Chillies have been used in medicine for over 6000 years by the Indians of the area around Central America.
After their discovery by Columbus in 1492 and the subsequent distribution throughout the world, they were soon used as a natural medicine of culture adopted them. Why, because 500 hundred years ago they were the only drugs that could be sourced from the local area, or traded from other environments. There was very little distinction between food and medicine. This is something that we are now beginning to understand more and as a result we are seeing a reversion to natural medicines and treatments.
Modern medical science is now beginning to validate many of the anecdotal health properties assigned to chillies and discover your potential use as well.
These range from the treatment of arthritis and circulatory disorders in potential cures for heart disease and cancer.
In the following pages we will review the historical and current knowledge of the various issues and how chilli can be used as a cure or prevention.
While I am not a doctor of any type, and do not pretend to have that knowledge, I hold a bachelor’s degree with Honours (Flinders University, 1991) and have worked for two years as St Johns Ambulance officer, trained in emergency care & Transport certification. Therefore, I can at least sort out the facts from the hype and present you with solid information for you to discuss with your medical consultation.
In this article I look at chilli and arthritis management.
value of capsaicin (the heat compound in chilli) as an analgesic is well known and recognized by modern medicine as well.
First, A Bit Of Science
Capsaicin produces much of the positive effect on the human body primarily through interaction with neuropeptides; insufficient protein in the body that perform a variety of different functions.
There are three well studied neuropeptides that interact with capsaicin and these are Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), neurokinin A (NKA) and substance P.
These neuropeptides are formed when capsaicin sensitive nerves are stimulated by the presence of capsaicin. The neuropeptides send signals to the brain resulting in a real reaction – pain is one of those results
Now, with regard to arthritis sufferers, this is where things start to get interesting
This .. capsaicin sensitive nerves can only produce neuropeptides at a certain speed. When the nerve is depleted, it is no longer able to send pain messages to the brain. This is why capsaicin is effective in controlling pain.
Now, do not start thinking that you can go out, rip your clothes off, and rub you up with Habanero and all problems are over. Not so simple.
depletion of neuropeptides from the nerve is only temporarily, from a few minutes to a few days depending on the amount of capsaicin nerves have been exposed.
Before I get to use capsaicin to manage pain, we just quickly discuss how it actually kills “two birds with one stone” in connection with arthritis.
Research by neurophysiologists in the United States have shown that one of the neuropeptides, substance P also reduced the production of prostaglandin and collagenase, the effect of which is to reduce inflammation.
There have also been smaller, less well-documented studies done that suggest substance P may also contribute to cartilage breakdown. At this point we will leave this as a side note and see if we can find some more information.
How To Use capsaicin
Unfortunately, for those of us who love chilli, it is not just a case of having a good curry every night with pain. However, do not let that stop you
Very little capsaicin gets into our system swallowed – .. You get processed in the liver and it is the last we see of
Most of the non -human medical studies are conducted by injecting a very high dose of capsaicin directly into a vein. Risky and not something we will investigate further.
Capsaicin works well in topical creams, ie cream rubbed into the area where the pain is present. The capsaicin is get to the area and pain and work as a pain management tool.
There are a number of available creams containing capsaicin in different amounts, many of them containing glucosamine sulfate as well. Bio-Organics Glucosamine Rapid and Cenovis Osteo-Relief are some examples of the larger players in Australia.
creams come in different strengths, usually from 0.25% to 0.75% capsaicin, and doctors suggest you start with a lower concentration and work your way up. This is mainly because many also get a burning sensation on the skin in the area where the cream is applied. As a result, many stop using it, however, if you persevere feeling disappears after a few days. When you are used to low level cream, increase strength for more impact.
You may also want to wear gloves when applying cream to avoid the effects of hand and accidentally rub the eye later.
pain relieving effect is not immediate, but build up over time. Many get results in two or three days, but some have taken up to five weeks. I am old enough to remember watching American stuntman Evel Knievel trying to jump a motorcycle Grand Canyon; and anything else that was stationary. He swears now capsaicin cream to ease the pain of his pain (he’s probably at least a few), and supports one particular brand in the United States.
As with everything else we discuss under this Chillies & Health section, please consult your medical adviser before using any type of new treatment.