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What does cayenne pepper and lemon water do to your body?

Cayenne pepper and lemon water have become popular health drinks, thanks to claims that they can help with weight loss, immune system support, and other benefits. But what does the science say about these spicy and sour ingredients? Read on to learn more about the potential effects of cayenne pepper and lemon water on your body.

The Potential Benefits of Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is made from the dried and ground pods of chili peppers belonging to the Capsicum annuum species. It contains a powerful compound called capsaicin, which gives peppers their spicy heat. Here are some of cayenne pepper’s touted benefits:

May Boost Metabolism and Fat Burning

Some research suggests capsaicin can slightly boost metabolism and fat burning:

  • A 2003 study found people who consumed capsaicin for 4 weeks had a higher resting metabolic rate than those given a placebo. Their fat oxidation (burning) also increased.
  • An animal study found capsaicin supplements reduced fat tissue and prevented weight gain in mice fed a high-fat diet.
  • Capsaicin may also reduce hunger and calorie intake, although findings are mixed.

While promising, more large human studies are needed to confirm cayenne pepper’s effects on metabolism and weight.

May Lower Blood Pressure

Capsaicin may relax blood vessels and improve blood flow, helping reduce high blood pressure. However, evidence is inconsistent:

  • One review of 20 trials linked capsaicin supplements to reductions in blood pressure.
  • Another review found capsaicin lowered blood pressure in animal studies, but results from human studies were inconclusive.

Again, larger human studies are necessary.

May Reduce Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is linked to various illnesses. Capsaicin displays anti-inflammatory properties in some laboratory and animal studies:

  • It blocked inflammatory cytokines, reduced inflammation in mice fed a high-fat diet, and decreased joint swelling in rats with arthritis.
  • Human studies observe similar effects, though high doses may be required.

The potential anti-inflammatory effects require more clinical research.

May Have Anti-Cancer Properties

Test-tube and animal studies indicate capsaicin may combat cancer cells and tumors by:

  • Preventing their spread and growth
  • Triggering cell death

However, human studies are limited and conflicting. The anticancer properties remain speculative.

Potential Downsides of Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is generally recognized as safe and unlikely to cause serious side effects in moderation. However, it may cause:

  • Digestive issues like irritation, heartburn, and stomach pain
  • A burning sensation in the mouth, throat, and stomach
  • Coughing, sneezing, or a runny nose when inhaled
  • Skin irritation when applied topically

Consuming large amounts may worsen acid reflux, ulcers, and hemorrhoids. It may also irritate the skin, lungs, and eyes.

Additionally, how cayenne pepper interacts with medications is unknown, so those on medication should use caution and consult a healthcare professional first.

The Potential Benefits of Lemon Water

Lemon water is simply the juice from lemons mixed with water. It provides vitamin C, antioxidants, and small amounts of nutrients like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and folate.

Here are some of lemon water’s touted benefits:

May Boost Immune Function

Lemon water is an excellent source of vitamin C, providing over 30% of the Daily Value (DV) in just 1/2 cup (4 ounces or 118 ml).

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects your cells and boosts immune function. Low intake is linked to reduced immunity.

May Promote Hydration

Some evidence suggests that lemon water may help you stay hydrated better than plain water.

A small study found participants who drank lemon water consumed over 25% more water overall, compared to those who drank plain water. Staying hydrated may promote health and decrease urine concentration.

May Help Reduce Kidney Stone Risk

Kidney stones affect around 1 in 10 people in the United States. They form when minerals crystalize in urine and clump together.

Citric acid, which is found naturally in lemon juice, may help prevent kidney stones by binding with stone-forming minerals and increasing urine volume.

In one study, people with kidney stones who drank 2 liters of lemon water per day raised their urine citrate levels by over 250%, compared to only 100% for those given plain water.

Higher citrate levels in urine are associated with a lower risk of developing kidney stones.

May Contribute to Weight Loss

Some claim that replacing high calorie beverages like juice or soda with lemon water can help promote weight loss.

While lemon water itself is very low in calories, its potential role in weight loss is unclear. No studies have directly examined how lemon water impacts weight.

That said, replacing sugary beverages with healthy alternatives like lemon water is an excellent weight loss strategy.

Potential Downsides of Lemon Water

Lemon water is very safe overall but can cause some mild side effects in sensitive people, including:

  • Heartburn or reflux due to the acidity
  • Tooth enamel erosion over time
  • Worsening of canker sores

Drinking lemon water through a straw may help reduce tooth exposure to the acid. Waiting at least 30 minutes after meals to drink it can also minimize the risk of reflux.

Those with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may want to limit their intake or avoid it. The acidity can exacerbate symptoms.

How Cayenne Pepper and Lemon Water May Interact

There are no studies examining how cayenne pepper may interact with lemon water specifically.

However, both contain plant compounds that may stimulate digestion. When combined, the acidity of lemon juice and irritation of capsaicin may aggravate heartburn or GERD symptoms in some people.

Starting with small amounts and avoiding consumption around mealtimes can help assess your tolerance.

Here are some other potential interactions:

  • Lemon juice can help soothe cayenne pepper’s heat when consumed together.
  • The vitamin C in lemon juice may enhance the absorption of capsaicin and increase its blood-pressure-lowering effects.
  • Cayenne pepper may increase lemon water’s potential to reduce kidney stones by further increasing urine output.

That said, these interactions are hypothetical and not based on hard science. More research is needed.

How to Make Cayenne Pepper and Lemon Water

Here is an easy recipe to make cayenne pepper lemon water at home:

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (16 ounces) warm water
  • Juice from 1/2 fresh lemon
  • 1/4–1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon maple syrup or raw honey to taste

Instructions

  1. Add the water, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and natural sweetener (if using) to a glass. Whisk or stir to combine.
  2. Drink immediately, ideally on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.
  3. You can refill the glass with water to help finish off any cayenne pepper left at the bottom.
  4. Store any leftover lemon juice in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Adjust the cayenne pepper to your taste and tolerance. Start with 1/4 teaspoon and work your way up to 1/2 teaspoon if you can handle the heat.

You can drink this concoction hot, at room temperature, or chilled with ice.

The Bottom Line

Cayenne pepper and lemon water are touted for various health benefits, but the evidence in humans for many of these claims is lacking. However, they have an excellent safety profile for most people.

Incorporating cayenne pepper and lemon water into an overall healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a balanced diet may help:

  • Boost metabolism
  • Enhance fat burning
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Lower inflammation
  • Improve immune function
  • Prevent kidney stones
  • Promote weight loss

But more research, especially in humans, is necessary to comprehensively understand their effects.

Regardless, cayenne pepper and lemon water are very low in calories and provide beneficial plant compounds. Replacing higher calorie beverages with this drink can benefit health and waistlines for most people.

The risks are low, so feel free to give this spicy and sour combo a try to take advantage of any potential benefits. But consult your healthcare provider first if you have any concerns.