By: Ankita Kulkarni
July 13 2023
There is no scientific evidence to prove that cayenne pepper can treat or stop heart attacks in humans
A video circulating on Facebook claims that cayenne pepper can be used internally to stop heart attacks in an individual. The woman seen in the video narrates an instance alleging she used cayenne pepper to “stop a woman's heart attack in the middle of a cooking class." She says, "The lady is lying down, her face is white, the guy holding her pulse said the pulse is gone almost. I got half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and quickly put it in her mouth. We were able to give her a little water, and within two minutes, the guy holding her hand said her pulse is strong."
However, these claims are not supported by scientific evidence.
The woman in the video is Barbara O'Neill, an unregistered practitioner who has been permanently banned from providing health services by the Australian medical authorities.
Logically Facts found that though there are studies that have established an association between regular consumption of capsaicin — which is present in cayenne pepper or other chili peppers — could improve risks related to cardiovascular diseases in time, these studies have limitations, and none of them say that immediate consumption of capsaicin can stop or treat a heart attack. These studies also state that extensive research is required in the field to affirm its effectiveness.
An article published on the Cleveland Clinic website says that most of the health benefits of cayenne pepper, also known as capsicum annum, come from capsaicin. This natural compound gives all peppers a spicy flavor.
A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology states that regular consumption of chili peppers may reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke. However, the study had several limitations which could not affirmatively prove that eating peppers can prevent or reduce the risk of heart attacks. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) noted that the study was observational and that it cannot definitively prove that eating chili peppers could have caused the results but can only show an association. It points out that since the data was collected from the participants through questionnaires, it can be an unreliable source as the dietary entries rely on memory. Sometimes participants could not have known if their meals had chili peppers.
Another study conducted by China’s Chongqing Medical Nutrition Research Center, published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), studied a control group of people with low HDL-C (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol) levels who were administered two capsaicin capsules twice daily. While the results added that capsaicin could potentially prevent and aid the treatment of coronary heart disease, the study had limitations. These effects of capsaicin capsules were only observed with a smaller sample. Secondly, the HDL-C levels of participants significantly increased after the three-month study, though lower than normal.
On the contrary, at least three studies on NLM reported that consuming cayenne pepper capsules could cause heart attacks in individuals. One of the studies noted that a 41-year-old male patient with no cardiovascular risk factors took cayenne pepper pills to lose weight but instead developed acute myocardial infarction.
Logically Facts also contacted a senior interventional cardiologist based in India, Anupama Hegde, who said, “We have no reliable data to say that capsaicin can help your heart. It sometimes acts as a pain killer but is definitely not recommended as a cure or treatment for cardiovascular disease. There is no cardio-protective effect from cayenne pepper or chili pepper. And no, it cannot stop a heart attack.”
Although some studies have established that regular consumption of red peppers like cayenne can be beneficial in controlling the risks associated with the heart, there is no scientific evidence to show it can stop or treat heart attacks. Therefore, we have marked the claim as false.