Chillies are a wonderful ingredient to many recipes as they add spice and flavour. They come in over 200 different varieties and various different colours of green, yellow, orange and red. Likewise, their heat also varies from very mild to sweat-inducing. Whatever your spice preference is there is a chilly for you.
Chillies have been used in cooking for centuries and they have also been used as a natural medicine as they have a variety of health benefits.
The active ingredient in chillies, which is responsible for its heat, is called Capsaicin. Capsaicin is involved in the pain reducing abilities of chillies because it blocks a chemical called Substance P, which is responsible for transmitting pain signals. This makes chillies useful in combating pain from headaches, cramps and inflammatory conditions. Those with arthritis often benefit from applying a compress of crushed chillies to the affected area.
Capsaicin is also used in many weight-loss products as it has thermogenic properties that are responsible for speeding up the metabolism and burning fat.
Regularly consuming chillies is a therapeutic way to reduce sinus congestion, asthma and wheezing as it allows the air ways to open up and clears mucus.
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There is a myth that those with ulcers and other stomach or bowel conditions cannot and should not consume spicy food. This is completely untrue because studies have shown that chillies can actually protect the stomach lining, reduce bleeding from ulcers and prevent side effects associated with taking anti-inflammatory medication. One study even suggested that eating chillies daily could reduce the risk of developing an ulcer by 53%.
In addition to these health benefits, chillies are a potent nutritional source of nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, potassium and antioxidants.
If you are sensitive spicy food then you should not eat chillies in excess, and try to consume them with milk or yogurt to reduce the burn. The way to properly reduce ones sensitivity to the burning sensation is to build up tolerance by slowing increasing the amount of chilly you eat over time.