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Are Dried Chile Peppers Helpful to Health?

A pepper-loving reader asks if dried chile peppers have health benefits like fresh ones do. The answer appears to be affirmative.

We at The People’s Pharmacy are certified salsa junkies. So we pay close attention to research suggesting that hot foods may help us all stay healthy. We know we are not the only ones to sprinkle on Tabasco, shake a pinch of cayenne or add a few dried chile peppers to our food. Perhaps you, like another reader, are wondering how fresh peppers compare to the dried ones.

Do Dried Chile Peppers Have Health Benefits?

Q. A recent story on the health benefits of hot peppers got me excited. I love chile peppers and spicy foods and have been eating them since I was a young girl. I’m 76 now and still a Chile Head. The family joke is that I got my first “fix” via mother’s milk, as an infant in Texas. Yes, my long-lived Mom loved spicy foods too.

I’m wondering if dried chile powder is as helpful to health as fresh chiles? I use both in my diet. A good fresh salsa always has a place on my table, but I also make enchilada and mole sauces using ground dried chile peppers.

There’s More Than Hot Stuff in Hot Peppers:

A. When scientists study chile peppers, they usually focus on capsaicin. That’s the hot stuff in hot peppers, and it differentiates them from bell peppers. Dried peppers maintain their capsaicin content.

A study of Italians found that people who eat chile peppers more than four times a week live longer than those who don’t (Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Dec. 24, 2019). Pepper lovers can rejoice about that, although cardiologists have quibbled. Recently, one group suggested that capsaicin can “condition” arteries so they are more likely to resist blockage (Journal of the American College of Cardiology, April 21, 2020). In response, another group argued that the evidence is inadequate to conclude that people eating peppers don’t die as soon (Journal of the American College of Cardiology, April 21, 2020). We don’t imagine this debate will be settled soon.

Capsaicin is not the only interesting compound in chile peppers. They are also rich in vitamin A and vitamin C and are a good source of quercetin, luteolin and other flavonoids. Organically grown peppers have higher flavonoid contents (Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. online March 30, 2020).

Scientists in Mexico have worked out a freeze-drying process that preserves the characteristics of the fresh pepper (Foods, April 5, 2020). Researchers are also looking into the factors that help dried chile peppers and fresh peppers offer cardiovascular and metabolic health benefits (Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, March 26, 2020).

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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  • Bonaccio M et al, "Chili pepper consumption and mortality in Italian adults." Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Dec. 24, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2019.09.068
  • Moseley A et al, "Capsaicin mediates remote ischemic pre-conditioning to explain improved cardiovascular mortality with chili pepper intake." Journal of the American College of Cardiology, April 21, 2020. DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2020.01.060
  • Zawadzki NK et al, "There is insufficient evidence to support a causal relationship between chili pepper consumption and mortality." Journal of the American College of Cardiology, April 21, 2020. DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2020.01.059
  • Ribes-Moya A et al, "Variation in flavonoids in a collection of peppers (Capsicum sp.) under organic and conventional cultivation: Effect of the genotype, ripening stage, and growing system." Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. online March 30, 2020. DOI: 10.1002/jsfa.10245
  • González-Toxqui C et al, "Drying habanero pepper (Capsicum chinense) by modified freeze drying process." Foods, April 5, 2020. DOI: 10.3390/foods9040437
  • Uarrota VG et al, "Factors affecting the capsaicinoid profile of hot peppers and biological activity of their non-pungent analogs (Capsinoids) present in sweet peppers." Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, March 26, 2020. DOI: 10.1080/10408398.2020.1743642
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