you should call for help right away. But that doesn’t always mean that help is going to get there immediately.
Many herbalists recommend having cayenne pepper on hand, especially if you’re someone at risk for things like heart attack. In fact, in a study conducted on mice, cayenne pepper extract was found to reduce cardiac cell death by 85%. (4)
Cary Byrd of the web site eDrugSearch recommends mixing a teaspoon of cayenne pepper powder in warm water if the heart attack sufferer is still conscious. If the person is unconscious, a few drops of cayenne pepper tincture under the tongue is recommended. (5)
I should state that I have absolutely zero experience with using cayenne pepper in such emergency cases. If you or anyone you know is at risk of suffering from a heart attack, I suggest you look more deeply into the topic by consulting with a variety of sources, or with herbalists you can meet in person.
Taking Cayenne Pepper With Other Herbs
Dr. Schulze likens cayenne pepper to a truck that other herbs can use to drive to the parts of the body they need to get to. As mentioned above, if you suffer from poor circulation, the blood might not even take important chemical compounds and nutrients to your vital organs. That’s why cayenne pepper is not just beneficial on its own, but it can also boost the effectiveness of other herbs.
According to Dr. Schulze, a number of his patients only reported mild benefits from ingesting gingko biloba, a popular herb which is known to improve brain function, boost memory and alleviate depression. However, when people tried taking gingko together with cayenne pepper, the beneficial effects of gingko were reported to be much more noticeable and fast-acting.
Special formulas comprising of a mixture of different herbs is a complex topic, but you may want to consider looking into cayenne pepper if you’ve felt like certain herbs you’ve tried weren’t doing their job. Of course, this could be due to the quality (or lack thereof) of the herb you’re taking. But if the quality is fine, there’s a good chance that it has to do with the blood not taking the compounds where they need to go – a problem which cayenne pepper is perfect at solving. (3)
Cayenne Pepper and Heat Units
Before we go into the topic of purchasing cayenne pepper and which form of the herb to get, one piece of information that you’re going to come across is the product’s heat levels. This is measured according to what’s known as the ‘Scoville scale.’
A cayenne pepper’s number of heat units is related to the amount of capsaicin it has. Remember, capsaicin is responsible for many of the health benefits of cayenne pepper, but it’s also the cause for its spiciness.
That’s why you should probably start with a product of a lower amount of heat units – for example, 40,000 – before working your way up. The higher up you’re able to go, the more benefits of cayenne pepper for circulation and heart health you’ll experience.
Cayenne pepper is said to be really effective from around 90,000 units. The late Dr. Christopher, who happens to be Dr. Schulze’s mentor, even has a cayenne pepper extract product that’s 200,000 heat units!
Where to Buy Cayenne Pepper & How to Prepare It
Fortunately, cayenne pepper is available at many markets throughout the world. Just look out for the bright red chilis. It’s especially important, though, to make sure you’re getting high-quality organic peppers. And if you’re going to be purchasing a processed cayenne pepper product, rather than the raw or dried peppers, you need to be even more vigilant.
As already mentioned, the high flavanoid, vitamin and mineral content of cayenne peppers play a big role in their effectiveness for circulation and heart health. If you buy a product that was processed too heavily, many of these beneficial nutrients will be lost. It’s important to understand that not all cayenne peppers, and not all forms of the same cayenne peppers, are equal. And one particular form of cayenne pepper that Dr. Schulze is adamant against is cayenne pepper capsules.
Cayenne pepper capsules
Simply put, Dr. Schulze does not recommend taking cayenne in capsule form. He believes that the health benefits of taking cayenne in capsule form pale in comparison to cayenne tincture or powder.
Not only is there a high likelihood that a lot of processing has taken place, thus diminishing the product’s effectiveness, but cayenne pepper capsule can also cause stomach cramps. Your stomach normally reacts immediately when cayenne touches your tongue, meaning it starts preparing itself in advance for when the spicy herb moves down to the digestive system.
When taking cayenne pepper capsules, on the other hand, your digestive system won’t be ready. It’s like tricking the body, and many of the unpleasant side effects that people attribute to cayenne pepper can be blamed on taking it in capsule form. (3)
Cayenne Pepper Powder
Cayenne pepper powder is pretty much the same as what’s in the capsules. However, there’s a big difference between the two because you’re putting the powder directly into your mouth, which gives your digestive system an advanced warning.
But like with any product, you have to be especially careful that the cayenne peppers were not heated up too much during the processing and that they still maintain their powerful nutrients and enzymes.
One of the most popular ways to consume cayenne pepper powder is to put a teaspoon into a cup of warm water. You can even add things like raw honey or lemon to alter the taste. If you still find the heat too intense, you can try it alongside starchy foods like potatoes, which some find helpful.
You can always buy your own peppers and make the powder yourself, but to save yourself the time and effort, there are plenty of places to buy the powder as is.
There are many options out there, but this Simply Organic Cayenne Pepper product is especially popular on Amazon.
Cayenne Pepper Tincture
A tincture is made by steeping an herb in alcohol – usually vodka. This extracts certain chemical compounds that might not always be extracted by simply placing the herb in hot water. Cayenne pepper is just one of many herbs for which the tincture form is a popular option.
You can make your own, but the entire process can take weeks or even months. That’s why you might want to buy some from a store instead.
The product mentioned above by Dr. Christopher, Dr. Schulze’s teacher, is a cayenne pepper tincture. That one is especially hot (but also more effective.) To start off with, you may want to try this 40,000 heat unit version instead.
You can add drops of a tincture to water or juice or place it directly under the tongue. Since cayenne is so spicy and everyone has a different tolerance level for spiciness, it’s best to take it slow and work your way up.
Also keep in mind that there are also so many ways you can incorporate cayenne pepper into foods you already love. Perhaps in the future I’ll delve deeper into specific recipes you can try if you need an introduction.
Potential Side Effects
Due to its spiciness, cayenne pepper can result in an upset stomach and sweating. You’re also likely to become flushed, but this is generally considered a good thing because it’s evidence that the blood is flowing.
Cayenne pepper should generally be avoided a couple of weeks before and after a surgery, and also in situations when blood-thinning drugs in general are supposed to be avoided.
Don’t take cayenne pepper together with anticoagulant drugs. Be sure to consult a doctor before consuming cayenne pepper if you’re already on medication.
As we went over above, taking cayenne pepper in capsule form, and therefore “tricking” the body, can lead to many unpleasant side effects like cramping and digestive issues.
And remember, cayenne pepper is very dosage oriented herb, so take it slow and easy at first.
This particular quote by Dr. Schulze shows up often in articles about cayenne pepper, but I’m going to repeat it again: “If you master only one herb in your life, make it cayenne pepper.” (6) Not only are there numerous benefits of cayenne pepper for circulation and heart health, but it even helps act as the vehicle for other herbs. Despite my intolerance for spicy foods, I’m definitely going to put in more of an effort to build my tolerance for this amazing herb and I hope you feel encouraged to do the same.
(6) “The Essential Herb Handbook” by Lesley Bremness