Spanish priests in the New World were once a little wary of chillies – considering them an aphrodisiac and something which could inflame passions and therefore possibly a creation of the devil. They preached against indulgence in something “as hot as hell’s brimstone”. The opposition by the priests may have helped chillies gain popularity.
Chillies are known to be helpful against hypertension and against pain. They are antimicrobial and aid salivation. It is thought that capsaicin is an effective defense against a fungus that attacks chili seeds. In fact, experiments have shown that the same species of wild chili plant produces a lot of capsaicin in an environment where the fungus is likely to grow, and very little in drier areas where the fungus is not a danger. Perhaps a liking for chillies is one of the key features distinguishing humans from other mammals. Family legend has it that my own liking of chillies results from my grandmother coating my thumb in chillie powder as an infant to try and stop me from sucking it!!
But the list of medicinal benefits that chillies can provide is growing.
Now comes evidence in a new paper that chillies are effective against sinus inflammations as well.
Jonathan A. Bernstein, Benjamin P. Davis, Jillian K. Picard, Jennifer P. Cooper, Shu Zheng, Linda S. Levin. A randomized, double-blind, parallel trial comparing capsaicin nasal spray with placebo in subjects with a significant component of nonallergic rhinitis. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 2011; 107 (2): 171 DOI:10.1016/j.anai.2011.05.016
The authors conclude: This is the first controlled trial demonstrating intranasal capsaicin, when used continuously over 2 weeks, rapidly and safely improves symptoms in rhinitis subjects with a significant NAR component.
Hot chili peppers are known to make people “tear up,” but a new study led by University of Cincinnati allergy researcher Jonathan Bernstein, MD, found that a nasal spray containing an ingredient derived from hot chili peppers (Capsicum annum) may help people “clear up” certain types of sinus inflammation.
The study, which appears in the August 2011 edition of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, compares the use of the Capsicum annum nasal spray to a placebo nasal spray in 44 subjects with a significant component of nonallergic rhinitis (i.e., nasal congestion, sinus pain, sinus pressure) for a period of two weeks.
Capsicum annum contains capsaicin, which is the main component of chili peppers and produces a hot sensation. Capsaicin is also the active ingredient in several topical medications used for temporary pain relief. …. This is the first controlled trial where capsaicin was able to be used on a continuous basis to control symptoms. It is considered a significant advance, “because we don’t really have good therapies for non-allergic rhinitis,” says Bernstein, adding that in previous trials the ingredient was too hot to administer without anaesthesia.