Sunday, October 11, 2009
Hot and cold on Cayenne
medavinci asks "Is it true cayenne pepper can lower blood pressure and open arteries? Can you just sprinkle it on your food or should it be cooked like curry to avoid salmonella? "
OK, a two part question:
Part 1. Is it true cayenne pepper can lower blood pressure and open arteries?
Maybe. Certainly many foods have physiological effects. A peek on the internet finds a squillion and one sites selling the benefits of cayenne pepper (as well as selling the cayenne pepper) but I couldn't find any mainstream sites, just the herbal fringe. This always makes me suspicious. But I have no reason to doubt that it MAY affect blood pressure. In either direction.
Opening arteries is a little more serious. Certainly people can get flushed in the face after eating peppers, chillies and such like. Is the the same as 'opening arteries'? Maybe. Is it desirable to look flushed? Possibly not. Is it the same as unclogging arteries from too many fries over a lifetime? No.
Maybe it works, maybe it doesn't. By the time you find out, the purveyors of fine herbal remedies will be telling you to eat, drink, roll in something else. But, if you feel that it is good for you, then it is. Isn't it?
Do be aware of the possible risks associated with cancers, especially mouth cancers, from excessive and prolonged consumption of irritants like chilli and pepper.
A rule of thumb that I always have with herbal remedies (like the one in this morning's paper that said magnolia flower tea cures hayfever) is a very simple question: if this cure, cayenne pepper, is so good and so effective, why are the major pharmaceutical companies not growing broad-acres of the stuff? These guys are pretty keen to corner the consumer dollar and never slow to see an opportunity.
Could it be that the efficacy of cayenne hasn't been proved to the level of certainty required by good science and the auditors of the Therapeutic Goods Act?
Remember: Alternative medicine that works is called... medicine.
Part 2: Can you just sprinkle it on your food or should it be cooked like curry to avoid salmonella?
If you are consuming it immediately it will be safe to take 'raw' as it were. If you are putting it into something warm, moist and nutritious and not planning to eat it for a few hours, cook it first.