Among other things in Dr. Diana Hoppe’s book, “Healthy Sex Drive, Healthy You” (which I have reviewed in my last three articles), I was very interested to read what she wrote about chiles. Chiles and other spicy peppers like cayenne contain a chemical called capsaicin, which Hoppe associated with endorphins and their resulting pleasurable feelings.
As a person with an intense affinity towards spicy foods, I was excited to learn more about the effects of consuming capsaicin, especially if I could find justification to my roommates for adding cayenne to all of our meals. In researching, I was surprised to find information that linked capsaicin with an entirely different women’s health concern: weight management. Needless to say, a spicy article was in order.
To begin, let's go over how capsaicin could potentially boost sexual desire. In her section on aphrodisiacs, Hoppe explained how capsaicin oils found in chiles release the hormone/neurotransmitter epinephrine, also called adrenaline. The presence of adrenaline in the bloodstream can induce the release of endorphins, the same pain-inspired chemical that floods our bodies after exercising. The combination of endorphins and adrenaline can give you a “natural high,” and in turn, may increase libido. Because epinephrine can actually dull pain receptors, your body may be freed to experience more pleasurable sensations, while endorphins can improve your mood, briefly alleviate feelings of stress, and allow you to more easily enjoy physical contact.
Again, a caveat: There is no guarantee that simply eating spicy foods will immediately grant you a hot sex life. However, if you believe in the potential of capsaicin, feel good about what you are eating and how you are connecting to your body, you will be far more likely to feel good about engaging in sexual activity.
Now for the surprise: recent studies have linked capsaicin with appetite suppression and even minimal amounts of fat oxidation. Because the heat of the herb can raise body temperature temporarily, capsaicin also helps to increase circulation and raise metabolism. Finally, though the research I found on weight management was still in early stages (see below for sources), some studies indicate that capsaicin can help regulate blood sugar levels as well.
Again, a caveat: Do your own research! While I’ve spoken with many people who reported eating spicy peppers to suppress appetite, there is minimal hard science to back up the idea that capsaicin truly causes (and is not just correlated to) weight maintenance.
This said, there’s nothing that says spicy food is bad for you either! So work on your spice tolerance! Remember that attitude is everything, and what feels good emotionally will have the most effect on your physical presence and holistic well-being.
As always, I’d love to hear your own “hot” tips!
Manuela P.G.M Lejeune, Kovacs, & Eva M.R., et al. (2003) “Effect of capsaicin on substrate oxidation and weight maintenance after modest body-weight loss in human subjects.” Department of Human Biology, Maastricht University, The Netherlands. 13 May 2003.
Razavi R, Chan Y, Afifiyan FN, et al. (December 2006). "TRPV1+ sensory neurons control beta cell stress and islet inflammation in autoimmune diabetes". Cell 127 (6): 1123–35.