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New Breast Cancer Study Finds Salvation in Chili Peppers

Capsaicin, the ingredient in chili peppers, which make them so hot, may have a new medical purpose. Dr. Hanns Hatt and Dr. Lea Weber, from Germany found that harsh levels of breast cancer, including what is known as triple-negative cancer, showed a response to the naturally occurring chemical. Science Daily writes: “Earlier studies had demonstrated that the chemical arvanil — with a chemical make-up similar to that of the spicy molecule capsaicin — was effective against brain tumours in mice; it reduces tumour growth in the animals. Due to its side effects, however, this substance is not approved for humans. In addition to capsaicin and helional, the endovanilloids, produced naturally in the body, also activate the TRPV1 receptor.”

This latest study, which was a collaborative effort throughout a number of research facilities in Germany, tested the effects of capsaicin on a culture of cells which carried the triple-negative cancer listed above. When a patient is diagnosed with the triple-negative disease, it means that the growth of cancerous tissue in and around the breasts is caused not only by estrogen or progesterone levels, but also by the HER2 growth receptor. This creates a fast-moving disease which is more difficult to battle with traditional methods, such as chemotherapy or radiation alone.

How the Cells Reacted

When the capsaicin was introduced to the cell culture, the doctors reported the activation of TRPV1, an olfactory receptor. This causes cell death and halts the continuation of growth among cancerous tissues. The capsaicin was used in experiments with nine separate cultures to get an accurate reading of the reaction which the cells had to the spicy additive. Their findings were positive, and has led to the beginnings of more studies on the subject. Medical News Today reports: “Researchers added capsaicin and helional to the culture for several hours or days. This activated the TRPV1 receptor in the cell culture. As a result of TRPV1 being activated, the cancer cells died more slowly. Additionally, tumor cells died in larger numbers, and the remaining ones were not able to move as quickly as before. This suggests that their ability to metastasize was reduced.”

The response of the cells has initiated a new opportunity to introduce capsaicin into medications used in the treatment of breast cancer. The team reportedly suggested that a mixture of this kind could create a whole new treatment for the disease, and offer new hope o those who suffer from its aggressive nature.

Capsaicin in Other Remedies

Capsaicin, and other spicy ingredients, have been used for quite some time in the creation of topical treatments for back and muscle pain. Reacting to the body much the same way that cooling muscle rubs do, the spicy ingredient heats the area and offers a natural form of pain relief which can be used throughout the day. Some topical creams of this type do give off an odor due to additional additives. Other ingredients often include eucalyptus, cinnamon, and cloves. Web MD explains: “When a capsaicin cream or ointment is used on the skin (topical use), capsaicin helps relieve pain. Capsaicin works by first stimulating and then decreasing the intensity of pain signals in the body. Although pain may at first increase, it usually decreases after the first use. Capsaicin stimulates the release of a compound believed to be involved in communicating pain between the nerves in the spinal cord and other parts of the body.”

Capsaicin has also shown promise in the treatment of obesity, as a natural appetite suppressant and metabolizer. Those who suffer from breathing problems, including asthma and lung disease, have been reported to find relief from capsaicin as a mucus thinner and lung strengthener.

For more information on the medical effects of capsaicin, speak to your physician. Never attempt to use capsaicin directly from a chili pepper without instruction from your doctor. This spicy ingredient can cause burning in large quantities, and can irritate open wounds and your eyes. Some medical professionals suggest wearing gloves during the application of ointments.

Cooking with capsaicin is generally perfectly safe, and the naturally occurring chemical has been deemed a powerful antioxidant, and a healthy ingredient to add to your diet. Speak to a nutritionist to learn more about cooking with chili peppers and the benefit this could give.

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