Chillies Make You Happy!
The capsaicinoids in chilli bind to a receptor in the lining of the mouth. This is the same receptor that registers pain from heat, thus the effect is a burning feeling. Repeated exposure to capsaicinoids depletes these receptors, enabling you to eat hotter chillis and feel the same effect. The pain caused by this leads to the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers.
Endorphins are a class of neurotransmitters produced by the body and used internally as a painkiller. This class of compounds are similar in their action to opiates, attaching to some of the same receptors in the brain. They are a strong analgesic, and give a pervasive sense of happiness and well-being and are even said to increase the libido!. They are proteins, and due to their many different types and their complexity, the release of endorphins lowers the blood pressure. Endorphins are best known to those who exercise a lot, and give rise to what is known as the 'runner's high'. Their release is caused by all pain, including that caused by chillies. Thus a dose of hot chillies will cause the release of these compounds, without any permanent harm.
Health Benefits of Chillies
Apart from making you happy, chillies have given much to medical science. Chillies are high in vitamin C (about twice that of citrus fruits). Dried chillis are very high in vitamin A, and red chillies are a great source of b-carotene. Chillies also have antibacterial qualities, and contain high levels of bioflavinoids, anti-oxidants most common in apple juice.
Chilli soothes the digestive tract and stimulates the flow of stomach secretions and saliva. These secretions contain substances that help digest food. Chilli is the greatest herbal aid to circulation and can be used on a regular basis. Dr. Richard Schulze, the medical herbalist, says that "If you master only one herb in your life, master the chilli pepper. It is more powerful than any other."
· improves digestion
· lowers triglycerides
· triggers the release of the body's natural painkillers, the endorphins
· unclogs stuffy noses
· may reduce high blood pressure
· may protect against some forms of cancer
Because of its vitamin C and beta-carotene content, it helps improve eyesight; and because of its alkaloid component, capsaicin, and other essential oils, chilli pepper is considered a good stimulant for the release of digestive enzymes, tone-up of the nervous system, and relief of pain and inflammations.
Capsaicum improves the ratio of HDL cholesterol which has a protective effect on LDL cholesterol, thus reducing the risk of heart disease. Capsicum also increases the liver enzymes responsible for fat metabolism and has a thermogenic effect on weight gain.
Chilli as a Superfood
Front page headlines in the Daily Express (November 20th) describe the results of recent research which will add chilli to the list of Superfoods. This research, addressing the ability of chilli to treat certain types of cancer, adds to the existing knowledge of the health benefits of chillies. Previous research has established benefits from chillies in terms of treating ailments such as asthma and arthritis and reducing cholesterol and boosting the immune system.
The Daily Express article quotes Dave De Witt, founding director of the Chilli Pepper Institute at New Mexico University as saying “Chillies are a remarkable food that has significant medical uses. The main one is as a painkiller when used as a cream, and they have been proved to help with illnesses such as arthritis, shingles and skin complaints. Eating chillies is also a preventative measure for stopping stomach ulcers developing. They are crammed with vitamin C when green and vitamin A when red”.
Dr Ann Walker, an expert in human nutrition from Reading University, is also quoted as confirming the use of chillies in a cream for back pain and the evidence available of their efficacy in treating certain skin conditions.
Other research, and personal experience(!), confirms that chillies are very good at reducing the symptoms of colds and flu and generally helping boost the body’s natural defences and that they have anti-bacterial qualities.
Chillies have long been used as part of traditional remedies, probably first by the Aztecs, to help alleviate colds mixed with honey and ginger and may relieve nasal congestion. In Russia, a drink called Nastoyka (made from chillies soaked in vodka) is used to relieve colds, rheumatism and stomach disorders, while in India, peri peri is used externally for the treatment of tonsilitis, diphtheria and snakebites.
Tasty....and Good for You!
As the Daily Express editorial concludes, it is very nice when something so tasty is also being proved to be so very good for you! Cultivated for thousands of years in the tropical Americas, Africa and India, Chilli Pepper is used as a catalyst in many herbal combinations. This is because it aids the absorption and effectiveness of herbal combinations by influencing the flow of digestive secretions from salivary, gastric and intestinal glands and increasing the body's ability to produce HCL which enhances the body's ability to digest anything that's in the stomach.
Because chilli makes you sweat, it was a herbal remedy for general cleansing of the body, breaking fevers, and fighting infection.
When you eat something hot like a chilli all your fluids get moving. That’s a good thing when you have a cold or flu. Breaking up congested mucus brings some relief from cold symptoms. It also brings fresh blood to the site of the infection. Fresh blood contains infection fighters from the immune system white blood cells and leukocytes that fight viruses.