Capsaicin, Piperine, Gingerol, and Allicin Add Spice to Our Food. Are There Similarities in Their Health Benefits?

Updated on January 2, 2020
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Beverley has a degree in Science. She's also a published author off- and online. Topics include health, food, inspiration, and religion.

Capsaicin, peperine, gingerol, and allicin are the chemical compounds responsible for the pungency of peppers (except bell peppers), black pepper, ginger root, and garlic. When we use those ingredients in our dishes, they impart their spicy flavor. It’s reasonable to think they have similar molecular structures. They don’t (See Sources). They all have carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms in their molecules. But capsaicin and piperine also have nitrogen atoms. Allicin has sulfur instead of nitrogen.

Carolina Reaper Peppers
Carolina Reaper Peppers | Source
Grounded Hot Peppers
Grounded Hot Peppers | Source

Capsaicin

Capsaicin is a colorless, odorless, crystalline, volatile alkaloid. It was named by John Clough (J. C.) Thresh in 1876 (some reports have it as 1846) after he isolated it. The chemical composition was first analyzed, by E. K. Nelson in 1919, and in 1930 it was first synthesized by E. Spath and S. F. Darling (see Sources). Peppers are members of the Solanaceae or nightshade plant family, which includes tomatoes and potatoes. The plant is native to the Americas. The degree of spiciness or heat sensation capsaicin releases in the mouth is determined by the Scoville unit of measurement. The Carolina Reaper, native to South Carolina, United States, was voted the hottest pepper by Guinness Book of World Records in 2013 with 1.4 to 2.2 million Scoville units.

Dried Peppercorns (grounded)
Dried Peppercorns (grounded) | Source
Pepper Plant with peppercorn drupes
Pepper Plant with peppercorn drupes | Source

Piperine

Piperine is a yellow, crystalline amide (amino acid-like) alkaloid. It’s extracted from the P. longum or long pepper and P. nigram or black pepper plants, members of the Piperaceae family. Black pepper is native to Southern India. Danish physicist and chemist Hans Orsted was the first to isolate piperine from the black peppercorn fruit in 1920. A similar compound called chavicine was thought to be responsible for the pungent flavor and odor. Chavicine is actually a green, resinous isomer of piperine. Piperine is closely related to capsaicin, and has a Scoville measurement of about 1000,000 units (see Sources).

Fresh Ginger Root
Fresh Ginger Root | Source

Gingerol

Gingerol is a volatile, oily phenolic compound extracted from the ginger root rhizome. It was first isolated by Japanese chemist Hiroshi Nomura in 1917. Gingerol is converted to shogaol, another spicy phenolic compound, when dried and grounded into powder. Long cooking time converts it into a third pungent compound called zingerone. Gingerol has a Scoville measurement of about 60,000 units (see Sources). Like piperine, it’s related to capsaicin. Ginger root, whose scientific name is Zingiber officiale, is also native to India, and a member of the family of plants called Zingiberaceae.

Fresh Garlic
Fresh Garlic | Source

Allicin

When fresh garlic is chopped or crushed, the odorless, colorless alliin compound becomes oily, colorless allicin. This is due to the immediate production of enzyme alliinase, which renders the conversion. The pungent odor and flavor of the new volatile compound is due to the sulfur atoms. Allicin was first isolated from the bulb of the garlic plant, Allum sativum, by organic chemists John Hays Bailey and Chester J. Cavallito in 1944 (see Sources). The garlic plant is native to Central Asia and northeastern Iran.

Do Capsaicin, Piperine, Gingerol, and Allicin Offer Similar Health Benefits?

Capsaicin, piperine, gingerol, and allicin have many similar physical and chemical characteristics. Does that mean they have similar health benefits? Yes and no.

Capsaicin, piperine, gingerol, and allicin all have

. Antioxidant properties, which protect the cells of the body from damage by harmful free radical toxins (see Sources).

. Antimicrobial properties, which give them the ability to boost the immune system and protect us from bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. Gingerol and allicin are powerful cold and flu fighters (see Sources).

. Anti-inflammatory properties, which enable them reduce or prevent inflammation, common symptoms of diseases such as rheumatic arthritis and osteoporosis (see Sources).

. Anti-cancer properties. In research, capsaicin has shown ability to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells, and take action against Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and breast cancer. Piperine research show promising results on prostate cancer. Studies on gingerol suggests that it may effectively prevent pancreatic, ovarian, and prostate cancer. And researchers have found evidence to suggest that allicin is particularly effective against cancers of the gastrointestinal tract (see Sources).

Boost Metabolism & Reduce Pain with Hot Pepper: Capsaicin - Thomas DeLauer

Health Benefits of Capsaicin, Gingerol, and Allicin

These three spicy compounds have exhibited the ability to lower cholesterol, which reduces the risk of blood-vessel blockage and heart diseases (See Sources).

Health Benefits of Capsaicin and Piperine

Both capsaicin and piperine help with weight loss and weight control. Research suggests that they can speed up metabolism and suppress the appetite (See Sources).

Extracting the Spicy Chemical in Black Pepper - Edible Chem

Health Benefits of Piperine and Gingerol

Piperine and gingerol have exhibited the ability to boost brain or cognitive functions, aiding concentration and learning, and preventing memory loss (see Sources).

Drink Ginger and Trumeric Everyday Then This Will Happen to Your Body - Robert von Rotz Roy

Health Benefits of Capsaicin and Gingerol

Capsaicin and gingerol have the capacity to regulate blood glucose levels, which helps in the improvement and management of diabetes (See Sources).

Bard makes Fermented Garlic Honey - it's Alive - Bon Apetit

Health Benefits of Piperine and Allicin

Spicy piperine and allicin help stimulate and improve digestion. Piperine has proven to stimulate the stomach’s ability to absorb vitamin A (including beta-carotene), B6, C, coenzyme Q 10, and the mineral selenium, which are all essential for good health. Allicin helps improve overall digestion (see Sources).

What Exclusive Health Benefits Do Capsaicin, Piperine, Gingerol, and Allicin Offer?

Capsaicin

Capsaicin is used as an ingredient in several topical medications, since it can relieve pain by stimulating the nerve endings in the body. It’s used as treatment for neuropathy, neuralgia, joint pain, as well as cluster headaches It’s also used to treat skin issues such as psoriasis, and mouth sores, which a frequent side effect of chemotherapy and radiation (see Sources).

Piperine

Studies suggest that piperine can balance enzymes, substances which aid in several of our body’s chemical reactions. Piperine also has anti-depressant qualities (see Sources).

Gingerol

Gingerol has been used for centuries to prevent nausea, stomachache, the pain that often accompanies menstruation, as an appetite stimulant, a carminative, and an antispasmodic (see Sources).

Allicin

Studies indicate that allicin helps regulate circulation, preventing high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases such as strokes and heart attacks. Known as a “fat burner,” it enhances exercise-performance and staves off fatigue (see Sources).

Powdered/ ground Ginger
Powdered/ ground Ginger | Source

Health Benefits of Spicy Compounds Capsaicin, Piperine, Gingerol, and Allicin

Health Benefits
Spicy Compounds
Food Containing Compound
Antimicrobial (bacterial, viral, fungal)
capsacin, piperine, gingerol, allicin
Hot peppers (chili, cayenne, jalapeno, scotch bonnet, carolina reaper), black/ white/ red peppercorns, ginger root (rhizome), garlic
Antioxidant
capsaicin, piperine, gingerol, allicin
All
Anti-inflammatory
capsaicin, piperine, gingerol, allicin
All
Anti-cancer
capsaicin, piperine, gingerol, allicin
All
Lowers cholesterol, risk of cardiovascular diseases
capsaicin, gingerol. allicin
Hot peppers, ginger root, garlic
Weight loss, speeds up metabolism, suppresses appetite
capsaicin, piperine
Hot peppers, peppercorns
Regulates blood glucose levels
capsaicin, gingerol
Hot peppers, ginger root
Boosts brain & cognitive functions (prevents memory loss, improves concentration)
piperine, gingerol
Peppercorns, ginger root
Stimulates & improves digestion
piperine, allicin
Peppercorns, garlic
Relieves, treats skin issues (psoriasis)
capsaicin
Hot peppers
Balances enzymes, anti-depressant
piperine
Peppercorns
Stimulates appetite, relieves nausea, stomachache, menstrual pain; is a Carminative, antispasmodic
gingerol
Ginger root
Regulates blood circulation, prevents high blood pressure & cardiovascular; is a fat burner, exercise performance enhancer
allicin
Garlic

What Exclusive Side Effects Do Capsaicin, Piperine, Gingerol, and Allicin Have?

Capsaicin

If inhaled, capsaicin can induce coughing, throat irritation, and sneezing. It can also irritate the eyes if contact is made, and blister the skin from topical usage (see Sources).

Piperine

May prevent the liver for proper functioning (see Sources).

Gingerol

Gingerol could worsen acid reflux, gallstones, and diabetes (see Sources).

Allicin

Allicin may interfere with vitamin E intake (see Sources).

Side Effects of Spicy Compounds Capsaicin, Piperine, Gingerol, and Allicin

Side Effects
Spicy/ Pungent Compounds
Food Containing Compound
Allergic reactions
capsaicin, piperine, gingerol, allicin
Hot peppers (chili, cayenne, jalapeno, scotch bonnet, carolina reaper), black/ white/ red peppercorns, ginger root (rhizome), garlic
Overconsumption: digestive issues
capsaicin, piperine, gingerol, allicin
All
Irritation: mouth, throat
capsaicin, piperine, gingerol, allicin
All
Medicine/ drug interactions (high blood pressure, diabetes, blood thinners, aspirin: increase to toxic levels in blood
capsaicin, piperine, gingerol, allicin
All
Induces coughing, sneezing if inhaled; irritates eyes from direct contact; incurs skin blisters from topical use
capsaicin
Hot peppers
Prevents liver from proper functioning
piperine
Peppercorns
Worsens acid reflux, diabetes, gallstone
gingerol
Ginger root
Interferes with vitamin E intake
allicin
Garlic

Do Capsaicin, Piperine, Gingerol, and Allicin Have Similar Side Effects?

Capsaicin, piperine, gingerol, and allicin have the propensity to cause allergic reactions though generally, they are considered safe. Also, overconsumption can create havoc with the digestive system, especially if you’re not used to spicy foods. They can induce mouth and throat irritation, stomachache, nausea, and/ or diarrhea. Additionally, these spicy compounds can increase medications such as blood thinners, blood pressure drugs, diabetes drugs, and even aspirin to toxic levels in the blood (see Sources).

Cooking with Super Hot Peppers. How to eat & enjoy Super Hot Peppers with Pepper Joe

Availability of Purchase

Capsaicin

Capsaicin is used as the main ingredient in many over-the-counter and prescribed topical pain medications in the form of creams, gels, lotions, and patches. Supplements are available in the form of pills, and capsules. They come under a variety of brand names such Capsicum and Capzasin-HP. It’s also available as a food source in sauces, powdered or dried spices, and fresh vegetables.

Piperine

Piperine supplement is found under the trademarked name BioPerine. It’s used not only in flavorings but also fragrances and insecticides (see Sources). As a spice, it’s available as black or white dried peppercorns, black or white (grounded) pepper.

Gingerol

Available as a supplement in ginger root extract, capsules, oils, tinctures, lozenges, as fresh ginger root, dried ginger or ginger powder (becomes shogaol), in baked goods, and beverages.

Allicin

Allicin appears only when fresh garlic is chopped or crushed. Dietary supplements, which are not standardized (and not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration/ FDA), may not contain allicin even if it’s listed on the label. Some manufacturers age and ferment fresh garlic for easier absorption by the body. You can get allicin from garlic capsules, garlic extracts, garlic powder (spice), and fresh garlic.

Capsaicin, piperine, gingerol, and allicin are widely available online and off, in pharmacies and food stores.

Sources

- “Capsaicin,” https://capsaicin.weebly.com/

- “Piperine,” Science Direct, https://www.sciencedirect.com/book/9780857090409/handbook-of-herbs-and-spices/

- Helmenstine, Anne, “Scoville scale for peppers and Other Hot Chemicals,” https://sciencenotes.org/scoville-peppers-scale-peppers-hot-chemicals/, 4/4/18.

- “Gingerol,” https://pepperheadsforlife.com/gingerol-2/

- Bauer Petrovska, Biljana & Cekovska, Svetlana, “Extracts from the history & medical properties of garlic,” Jan-Jun 2010, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249897.

- “Capsaicin,” https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/capsaicin.

- Capsaicin,” https://www.cigna.com/individuals-families/health-wellness/hw/mdical-topics/capsaicin-ut1025spec

- “Capsaicin: Positives, Negatives, Dosages And Interactions,” Consumer Health Digest, https://www.consumerhealthdigest.com/ingredients/capsaicin.html.

- Fattori, Victor, Hohmann, Miriam, S.N., et al. “Capsaicin: Current Understanding of Its mechanisms and Therapy of Pain and Other Preclinical and Clinical Uses,” https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/21/7/844/htm.

- “Piperine,” Science Direct, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/piperine.

- Sriram Ramgopal, “Benefits of Using BioPerine,” https://www.livestrong.com/articles/534594-benefits-of-using-bioperine/

- Singletary, Keith, PhD, “Black Pepper- Overview of Health Benefits,” https://www.mccormickscienceinstitute.com/content/msi/assests/singletary%20Nutri%20Today%2045.43,2010.pdf.

- Jay, Tony, CPD in Nutrition, “What is Piperine Used for/” https://www.researchedsupplements.com/piperine, 5/1/19.

- “Gingerol,” Science Direct, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/gingerol.

- “The Chemistry of Ginger- Flavor, Pungency & Medicinal Potential,” https://www.compoundchem.com/2014/11/27/ginger.

- Semwal, R.B., Semwal, D.K., et al. Pub Med, “Gingerols and Shogoals: Important nutraceutical principles from ginger,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26228533.

- Allicin,” U. S. National Library of Medicine – Pub Chem, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Allicin.

- “Garlic and organosulfur Compounds,” Oregon State University, https://pi.oregonstate.edu/mic/food-beverages/garlic#organosulfur-compounds.

- “Parisi, Laura, “An Ode to Garlic – Rooted Angel,” https://www.rootedangel.com/blog-backend/2017/10/24/an-ode-to-garlic.

- “6 Benefits Of A Garlic Infused Diet,” Healthy Foods Magazine, https://healthyfoodsmag.net/6-benefits-of-a-garlic-infused-diet/, 12/2/19.

- Mori A, Lehmann S, O’ Kelly J, et al. “Capsaicin a component of red peppers, inhibits the growth of androgen-independent, P53 mutant prostate cancer cells,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16540674.

- Chenrui Li, Zhijun Wang, et al. “Enhanced anti-tumor efficacy and mechanisms associated with docetexelpiperine combination- in vitro and in vivo investigation Using a taxane-resistant prostate cancel model,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5790467/, 1/9/18.

- Park, Yun Jung, Wen, Jung, et al. “6-Gingerol Induces Cell Cycle Arrest and Cell Death of Mutant p53-expressing Pancreatic Cancer Cells,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2687755/, 10/31/06; Rhode, Jennifer, Fogoros, Sarah, et al. “Ginger inhibits cell growth and modulates angiogenic factors in ovarian cancer cells,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/PMC2241638/, 12/20/07; Kana P, Chagani S, et al. “Benefits of whole ginger extract in prostate cancer,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21849094, 8/18/11.

- Holly L. Nicastro, Sharon A. Ross, et al. “Garlic and onion: Their cancer prevention properties,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4366009/, 3/1/16.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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    © 2020 Beverley Byer

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