That burning sensation in your mouth when you eat foods spiced with chilli or cayenne pepper comes from capsaicin, the oily compound behind most of the health benefi ts of cayenne and its peppery cousins. Capsaicin is the active ingredient in many prescrip tion and over-the-counter creams, ointments and patches for arthritis and muscle pain. Over time, it short-circuits pain by depleting nerve cells of a chemical called ‘substance P’, which helps transfer pain signals along nerve endings to the brain. It’s also used for treating shingles pain and diabetes-related nerve pain. Cayenne pepper’s benefi ts don’t end there, however. Sprinkle some onto your chicken soup to turbocharge that tried-and-true traditional cold remedy, since cayenne shrinks blood vessels in your nose and throat, relieving congestion. It’s also thought to be a metabolism booster, speeding up your kilojoule-burning capacity for up to a couple of hours after eating. Cayenne is also thought to act as an anti-infl ammatory and an antioxidant. Some studies have found that it also has some anticancer properties, and researchers are exploring its potential as a cancer treatment. Finally, in at least one study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that people with diabetes who ate a meal containing plenty of chilli required less postmeal insulin to reduce their blood sugar, suggesting the spice may have benefi ts in blood glucose control.