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Cayenne (Capsicum annuum, Capsicum frutescens, Capsicum spp.)

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Also listed as: Capsicum annuum, Capsicum frutescens, Capsicum spp.
Related terms
Background
Evidencetable
Tradition
Dosing
Safety
Interactions
Attribution
Bibliography

Related Terms
  • 3-hydroxypyridine, 6,7-dihydro-5,5-dicapsaicin, 6,7-dihydrocapsaicin, acyclic diterpene glycosides, African Capsicum, African chillies, African pepper, anastasia black, anastasia red, anastasia red of sweet pepper, ancho chilli, Anesiva 4975, anteraxanthin, anthocyanins, arnoia peppers, ascorbic acid, banana pepper, bell pepper, belrubi, beta-apo-8'-carotenal, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, bg 2816, bhoot jolokia, Bhut Jolokia chili pepper, Bierzo roasted pepper, big jim, bird eye chilli, bird pepper, bounty banana pepper plants, C. chinense cultigens PA-426 and PA-350, C. praetermissum, CAAN4, capsaicin, capsaicin oleoresins, capsaicin-beta-D-glucopyranoside, capsaicinoids, capsanthin, capsiate, capsibiol, capsibiol-t, capsiconiate, capsiconinoids, capsicosides, Capsicum annuum L., Capsicum annuum L. accession Criollo de Morelos-334, Capsicum annuum L. 'avelar', Capsicum annuum L. 'bellboy', Capsicum annuum L. 'buchon', Capsicum annuum L. 'Bugang', Capsicum annuum L. Bukang, Capsicum annuum L. 'California', Capsicum annuum L. 'California wonder', Capsicum annuum L. Chilsungcho, Capsicum annuum L. CM334, Capsicum annuum L. coraciforme, Capsicum annuum L. 'dabotop', Capsicum annuum L. 'early calwonder', Capsicum annuum L. 'excalibur', Capsicum annuum L. fruit extract, Capsicum annuum L. grossum, Capsicum annuum L. 'hyang chon', Capsicum annuum L. 'jejujaerae', Capsicum annuum L. 'kyonami', Capsicum annuum L. 'lamuyo', Capsicum annuum L. 'mazurka', Capsicum annuum L. 'NuMex RNaky', Capsicum annuum L. 'P1482', Capsicum annuum L. 'padron', Capsicum annuum L. parent 'maor', Capsicum annuum L. 'pukang', Capsicum annuum L. 'Saeng-Ryeog #211', Capsicum annuum L. 'Saeng-Ryeog #213', Capsicum annuum L. 'TF68', Capsicum annuum L. type lamuyo, Capsicum annuum L. var. Anaheim, Capsicum annuum L. var. angulosum Mill., Capsicum annuum L. var. angulosum Mill. (Solanaceae), Capsicum annuum L. var. annuum (chili jalapeño chigol), Capsicum annuum var. annuum L., Capsicum annuum L. var. bronowicka ostra, Capsicum annuum L. var. California, Capsicum annuum L. var. conoides, Capsicum annuum var. conoides takanotume (RP), Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum, Capsicum annuum L. var. Km-622, Capsicum annuum var. longum sendtner, Capsicum annuum var. lycopersiciforme rubrum, Capsicuum annuum var. variata, Capsicum annuum L. var. yolo wonder b, Capsicum annuum L. 'yaglik', Capsicum baccatum, Capsicum baccatum 'PBC80', Capsicum callus, Capsicum chinense, Capsicum chinense 'Habanero', Capsicum chinense Jacq., Capsicum chacoense, Capsicum eximium, Capsicum fruit, Capsicum frutescens, Capsicum frutescens accession BG2814-6, Capsicum frutescens fruit, Capsici fructus acer, Capsicum minimum, Capsicum oleoresin, Capsicum pendulum, Capsicum pubescens, capsidiol, capsin, capsinoids, capsiplast, capsorubin, capzasin, Carolina cayenne, carotenoids, cas 404-86-4, cas 84603-55-4, cascabel chilli, casorubin, cay-1, cayenne pepper, Charleston belle, chilaca, chile, chile ancho (Capsicum annuum L. 'San Luis'), chili, chili guajillo puya (Capsicum annuum L.), chili guajillo puya flour, chili pepper, chilli, chillies, chipotle, chung yang variety, civamide, cremor capsici compositus fna (ccc), criollo de morelos 334, datler, delfin, dihydrocapsaicin, dihydrocapsaicin-beta-D-glucopyranoside, dihydrocapsiconiate, dn3, dn5, dohevanil, dolorac, dolorub capsico, dr6, early jalapeño, feruloylserotonin, fiery jack, flavonoids, fructus capsici, gang ja variety, garden pepper, Ginnie, glucosides, goat's pepper, goat's pod, grains of paradise, green bell pepper, green Capsicum, green chili pepper, green pepper, guajillo peppers, habeñeros, high heat, homocapsaicin, homodihydrocapsaicin, honka, hot chili pepper, hot pepper, Hungarian pepper, hydroxycapsaicin, ici fructus, ICX72, Indian pepper, infinity, jalapeño, Japanese Capsicum, jaranda, jariza, keystone resistant giant, lignan glycosides, Louisiana long pepper, Louisiana sport pepper, lr2, lr7, lutein, ma1, ma3, malagueta, mana, Mexican chillies, minerals, mulato, naga chilli, naga viper, ne-21610, negral, neoxanthin, New Mexico no. 6 chile, NGX-4010, nonivamide, nordihydrocapsaicin, nordihydrocapsiate, numex, oleoresin Capsicum (oc) spray, p-coumaroylserotonin, padrón-type, pageant banana pepper plants, pain-free HPT, paprika, pepper, pepper ('Padrón'), pequin, pimento, pimiento, piper calicuthium, piper Hispanicum, piper Indianum, poblano, pod pepper, ponv-Capsicum plaster (pas), proteins, provitamins E, P, B1, B2, and B3, pungent pepper, quercetin, Qutenza®, red chiles, red chili, red chili spur pepper, red pepper, resiniferitoxin, resiniferatoxin (rtx), Rheumaplast®, rn1, rn2, Russian sweet pepper, saponin, Scotch bonnet, serrano, sesquiterpenoids, Sinus Buster®, Solanaceae (family), steroidal saponins, sweet pepper, tabasco pepper, thiols, trans-8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide, Trinidad scorpion, ubatuba cambuchi, uchu, vanilloid, vanillyl fatty acid amides, violaxanthin, vitamin A, vitamin C, volatile oils, Wärme-PflasterT, yolo wonder, xilli, Zanzibar pepper, zeaxanthin, Zostrix®.
  • Note: This bottom line focuses on cayenne and pungent (hot) Capsicum spp. It does not include studies on the effects of isolated capsaicin or non-pungent varieties of Capsicum. However, due to the nature of Capsicum (pungent and non-pungent varieties in the same species and sometimes the same variety), some information on non-pungent Capsicum is included.

Background
  • Cayenne is a spice that is used to add color, flavor, and heat to dishes around the world. It was originally grown in the tropical Americas, but is now grown worldwide. Cayenne comes from two species belonging to the Capsicum genus: Capsicum annuum¸ which is grown in Europe and the United States, and Capsicum frutescens, which is grown in the tropics and in warmer regions of the United States.
  • The level of pungency (heat) of cayenne depends on the levels of a compound called capsaicin. Chili peppers and red peppers come from plants with very high capsaicin levels. Paprika comes from plants with lower levels of capsaicin, and is used to flavor less spicy foods, such as ketchup, cheese, and salads. Spanish paprika (pimento) is mainly used for coloring. The more spicy chilies and chili pepper are used in curry powder, Tabasco® sauce, and chili powder. Cayenne pepper is made by grinding the pungent fruit of Capsicum into a powder.
  • Overall, there is good evidence to support the use of Capsicum when applied to the skin for low back pain, pain after surgery, nausea, and vomiting. Capsaicin is thought to be responsible for the pain-relieving effects of pungent Capsicum species.
  • Capsicum has been used for other purposes. These include weight loss and the treatment of sore throat, tonsil inflammation, stomach and intestine disorders, heart disorders, and skin conditions. However, strong evidence is lacking to support the use of Capsicum for these conditions.
  • When taken by mouth, Capsicum may cause irritation of the mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines. It may also cause damaged taste buds (leading to reduced ability to taste food), fullness, gas, indigestion, diarrhea, worsened ulcers, shortness of breath, cough, and stomach pain. Large amounts may lead to kidney and liver damage. When applied to the skin, Capsicum may cause burning, redness, and irritation.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *


Good evidence suggests that cayenne may reduce lower back pain when applied to the skin. Capsaicin is thought to be responsible for these pain-relieving effects. Further research is needed to reach a strong conclusion about dose, duration, and safety.

B


Capsicum plaster has been applied to the skin to help reduce nausea and vomiting after surgery. Promising results have been found. However, further study is needed to determine appropriate dosing.

B


Cayenne plasters have been applied to the skin to reduce pain after surgery, as well as the need for pain-relieving medications. Further study on dose, duration, and safety is still needed.

B


Limited evidence suggests that capsaicin nasal spray may help reduce nasal congestion in people with long-term allergic nasal symptoms. However, further research is needed before conclusions can be made.

C


Based on early evidence, homeopathic remedies, including Capsicum, may help treat symptoms of ear infections. However, further research testing the effect of Capsicum alone is needed.

C


A supplement containing caffeine and capsicum extract appeared to lack benefit on exercise performance. Further study is needed.

C


It is unclear whether capsaicin helps block the growth of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), bacteria that may cause stomach ulcer disease. Further research is needed in this area.

C


Early evidence suggests that capsaicin may have protective and healing effects for the stomach. Cayenne may help treat symptoms of indigestion. More rsearch is needed before conclusions can be made.

C


Powdered dried fruit of Capsicum annum has been studied for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. However, this treatment appeared to lack effect and cause stomach pain. Further study is needed before conclusions may be made.

C


Capsicum may reduce soft tissue pain when applied to the skin. However, more research is needed before conclusions can be made.

C


Studies have looked at the possible benefit of capsaicin applied to the skin for the treatment of nerve pain associated with diabetes or shingles, as well as general nerve pain. Further study on Capsicum is needed before conclusions may be made.

C


Early study suggests that a Capsicum plaster applied to the skin may reduce sore throat after surgery in people undergoing uterus removal. Further study is needed before firm conclusions can be made.

C


Early evidence suggests that Capsicum spices may help improve concentration. Further study is needed before conclusions can be made.

C


It is unclear whether chili peppers are helpful for ulcers of the stomach lining. Additional research is needed in this area. Early research suggests that increased intake of chili peppers may decrease the risk of stomach ulcers. However, further study is needed in this area.

C


Early study suggests that a combination of three herbal products in liquid or tablet form (pokeweed, cayenne, and guaiacum) may reduce tonsillitis symptoms. More research is needed to determine the effect of Capsicum alone.

C


Studies have looked at products containing many ingredients, including Capsicum and isolated capsaicin, for reducing body fat. Including cayenne in meals may help decrease hunger and increase feelings of fullness, suggesting that cayenne may suppress appetite and therefore promote weight loss. A product containing capsaicin, in addition to raspberry ketone, caffeine, garlic, ginger and Citrus aurantium (Prograde MetabolismT), was found to decrease weight, fat mass, waist girth, and hip girth. However, further study on the effects of Capsicum alone is still needed.

C
* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)


Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Acne, age-related macular degeneration (vision loss with age), aging, alcoholism, allergy, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, appetite stimulant, arthritis, asthma, bladder disorders (overactive bladder), bleeding, blood clot prevention, cancer, cancer pain, chilblains (inflammation of toes and fingers due to cold), cholera (intestine infection causing watery diarrhea), chronic pain, colds, colic, complex regional pain syndrome (long-term pain in the arm or leg), cosmetic uses, cramps, delirium, dental conditions, depression, diabetes, diarrhea, digestion, energy, erectile dysfunction, eye disorders, fever, fibromyalgia (long-term, widespread pain), food flavoring, food uses (coloring), food uses (preventing poisoning), frostbite, gas, glossitis (burning mouth syndrome), headaches, heart disease, hematuria (blood in the urine), hemorrhoids, high blood pressure, improving urine flow, insecticide, itch, joint disorders, laryngitis (irritation of the voice box), lipid lowering effects, male infertility, memory, motion sickness, muscle spasms, nail biting, nasal polyps (inflamed growths in the nose), nerve regeneration, nervous system disorders (difficulty swallowing), pain (during surgery), pain (following amputation), pain (due to vein puncture), pleurisy (inflammation of lining of the lungs), pneumonia, pruritis (itching), psoriasis, saliva stimulant, shingles, shivering (during surface cooling), skin conditions, sleep aid, snake bites, sprains, stomach disorders, sweating, thumbsucking, tonic, varicose veins, yellow fever.

Dosing

Adults (18 years and older)

  • General: A cayenne infusion to be taken by mouth has been made with 0.5-1 teaspoons of cayenne in one cup of boiling water. One tablespoonful of cayenne in hot water has also been taken by mouth. Doses of 0.25-1 milliliters of cayenne tincture have been taken by mouth three times daily.
  • Note: The dose of Capsicum depends on the reason for use. It is recommended that people discuss with a caregiver or follow directions on the bottle. Doses may range from 30-400 milligrams, 1-4 capsules, or 10-15 drops (0.5 milliliters) in water four times throughout the day, daily. In the United States, supplemental Capsicum taken by mouth appears to be most commonly available in capsule form.
  • For stomach ulcer, 3 grams of red chili powder has been taken by mouth in three divided doses daily for four weeks.
  • For indigestion, 2.5 grams of powdered Capsicum annuum has been taken by mouth daily, before meals, for five weeks.
  • For H. pylori infection, a dose of six sliced fresh jalapeños has been taken by mouth.
  • For irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), 2-4 pills (150 milligrams of red pepper powder per pill) have been taken by mouth daily for six weeks.
  • As a stimulant, Capsicum spices have been taken by mouth.
  • For weight loss, meals containing 0.3-10 grams of red pepper have been taken by mouth as a single meal or for up to two days. A dose of 30 grams of a chili blend containing 55 percent cayenne has been taken by mouth daily for four weeks. A red pepper soup containing 192-2,769 micrograms of capsaicin has been taken by mouth until full.
  • For chilblains, a piece of flannel saturated with Capsicum has been rubbed into unbroken skin until a strong "tingling and electrical" feeling is felt, repeated daily for 2-3 days.
  • For cold feet, powdered Capsicum has been sprinkled inside stockings for unbroken skin.
  • For low back pain, a plaster containing Capsicum has been placed on the lower back for up to three weeks. A Capsicum based gel with 0.1 grams of Capsicum oleoresin per 11 grams of gel has been applied to the skin three times daily for one week.
  • For soft tissue pain, Capsicum cream has been used.
  • For nausea and vomiting after surgery, a Capsicum plaster has been placed on the skin 30 minutes before anesthesia until 6-8 hours after surgery.
  • For pain after surgery, a Capsicum plaster has been placed on the skin before anesthesia for eight hours daily for three days.
  • For sore throat, a Capsicum plaster has been placed on the skin from before anesthesia to eight hours after surgery.
  • For allergic nasal symptoms, a nasal spray has been used to deliver one puff of 4 micrograms to each nostril three times daily, with each puff separated by 30 minutes, for three days.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • For ear infections, cayenne has been taken by mouth.
  • For pain after surgery, a Capsicum plaster has been applied to the skin.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid in people with known allergy or sensitivity to Capsicum plants, bell peppers, cayenne, chili pepper, paprika, tropical fruits (bananas, kiwi), or latex.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Cayenne and Capsicum are possibly safe for most healthy people at common food levels. Capsicum essential oil and cayenne pepper are generally recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when added to foods. Cayenne or Capsicum supplements may increase intakes to above desirable levels.
  • Cayenne may cause acid reflux, addiction to red hot chili peppers in food, asthma, blurred vision, Cajun claw syndrome, changes in urine production, constipation, cough, damage to taste buds (reduced ability to taste food), diarrhea, difficulty breathing or speaking, dizziness, eye irritation (redness, stinging, swelling, or tearing), fullness, gagging, gas, heart attack, heartburn, hives, increased pain sensitivity, irritation of the mouth and throat, kidney damage, liver damage, lung problems (lung muscle spasms), nerve cell damage, nose irritation (burning, fluid secretion, or pain), persistent nausea or vomiting, rapid heartbeat, rectal burning, red or irritated skin in babies (as cayenne may pass into breast milk), shortness of breath, skin irritation (burning, inflammation, itching, redness, stinging, and warmth), sneezing, stomach pain and sensitivity, sweating, vision problems, worsened ulcers, and yellowed eyes or skin.
  • Cayenne may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in people with bleeding disorders or taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
  • Cayenne may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system.
  • Cayenne may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. People taking drugs for diabetes by mouth or insulin should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Cayenne may cause high blood pressure (sometimes severely high). Caution is advised in people with high blood pressure or those taking drugs that affect blood pressure.
  • Use cautiously in people who have addictive personalities, heart disease, kidney disorders, and stomach and intestine disorders (including ulcers).
  • Use cautiously in pregnant or breastfeeding women, and in people who are taking ACE inhibitors, agents for heart disorders, agents for stomach and intestine disorders, aspirin, and theophylline.
  • Use cautiously when applying Capsicum or Capsicum plasters to the skin, or when using Capsicum nasal sprays.
  • Avoid in people with known allergy or sensitivity to Capsicum plants, bell peppers, cayenne, chili pepper, paprika, tropical fruits (bananas, kiwi), or latex.
  • Avoid applying cayenne to the skin in children under two years of age.
  • Avoid applying cayenne to sensitive areas of the skin, including the eyes, genitals, nasal mucosa, and mouth, as well as open sores or the breasts of breastfeeding mothers. Hands should be washed before touching these areas.
  • Avoid inhaling Capsicum powder.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • There is a lack of scientific evidence on the use of cayenne during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Use cautiously in pregnant and breastfeeding women. Breastfeeding women should not take Capsicum by mouth because it may pass into the breast milk and cause skin irritation in babies. Avoid applying Capsicum to the breasts of breastfeeding mothers.

Interactions

Interactions with Drugs

  • Cayenne may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants ("blood thinners") such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, anti-platelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
  • Cayenne may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. People taking drugs for diabetes by mouth or insulin should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Cayenne may cause high blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking drugs that lower blood pressure.
  • Cayenne may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system. As a result, the levels of these drugs may be altered in the blood, and may cause altered effects or potentially serious adverse reactions. People using any medications should check the package insert, and speak with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, about possible interactions.
  • Cayenne may also interact with ACE inhibitors, agents for the heart, agents for the kidneys, agents for the lungs, agents for muscle spasms, agents for the skin, agents for the stomach and intestines, agents that affect the immune system, agents that widen blood vessels, alcohol, androgenic agents, antibiotics, anticancer agents, antidepressants (monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)), antifungal agents, anti-inflammatory agents, anti-parasite agents, antipyrine, anti-seizure agents, anti-ulcer and stomach acid-reducing agents, antiviral agents, aspirin, beta-blockers, caffeine, cannabinoids, capsazepine, central nervous system depressants, cholesterol-lowering agents, CGRP receptor antagonists, cocaine, dental agents, isopropyl alcohol, lidocaine, morphine, nabilone, naloxone, nitrates, olaptadaine, pain relievers, pesticides, P-glycoprotein-regulated agents, propranolol, quinine, sedatives, sucralfate, theophylline, tobacco, triptans, valdecoxib, and weight loss agents.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Cayenne may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.
  • Cayenne may interfere with the way the body processes certain herbs or supplements using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system. As a result, the levels of other herbs or supplements may be altered in the blood. It may also alter the effects that other herbs or supplements possibly have on the P450 system.
  • Cayenne may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.
  • Cayenne may cause high blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking herbs or supplements that lower blood pressure.
  • Cayenne may also interact with androgens, antibacterials, anticancer herbs and supplements, antidepressants (monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)), antifungal herbs and supplements, anti-inflammatory herbs and supplements, antioxidants, anti-parasite and anti-worm herbs and supplements, anti-seizure herbs and supplements, anti-ulcer and stomach acid-reducing herbs and supplements, antiviral herbs and supplements, apple cider vinegar, caffeine, calcium, cannabinoids, catechin, cholesterol-lowering herbs and supplements, Citrus aurantium, coca, copper, dental herbs and supplements, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), garlic, ginger, herbs and supplements eliminated by the kidneys, herbs and supplements for the heart, herbs and supplements for the lungs, herbs and supplements for muscle spasms, herbs and supplements for the stomach and intestines, herbs and supplements that affect the immune system, herbs and supplements that widen blood vessels, iron, mullein leaf, pain relievers, pesticides, P-glycoprotein modulators, piperine, poppy, probiotics, quinine-containing herbs and supplements, raspberry ketone, salicylate-containing herbs and supplements, sedatives, slippery elm, theophylline, tobacco, trans-4-tert-butylcyclohexanol, tyrosine, vitamin C, and weight loss herbs and supplements.

Attribution
  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Bibliography
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Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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