Health Benefits Of Chilli Peppers

Chilli pepper (Capsicum annuum) is a plant belonging to the capsicum genus, and is native to southern North America and northern South America. Chilli peppers are commonly known for their spice and are used in a variety of dishes to enhance taste and nutrition. However, before their use in cooking, chilli peppers were often used as medicinal plants and were used to treat asthma, coughs and sore throats. Recent studies have found chilli peppers have several health benefits including anti-cancer, anti-obesity, and antioxidant properties.1

This article will tell you everything you need to know about chilli peppers and their amazing health benefits.

What are chilli peppers

Types of chilli peppers

There are many varieties of chilli peppers, all with a unique shape and a different level of spice. Some of these include:

  • Bell pepper - a bell-shaped pepper which starts off as green then matures into a bright red with a sweet flavour
  • Poblano pepper - a heart-shaped pepper that is mildly spicy
  • Anaheim pepper - a long, green pepper that is mildly spicy
  • Serrano pepper - a small, thin pepper that is very spicy
  • Cayenne pepper - a bright red pepper that is known as one of the spiciest peppers
  • Piri piri - a small, red pepper that is packed with spice
  • Jalapeno pepper - a Mexican pepper that is commonly used in salsa and sauces
  • Banana pepper - a mild, tangy pepper that is commonly added in sandwiches or on pizza
  • Ghost pepper - is one of the hottest peppers in the world

Health benefits of chilli peppers

Benefits of chilli peppers in pain relief

Chilli peppers contain a plant compound called capsaicin which is responsible for the hot, spicy flavour as well as the many health benefits. Interestingly, capsaicin is used to alleviate pain such as chronic pain syndrome, arthritis pain, and post-operative pain in mastectomy patients. Capsaicin works by binding to pain receptors which are nerve endings that detect pain. This triggers an unpleasant, burning sensation. However, the more chilli peppers consumed, the less severe the sensation as capsaicin desensitises your pain receptors. For example, when capsaicin in the form of a cream is applied to the skin, there is an instant sensation of burning pain but this is quickly followed by pain relief as the pain receptors are desensitised.1

Anti-inflammatory properties of chilli peppers

Capsaicin also has anti-inflammatory properties as it works by inhibiting the processes that lead to inflammation in the body. Research has shown that these anti-inflammatory properties are useful in the prevention of many different types of cancer. Capsaicin works by preventing cancer cells from growing and triggering cancer cell death. Cancer research shows that capsaicin is effective at reducing the growth of prostate cancer cells as well as breast, bladder and pancreatic cancer cells.2

Benefits of chilli peppers in weight loss

Obesity is a major public health concern and is a risk factor for many serious health conditions such as heart diseasediabeteshypertension, and cancer. Several studies have found that chilli peppers have properties that play a role in the prevention of obesity.1

Chilli peppers are a major source of vitamin C which is an antioxidant that has many health benefits. Some studies have shown that vitamin C is a potential agent in managing body weight and preventing obesity. One study found that participants with the highest antioxidant capacity score had the lowest weight and abdominal gain.1

Another study found that capsaicin found in chilli peppers has many anti-obesity properties. Capsaicin has an anti-proliferation effect that prevents the differentiation of preadipocytes into mature adipocytes. This means that capsaicin is effective at reducing the rate of adipogenesis which is the process of fat cells (adipocytes) maturing. This in turn helps the maintenance of body weight and the prevention of obesity.1

Benefits of chilli peppers in digestive health

Eating too many hot peppers can often cause discomfort and stomach pain. However, research has found that eating hot peppers is beneficial for digestive health and as they act as anti-irritants. The antioxidants and other compounds found in hot peppers can soothe digestive issues such as stomach ulcers, cramps and intestinal gas.3

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Reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes

Research has shown that capsaicin in chilli peppers is effective at regulating blood sugar levels. It does this by improving insulin sensitivity, and lowering blood sugar levels which as a result reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. An animal study found that dietary capsaicin given to obese diabetic mice at both high and low doses significantly prevented the increase of fasting blood glucose and insulin levels. Dietary capsaicin also resulted in an improvement in glucose and insulin tolerance.

 As well as capsaicin, chilli peppers are a rich source of carotenoids, antioxidants and vitamin C which also help with insulin regulation.4 

 Supports a healthy heart

It has been shown that spicy foods such as chilli peppers can help lower blood pressure and support a healthy heart. Chilli peppers help to dilate our blood vessels which leads to increased blood flow and this helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol. They also prevent heart disease by inhibiting excessive blood clotting. One study found that long-term capsaicin treatment was effective at lowering blood pressure in hypertensive rats.5

In addition, chilli peppers are rich in potassium which is an essential mineral that supports normal blood pressure. This means that increasing your potassium intake decreases your blood pressure, and reduces your risk for heart disease and stroke. 

Nutritional facts

Chilli peppers are a rich source of many vitamins and minerals such as: 

  • Vitamin C - a powerful antioxidant important for wound healing and immune function
  • Vitamin K1 - important for blood clotting, wound healing and healthy bones and kidneys
  • Vitamin A - bright coloured chilli peppers are high in beta carotene which our body converts into vitamin A
  • Copper - a mineral important for strong bones, immune function and healthy neurons.

As well as this, chilli peppers also contain antioxidant plant compounds such as:

  • Capsanthin - the main carotenoid that is found in red chilli peppers, and is responsible for their red colour. It has antioxidant properties that provide many health benefits such as protection from cancer
  • Lutein - is found in green, immature chilli peppers, and is linked to improved eye health
  • Violaxanthin - the main carotenoid in yellow chilli peppers
  • Capsaicin - a plant compound responsible for the hot, spicy flavour of chilli peppers

Although chilli peppers are rich in various nutrients, they are only eaten in small amounts, so do not contribute much to your daily nutrient intake.

Culinary uses of chilli peppers

Chilli peppers can be eaten raw or they can be roasted, grilled, toasted or stuffed. Here are a few ways you can add hot peppers to your diet:

  • Roasted peppers
  • Stuffed red peppers
  • Chilli powder - from dried chilli peppers
  • Chilli jam
  • Add to fresh or cooked salsa
  • Hot sauce
  • Pickled chillies

Side effects and other concerns

Some people may experience adverse effects of chilli peppers such as:

  • A burning sensation
  • Stomach pain and diarrhoea - More common in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Breathing difficulties

When eating hot peppers, choose peppers that are not too high on the Scoville scale and eat them in meals rather than by themselves. This way, you have a lower chance of experiencing side effects.


Overall, chilli peppers are a popular spice used in a variety of dishes all around the world. They are a rich source of vitamins, minerals and various plant compounds that provide several health benefits. This includes capsaicin which is a plant compound responsible for the spice in hot peppers and plays a role in pain relief, digestive health, lowering blood pressure and the prevention of diabetes and obesity. Therefore, eating hot peppers can be extremely beneficial for your health.


  1. Azlan A, Sultana S, Huei CS, Razman MR. Antioxidant, anti-obesity, nutritional and other beneficial effects of different chilli pepper: a review. Molecules [Internet]. 2022 Jan 28 [cited 2023 Mar 24];27(3):898. Available from: 
  2. Mosqueda-Solís A, Lafuente-Ibáñez de Mendoza I, Aguirre-Urizar JM, Mosqueda-Taylor A. Capsaicin intake and oral carcinogenesis: A systematic review. Med Oral Patol Oral Cir Bucal [Internet]. 2021 Mar [cited 2023 Mar 24];26(2):e261–8. Available from: 
  3. Rosca AE, Iesanu MI, Zahiu CDM, Voiculescu SE, Paslaru AC, Zagrean AM. Capsaicin and gut microbiota in health and disease. Molecules [Internet]. 2020 Dec 2 [cited 2023 Mar 24];25(23):5681. Available from: 
  4. Song JX, Ren H, Gao YF, Lee CY, Li SF, Zhang F, et al. Dietary capsaicin improves glucose homeostasis and alters the gut microbiota in obese diabetic ob/ob mice. Frontiers in Physiology [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2023 Mar 24];8. Available from: 
  5. Sun F, Xiong S, Zhu Z. Dietary capsaicin protects cardiometabolic organs from dysfunction. Nutrients [Internet]. 2016 Apr 25 [cited 2023 Mar 24];8(5):174. Available from: 
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Suad Mussa

Bachelor of Science – BSc, Biology. Queen Mary University of London

Suad Mussa is a biology graduate with a strong passion for medical writing and educating the public about health and wellbeing.

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