Despite advances in medicine, there is no conventional cure for rheumatoid arthritis. Modern treatment heavily relies on the use of medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroids and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). These medications target the source of inflammation to slow down damage to the joints. However, they cause many undesirable side effects, such as heart problems, kidney damage, bone thinning, weight gain and diabetes.
In a recent study, researchers at Odessa National Medical University in Ukraine evaluated the effectiveness of Capsicum annuum (chili pepper) alcohol extract as a natural treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. This functional food and widely used spice has long been used in southern Ukraine as a natural remedy for a variety of diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis.
The researchers reported their findings in an article published in The Journal of Phytopharmacology.
To determine how effective chili peppers are against rheumatoid arthritis, the researchers used a rat model for their in vivo experiment. They induced inflammation in young male rats using an antigen solution emulsified in mineral oil called Freund's complete adjuvant.
The researchers then assessed the effectiveness of chili pepper alcohol extracts by measuring changes in morphological parameters of inflammation, differential white blood cell count, serum concentration of alpha-1-acid glycoprotein (AGP) and acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity.
AGP, also known as orosomucoid, is a major acute phase protein whose blood levels increase during systemic tissue injury, inflammation or infection. AChE, meanwhile, is the primary enzyme responsible for breaking down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine into choline and acetate. An increase in serum AChE is often observed following the induction of the inflammatory process. This inhibits the anti-inflammatory effects of non-neuronal acetylcholine.
Using ibuprofen as a reference drug, the researchers found that the alcohol extract from chili pepper reduced the severity of non-specific inflammation in the rat model of rheumatoid arthritis. The extract also decreased edema by 50 to 60 percent, along with the number of young, immature white blood cells and the concentrations of AGP and AChE in the blood of the animals.
Additionally, the chili pepper alcohol extract prevented the development of autoimmune inflammation.
Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that chili pepper is an effective natural medicine for rheumatoid arthritis.
Well-known for their spicy flavor, the different varieties of chili pepper are widely used in various cuisines around the world. Common examples of chili pepper varieties include bell peppers, cayenne, Thai peppers, jalapeno and the New Mexico chile.
Chili peppers are rich in essential nutrients, such as vitamins A, B6, C and K1 and minerals like potassium and copper. They also contain an active compound called capsaicin, which is believed to be responsible not only for their unique, pungent taste, but also for their amazing health benefits. (Related: Eating chili regularly may make you live longer.)
Here's what eating chili peppers can do for you:
Chili peppers are bona fide superfoods that can protect against rheumatoid arthritis and keep your heart healthy. Incorporate them into your diet to boost your overall health and naturally manage your weight.