Chili Peppers for PAIN and CANCER
Capsaicin is an ingredient in chili peppers that is found in many OTC topical pain relievers. It is available as a cream, ointment, stick, pad, gel, liquid, or lotion and marketed under many brand names including Zostrix, Icy Hot Arthritis Therapy, Capsagel, and Arthricare.
Capsaicin is actually an irritant to humans, producing a burning sensation in any tissue it touches which is one reason why it works. When you eat chili peppers (or take a tincture) it produces saliva and irritates any tissue it comes in contact with. This fires an immediate immune response (Th1) that is extremely helpful in cancer patients. Topically, it also interferes with substance P, a chemical involved in transmitting pain impulses to the brain. Make sure to wash hands thoroughly after applying a topical capsaicin to other areas of the body and never touch your eyes after handling either the topical or the real peppers. (Believe me, I know!)
Even with regular use of a topical capsaicin product, it may take some time to feel the benefits from arthritis pain. Make sure not to use it on broken skin, or if you’ve had previous allergic reactions to capsaicin or hot peppers.
The American Institute for Cancer Research noted in its February 2007 newsletter that capsaicin has shown some promise in the fight against cancer. The nonprofit organization reports that one 2006 study showed that capsaicin was capable of killing 80 percent of prostate cancer cells in laboratory mice. A second study that shortly followed showed that orally administered capsaicin reduced pancreatic tumors in mice by about 50 percent compared with mice that had a normal diet. Some research indicates that capsaicin might help fight cancer cells by disrupting the mitochondria that supply energy to the cancer.
Dr. Schultz has long been touting the benefits of peppers as a cancer cure. Recently, a Nottingham University study showed that the family of molecules to which capsaicin belongs, the vanilloids, bind to proteins in the cancer cell mitochondria to trigger apoptosis, or cell death, without harming surrounding healthy cells.
Lead researcher Dr. Timothy Bates said: “As these compounds attack the very heart of the tumor cells, we believe that we have in effect discovered a fundamental ‘Achilles heel’ for all cancers. “The biochemistry of the mitochondria in cancer cells is very different from that in normal cells. This is an innate selective vulnerability of cancer cells.” He said a dose of capsaicin that could cause a cancer cell to enter apoptosis, would not have the same effect on a normal cell.
Other authors believe that capsaicin can actually promote cancer in healthy people. I disagree based on physiology:
- Capsaicin is a strong Th1 stimulant and therefore shows great promise in cancer care, as nearly every cancer will be Th2 dominant at the cancer site.
- But, because capsaicin is a strong Th1 stimulant, those individuals that are Th1 dominant autoimmune already may NOT benefit from use. It may actually make them worse! (Hence the opposing data)
- Because capsaicin also decreases mitochondrial function and thereby decreases cancer cell metabolism (a good thing), it may not be beneficial for those with adrenal fatigue and chronic fatigue syndromes.
Just remember, because a supplement is good for one person doesn’t mean it is good for everyone. Get tested!