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Red Chilli: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects

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If you are a fan of spicy food, you will always turn to Mexican or Indian cuisines. But do you know what makes those cuisines so spicy? The answer is red chillies! Hot and spicy red chilli pepper is the most widely used spice and condiment in Indian and Mexican cuisines. Red chilli is highly valued for its pungency and added flavours to various dishes throughout the world.1 

The hot red chilli is believed to be originated in Mexico and is now grown in tropical and subtropical regions of the United States of America, India, Japan, Turkey, and African countries. About 90% of chilli is produced in Asian countries.1,2 

The scientific name of red chilli is Capsicum annuum and it belongs to the family Solanaceae. Red chillies are a great source of vitamins, flavonoids, phenolics, carotenoids, and alkaloids, which play a vital role in human health.2  

Read along to learn more about the health benefits of red chilli and next time; you will find yourself adding it to your meal. 

Nutritional Value of Red chilli: 

Red chillies are a rich source of various vitamins, minerals and proteins (amino acids) necessary for human health. They also contain essential phytochemicals such as alkaloids (capsaicin), flavonoids and phenolics that are important antioxidants.1 The detailed nutritional value of red chilli is as follows: 

Nutrients Components   Value/100 grams 
Energy  40 kcal 
Carbohydrate  8.81 g 
Protein  1.87 g 
Fibre  1.5 g 
Fats  0.44 g 
Sugar  5.3 g 
Sodium  9 mg 
Potassium  322 mg 
Calcium  14 mg 
Magnesium  23 mg 
Iron  1.03 mg 
Phosphorous  43 mg 
Zinc  0.26 mg 
Copper  0.129 mg 
Manganese  0.187 mg 
Selenium  0.5 µg 
Vitamin A  144 mg 
Vitamin B1  0.072 mg 
Vitamin B2  0.086 mg 
Vitamin B3  1.24 mg 
Vitamin C  144 mg 
Vitamin E  0.69 mg 
Vitamin K  14 µg 
Vitamin B9  23 µg 
Choline   10.9 mg 
Beta-carotene  534 µg 
Alpha-carotene  36 µg 
Tryptophan  0.026 g 
Threonine  0.074 g 
Isoleucine  0.065 g 
Leucine  0.105 g 
Lysine  0.089 g 

Table 1: The Nutritional value of Red Chilli.3 

Properties of Red Chilli: 

Red chilli contains a high amount of beneficial health compounds that 2 may be responsible for various biological activities of the body. The beneficial properties of red chilli are as follows: 

  • It may have analgesic properties (relieves pain) 
  • It may have anti-inflammatory action 
  • It may have antimicrobial activity 
  • It may have antioxidant activity 
  • It may have anti-ulcer activity 
  • It may have anti-cancer activity 
  • It may have a memory-enhancing ability 
  • It may have a blood sugar lowering effect 
  • It may have a blood pressure lowering effect 
  • It may have a cholesterol-lowering effect 
  • It may have anticoagulant activity 
  • It may aid weight management 
  • It may have anthelmintic properties (stops worm infestation) 
  • It may have wound healing activity. 2 

Potential Uses of Red chilli: 

Red chilli is used as a spice and condiment. It is one of the most important plants used for managing various ailments for a long time in different countries and older civilizations.1 The red chilli health benefits are described as follows: 

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1. Potential uses of red chilli for osteoarthritis pain 

According to the report by Arthritis Research UK, red chilli capsaicin might be useful to overcome osteoarthritis (joint pain) and fibromyalgia (muscle pain) in humans. This is because the capsaicin may have the ability to reduce the supply of substance P, (a pain-causing neurotransmitter) which sends the signal of pain to your brain, thereby stopping the transmission of pain feeling in the body.1 Hence, red chillies might be good for overcoming pain-related osteoarthritis. However, this information is insufficient to use red chillies alone to treat arthritis pain. Therefore, more studies on humans are required. 

2. Potential uses of red chilli for inflammation 

In animal model studies (Monsereenusorn et al. 1980), it was found that red chilli may have an anti-inflammatory activity which might be useful in reducing swelling. The anti-inflammatory effect of red chilli may be contributed by its phenolic and flavonoid compounds. In addition, capsaicinoids and capsinoids, both of which are alkaloid compounds found in red chillies, might also have anti-inflammatory activities, which stop the production of inflammation-causing molecules in the body.2 However, more studies on humans are required to suggest the effects of red chillies in managing inflammation in the human body. 

3. Potential uses of red chilli for obesity 

According to the studies (Arora et al., 2011 and Whiting et al., 2012), red chillies may have a potential role in weight management. In various animal and clinical studies, it was found to reduce body fat accumulation and increase fat metabolism. In addition, clinical studies have observed that regular intake of red chilli might increase the body temperature and oxygen demand resulting in a reduction of body weight and oxidation of body fat. It also increases energy expenditure and reduces hunger assisting in weight loss.2 Although studies show the benefits of red chilli in weight loss, a doctor’s consultation is important before using red chillies in your weight loss regime and only use if prescribed. 

4. Potential uses of red chilli for diabetes 

As per a review article by (Gautami J. et al., 2015),  red chillies may have a blood sugar lowering activity. The regular consumption of red chilli may attenuate post-meal serum glucose production. Red chilli may be able to inactivate certain enzymes responsible for glucose production. An animal study (Anthony et al., 2013) observed that the blood glucose levels and body weight of the animal model were bettered.2 However, these studies are conducted on animals and not on humans. Therefore, large-scale human studies are required to suggest the effectiveness of red chillies in managing diabetes in humans. Diabetes is a severe health condition that requires a proper diagnosis and treatment. Hence, contact a doctor and ask for their advice. 

5. Other potential uses of red chilli: 

  • In old civilizations, Mayas and Aztecs, people used red chillies for coughs, asthma, soreness and to relieve toothaches.1 
  • Red chilli contains phytochemicals such as phenolics, flavonoids and vitamins, which are essential antioxidants that may help reduce degenerative disorders .1 
  • Red chilli may act as an analgesic agent (pain-killer) due to a vital component it contains, capsaicin. Therefore, red chillies might be used in dermal patches, nasal sprays or topical ointments to relieve pain.1 
  • Red chillies may have antimicrobial properties that might effectively manage infections caused by bacteria, fungi and other viruses.1 
  • Red chilli may be beneficial for many ailments such as stiff joints, bronchitis, headache and cough.1 
  • A human study by (Snider M. et al. 1992) observed that patients who took nasal spray made from red chilli capsaicin alleviated problems such as sneezing, congestion and rhinitis (stuffy nose).2 
  • Red chillies may have wound-healing action. The capsaicin may have shown gradual healing of the skin lesions. The topical capsaicin has effectively acted on pruritus (itching sensation) associated with psoriasis (skin disease).2 
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Though studies show the benefits of red chilli in various health conditions, these are not sufficient and require further studies to establish the true scope of the benefits of red chilli on human health.2 

How to Use Red Chilli? 

Red chilli is a versatile vegetable; it can be used in both fresh and dried (powdered) forms. It is a widely used spice and condiment.1 You may use red chillies as 

  • A fresh or processed vegetable  
  • A powdered spice in dried forms to make your soup/sauce spicy 
  • As a food dye to give your dish a spicy-red appearance 
  • Dry red chillies are used to prepare a popular sauce called ‘Shiro’ powder.1 

Do not use too much red chilli powder; excess consumption might cause harmful effects.2 We advise you not to replace or quit your current medications with any ayurvedic or herbal preparations of red chilli without consulting a physician or an Ayurvedic doctor. They will recommend you the best form to have it. 

Side Effects of Red chilli: 

Although various studies show that red chillies are safe, some reports indicate that they may have certain side effects.2 Red chilli side effects are described as follows: 

  • Skin injury: Initial contact of red chilli to skin might cause violent skin irritation. 
  • Burning pain 
  • Tingling (prickling sensation) 
  • Erythema (skin redness) 
  • Oedema (swelling) 
  • Blisters 
  • Pruritus (itching)2 
  • Eye injury: Initial contact with the eyes might cause involuntary reflex closing of the eyelids. 
  • Redness of the eyes 
  • Swelling 
  • Persistent pain 
  • Lacrimation (excess tearing) 
  • Photophobia2 
  • Nasal injury: The inhalation of red chilli powder might cause immediate inflammation of the mucous membrane of the respiratory tract. 
  • Throat irritation 
  • Burning sensation  
  • Coughing or choking 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Constant sneezing 
  • Inability to speak2 
  • Stomach injury: Excess consumption of red chillies for a longer duration might cause stomach discomfort. 
  • Cramping 
  • Pain 
  • Loose motions 
  • Chronic gastritis 
  • Kidney/liver damage2 
  • Extreme injury: Red chillies may contain aflatoxin (carcinogen). Aflatoxin contamination may be due to poor farming, harvesting and post-harvesting practices which might cause undesirable effects on health.2 
  • Skin cancer 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Headache 
  • Increased risk of strokes and heart attacks.2 
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However, if you see any of these side effects, immediately rush to the hospital, contact your concerned doctors, and get appropriate treatment. 

Precautions to Take with Red chilli: 

Consuming red chilli in small quantities is safe. However, general precautions must be followed due to the side effects and drug interactions. . 

  • People taking blood pressure medications should avoid red chillies as their components might interact with these medicines, resulting in loss of drug efficacy.2 
  • There is no major report suggesting the safe use of red chillies for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Therefore, you should take advise a physician before having it as a herb as it contains certain toxins which might affect your health. 
  • People should be extra cautious while giving red chillies to small children and older adults because red chillies have side effects that might cause stomach discomfort in children and older people. 
  • People should not use red chillies to self-medicate. A doctor’s consultation is important to avoid further complications. 

Red chillies might cause life-threatening toxicity. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the risk associated with this herb and make yourself aware of this uncommon presentation of red chillies affecting your health. 

Interaction with other Drugs: 

According to a report (Schep et al., 2015), red chilli might interact with certain medications, resulting in herb-drug interaction.2 

  • The co-administration of red chillies and aspirin and salicylic compounds might be harmful.2  
  • Red chillies might also decrease the activity of α-adrenergic blockers (blood pressure medicines) such as methyldopa and clonidine.2 

Therefore, if you are on hypertension medicines, avoid having too many red chillies. If any complications are observed, immediately rush to the hospital. In addition, we recommend you disclose your ongoing treatments to your doctors and follow the precautions and dosage prescribed to you. 

Frequently Asked Questions: 

What are the vitamins present in red chilli? 

Red chilli vitamins are excellent antioxidants. Red chilli contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, A, C, B9, E and K.3 

Does red chilli interact with other drugs? 

Red chilli contains certain phytochemicals which might interact with blood pressure medicines (methyldopa and clonidine) and aspirin which may be a disadvantage. Therefore, avoid having red chilli if you take blood pressure medicine or consult a doctor.2 

What are the advantages of red chilli in cough and cold? 

Red chilli contains essential phytochemicals such as capsaicinoids, carotenoids and flavonoids, which  might be useful in managing coughs, asthma, sore throats, etc. (Pawar et al., 2011).2However, this information is insufficient; therefore, do not use red chillies to self-medicate prior to consulting your doctor. 

What are the side effects of red chilli? 

The red chilli side effects comprise skin and eye irritation, burning sensation, tingling, redness, swelling, sneezing, coughing, lacrimation, etc.2 Therefore, you should be careful around red chillies and if such side effects are observed, do not panic; immediately rush to the hospital. 

Which are the major components of red chilli? 

The major components of red chilli are capsaicinoids and capsaicin.2 

Which is the toxin present in red chilli? 

Aflatoxin is the major toxin present in red chilli. It may be dangerous to health resulting in skin cancer.1 

Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

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