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Cayenne Pepper

Natural health supplements sometimes have unexpected side effects or interactions with medication that can lead to adverse reactions that are sometimes life threatening. The following is a list of cautions that you should be aware of before using Cayenne Pepper (Capsicum). These are referred to as drug/herb interactions. The cayenne pepper is also known as the Guinea spice, cow-horn pepper, aleva, bird pepper, and red pepper.

Warning 1 - Contraindications: Pregnancy and breast-feeding - Not enough is known about the safety of Cayenne Pepper when taken by mouth. Stay on the safe side and don't use this herb if you are pregnant. Dermatitis (skin problems) have been reported in breast-fed infants when mothers eat foods heavily spiced with capsicum pepper.

Warning 2 - Surgery: Capsicum might increase bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using capsicum at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Warning 3 - Dosage: It may be unsafe to take Cayenne Pepper by mouth in large doses or for long periods of time. In rare cases, this can lead to liver or kidney damage.

Warning 4 - Theophylline: The active ingredient in Cayenne Pepper, capsicum, can increase how much theophylline the body can absorb. Ingesting Cayenne Pepper along with theophylline might increase the effects and side effects of theophylline.

Warning 5 - Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs: Ingesting capsicum along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.

Some of the most common drugs that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.

The active chemical in Cayenne pepper, capsaicin, is approved by the FDA as an over-the-counter product. That is, it can be sold without a prescription.

Used as a natural health remedy: Cayenne Pepper has been used as a tea for centuries to treat the following conditions:
  • Abdominal pain (14)
  • Arthritis (1, 14)
  • Asthma (1)
  • Atherosclerosis (8)
  • Cancer (11)
  • Cardiovascular system (8)
  • Circulation (1, 14)
  • Circulatory system (1, 12, 14)
  • Colds (12, 15)
  • Diarrhea (14)
  • Digestive disorders (13)
  • Digestive system (8, 14)
  • Heart disorders (14)
  • Indigestion (8)
  • Nausea (13)
  • Peptic ulcers (8)
  • Pleurisy (13)
  • Poor appetite (14)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (13)
  • Sinusitis (8)
  • Spleen (14)
  • Stomach ulcers (13)
  • Vomiting (14)
Cayenne Pepper has been used externally (applied to the skin) to treat the following conditions:
  • Back pain
  • Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive blood clotting
  • Fibromyalgia
  • High cholesterol
  • Intestinal gas
  • Nerve pain (neuralgia)
  • Nerve pain (neuropathy) associated with diabetes and HIV
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Pain caused by shingles
  • Poor circulation
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Skin disorders
  • Stomach pain
  • Upset stomach
Cayenne pepper has antibacterial, anti-mucous, antioxidant, diaphoretic and stimulant properties. It contains the nutrients capsaicin, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, calcium, bioflavonoids, vitamin B3, vitamin B2, and vitamin A. (From references 8 and 11)

Side Effects of Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne Pepper has different side effects when used topically (on the skin) and internally. If consumed in food or drink Cayenne Pepper may cause:
  • stomach irritation and upset
  • sweating
  • flushing
  • runny nose
If applied topically to the skin Cayenne Pepper may cause:
  • skin irritation
  • burning sensation
  • itching
Excessive use of Cayenne Pepper may produce the following side effects:
  1. decreased mental alertness
  2. dizziness
  3. fatigue
  4. headache
  5. nausea
  6. vomiting
Other side effects may also occur when using Cayenne Pepper. (See form below)

As with any herb, a serious allergic reaction is possible. Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction. These may include a rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, or trouble breathing.

Return to the Herb List.

For questions and answers about the side effects of herbs see the Herb Forum

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This consumer advocate website is protected by copyright 2014 Askdocweb, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This is a layman's report on Cayenne Pepper and is not intended to replace discussions with a health care provider. Do not use the information on this forum as a substitute for your doctor's advice. Always consult your doctor before taking any drug and follow your doctor's directions. Source material: Food and Drug Administration, Medline, Physician's Desk Reference, and the largest community of people in the world, those who are concerned about side effects and healthcare.
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