Chili peppers go with Cinco de Mayo like tequila goes with lime. They tingle your taste buds in everything from salsa to tamales, even in jellies. And, like the people who eat them, some are mild, others spicy. Some are so hot they’ll burn your tongue. But are they good for you? Actually, there are not many foods healthier, or more versatile.


Red peppers-from hot to bell-contain more vitamin C than oranges, more vitamin A than carrots, and they’re chock full of antioxidants. Greens don’t have as much as reds, but they’re still nutritious. Preliminary research indicates peppers may help kill cancer cells, lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol, boost immunity, decrease inflammation, and curb your appetite. They can even relieve indigestion. And that’s just when you eat them. There are sprays and creams also.

Capsaicin is the chemical that makes the pepper hot. It’s concentrated in that white stuff that surrounds the seeds. It’s the active ingredient in cops’ pepper spray, but it’s also used in over-the-counter creams and sprays for an array of ailments. The difference is the dose and where you use it. Hint: No matter the concentration, keep it away from your eyes.

Before trying the following, have a workup to make sure of your diagnosis, and get your health-care provider’s okay that it’s safe for you.

The capsaicin in spray form can help:

• Migraine Headaches. The dose is one sniff up your nostril on the same side as your headache. Warning: it burns. But it also stimulates nerves and blood vessels that have to do with headache relief. It can even help cluster migraines, nicknamed “suicide headaches” because the pain is so intense. 
• A runny or stopped-up nose. Anyone who’s eaten a few hot peppers can attest that they clear the sinuses. But the spray can also help dry your nose up, even with allergies.

Capsaicin in cream can relieve:

 Nerve pain like that caused by the ravages of diabetes or shingles. Nerve pain is harder to treat than muscle pain. And it can be relenting. For most people, the cream is worth a try. 
• Itching from psoriasis. Just don’t use it on cracked skin.

Of course, pepper therapy’s not for everyone. Some people, it won’t help. Some may even have a skin reaction. But it’s cheap and available, and to me, if your health provider approves, it’s worth a try.